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When a metal album is stylewise very different from the backcatalogue, your average fan of that specific band might say they were ahead of their time or perhaps misunderstood. Neither applies on ‘Spheres’. The album was a complete flop. No wonder the band disbanded shortly after. In a time when death metal was already slowly getting over its peak after the prime years 1989-1991 had brought forth the most memorable albums and bands, Pestilence found it necessary to reinvent themselves by going jazzmetal. What the hell, Cynic played this style and they became popular. So why not Pestilence? But then again, Cynic changed their style when they were still a demo band. Pestilence already had a reputation, some classic albums and a shitload of fans.
Main songwriter Patrick Mameli was getting fed up with the metal scene and especially the lesser intelligent people in it. For some reason this death metal guitarist and vocalist all of a sudden despised audiences moshing, grunting and raising their fist. This of course can happen to anyone getting older and wiser. But the point is, Mameli found it necessary to shout this out loud to the world! But please keep your honour, distance yourself from the scene and do NOT make a another metal album. Or even worse, release something new under your old name. It is disastrous. Especially in the ever conservative metal scene. When you’re a new band, people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt when bringing something new. But if you - for instance - became famous with thrash metal and you change your style abruptly, you’ll simply lose most of your old fans (Metallica anyone?). If you’re sure your new style is so much better AND different, you will of course find enough new fans to keep your band alive (Paradise Lost, the Gathering). This is exactly where Pestilence got it all wrong. Still including death grunts, they would not reach an entirely new audience.
But still, if the songmaterial would have been of extaordinary quality, some fans could have lived with it. Unfortunately the material on the album wasn’t really that good nor groundbreaking nor original. Simply said, if one would take away the vocals effects and skip the jazzy bits, you’d hear leftover crap from the Testimony Of The Ancients sessions.
Therefor ‘Spheres’ consisted of very tame and rather harmless death metal with some added jazzy tunes, intermezzos, soundeffects and some childish solos that would never impress any jazz freak. No new type of songwriting, just a different approach to arrangements and production. Pestilence should have analysed Cynic and Atheist and taken more time to get into this new style. They didn’t…
Songs like ‘Mind Reflections’ and ‘Personal Energy’ did have some good riffs which – as implied earlier – were very reminiscent of the Testimony Of The Ancients album. But the horrible skinny production, soundeffects and spacey hippie parts made a mess of it. Not to mention these horrid sludgy bits in between songs called ‘Aurian Eyes’, ‘Voices From Within’ and ‘Phileas’. Going further into the individual songs would be a waste of all our precious time.
All this made Spheres into an album that was neither death metal nor jazz metal and stranded somewhere in the middle. Ouch, middle of the road metal. How deadly….boring! It was painful to hear these great metal artists turning out to be such lousy jazzmusicians. Over 33 minutes of pretentiousness that hit them right back in their own faces. They get some bonuspoint for the great albumcover and artwork though.
Why then did I spend so much time on this review? To make sure no one makes the mistake of actually paying money for this album if they find it anywhere. So please, if you’re into death metal, go look for ‘Consuming Impulse’. If you’re into quality jazzmetal, you obviously have to check out the Cynic and Atheist stuff from 1993.