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Fast and punishing Polish death metal - 75%

Lane, October 4th, 2012

I know that some might be flooded under the constant wave of brutal death metal releases, and got blinded by it all. Every now and then there is a band, or a release, that you won't choke on. These are admittedly quite rare treats, but Polish band Sphere's second full length album 'Homo Hereticus' seems to be one of these.

See, 'Homo Hereticus' does not get stale during its 35 minutes. The songs simply go forward. They contain enough of various parts and action, but never last for over 4 minutes each. The band's deliverance cannot said to be unique or something new, no, but they have a recipe to write such song material, that doesn't directly remind me of any band. Maybe their Polish country mates Dies Irae would be quite close in comparison. Sphere match North American and Polish death metal styles into their own alloy.

The pace of the songs is mainly blasting or fast. Despite the speed, there's no way to be blinded by it, because there are loads of elements that are catchy, be it riffing, drumming, whatever. At times the tempo is slightly decelerated, so it's not all about going as fast as they can. The drumming is pretty ace, and as the drums sound bloody good, this is a heaven (so to speak) for any drum buff. The guitar work provides hammering riffing, ripping riffing, open chords and malignant melodies. While the performances from instrumentalist are between good and great, this is not about showing off, but about maiming and killing. Same goes with the songwriting; nothing too tricky, not even close. There are ambient soundscapes and musical curiosities at the beginning of most of the songs, and these work as short breathers to a listener. The production is quite modern-sounding, but not plastic. It's both punishing yet clear. The bass isn't heard too well in the mix, sadly.

The vocals are a tad too unvarying. Mostly being throaty, dry-ish growl, if pretty powerful in that. There is some small trickery, such as pig squealing, utilized rarely. The lyrics are, wait for it... Heretic! Anti-religion is one of the themes, but also dying, war, perversion, you name it.

Sphere appear to be undisputed with their brand of death metal. They may be somewhat faceless, but they know how to write engaging songs. 'Homo Hereticus' is easily above average, bordering on very, very good album. Those who like their death metal fast and punishing, should inspect it out. Now!!!

(originally reviewed for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)

Sheering Waves of Familiarity - 70%

Left Hand Ov Dog, October 2nd, 2012

And the reign of underground Polish death metal continues here at Reaper Division! Sphere is one of the more intense, muscular projects within the gaggle of glory sent to me via Godz of War Productions, working pretty closely within the precepts of Polish death laid down by more defining groups like Vader and Decapitated. Homo Hereticus is the second album, and the first I’ve heard, from Sphere, who provide a pretty tight pummeling for your dollar, stringing together a moderately compelling line of blasts and sheering grooves that rarely disappoints, even if it isn’t entirely memorable. It’s amazing how every Polish band seems to be at least good. Must be something in the water.

There’s an admirable level of precision here, as the band are clearly quite skilled with their respective instruments, and they do their best to enrapture you for these 35 minutes. The general style is particularly redolent of Vader, and I was reminded of the fantastic Embrional during some of the more acrobatic sections, but generally, this is a pummeling slab of percussive fury, a consistent machine gun massage for your face, punctuated by choppy, sheering waves of guitar work. It’s all pretty well done, with enough blasting ferocity and bricklaying grooves to be pretty appealing to your average headbanging citizen of the death metal populace, and a lot of their riffing sounds like a couple of psychotic robots sawing each other to pieces.

Sometimes Homo feels modern and muscular, other times attempting a more rollicking, Swedish variation, and even though most of it doesn’t stick to memory, the riffs are almost never bad. It’s direct, proficient, brutal, and lightly technical, with a number of cool flourishes peppered throughout, like the roiling discord of Holistic Paralysis, the ominous windy leads in Grave’s Cold Darkness, or the fluttering tech spirals in Devils Reunion. The growling vocals also sound like they could be from Peter’s (Vader) younger brother, a dirty, rough drawl that I quite liked, containing a nice old school charm. There’s also the odd frog squeal thrown in for variety, which made me chuckle, in a good way. No problems with instrumentation or production here either; this is an all-around professional product.

Where Homo Hereticus falters for me is in its replayability. There are a number of impressive sections here, but not much of them stuck in my mind, or begged for repeated listens. Also, not all of the writing is super strong, with a lot of repeated chugging that, while never bad, fails to excite, or differentiate from the masses. Sphere seem to be struggling with their own identity, as this simply sounds like a stitching of a couple bigger names, without much in the way of individuality. However, there’s certainly enough ballistic charm here to satisfy those seeking more lurching, choppy derangement in the vein of Decapitated, and Homo Hereticus delivers the goods. At length, I liked this album, though admittedly not as much as some of their counterparts, and I’d first recommend Embrional, Calm Hatchery, Pandemonium, Lost Soul, or Masachist before allotting your Polish underground allowance to Sphere, but I hope they can find an audience for their brisk, husky machinations.

-Left Hand of Dog
http://reaperdivision.blogspot.com/

Working Title: Going Through a Blasphemous Phase - 60%

FullMetalAttorney, July 13th, 2012

Sphere’s Homo Hereticus is another submission by Godz ov War Productions. As opposed to my other recent Polish death metal review (Pandemonium), Sphere is more in line with what you expect. In other words, they’ve heard their fair share of Vader and Behemoth, and they’re not afraid to show it on their sophomore full-length.

You already know exactly what to expect from this band. It’s mostly fast-paced death metal riffs with a modern production. (What is it with Poland and modern production, anyway? Didn’t they get the “raw is better” memo?) The mix has everything exactly where it should be, and the band plays with precision and energy. The vocals are a hoarse death growl, somewhere between Nergal and your average Swe-death gut-belcher. In other words, pretty much exactly like Vader's vocals.

The songs tend to be pretty good, too. Opener “Forever Sworn to Blasphemy” and the title track are perfect examples of their catchy riff-writing style, and they have some vocal and melodic hooks in there as well. The leads on “Devils Reunion” make it another clear standout. It has some weaker tracks, too, like the brutal but obvious “Vengeance’s Core” or the mostly forgettable “Third Scent Carcass” (despite the latter’s somewhat clever variation on a death metal breakdown). Overall, it’s a very good modern death metal album that’s highly aggressive and very catchy.

Then again, a very good modern death metal album isn’t always what I want. The playing is too precise, the production too perfect, the songs too easy to grasp onto. I wish there was some obvious, quirky aspect to this. Even if that quirk is a flaw, it would still manage to make it stand out. If I want good Polish death, I can always listen to Behemoth or Vader. If I wanted something else, I’d go for something else. I’m not likely to pick this one up very often.

The Verdict: There is absolutely nothing wrong with Homo Hereticus. It’s very good, in fact, and some of these songs will definitely stick in your head. If you can’t get enough modern death (especially Polish death, which is, after all, a superior form of modern death) then you will absolutely enjoy Sphere. Me, maybe I listen to too much to thoroughly enjoy it as much as it deserves.

originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/

Polish death metal... do I need to say more? - 70%

dismember_marcin, May 27th, 2012

When I first have found out the news about the release of Sphere’s “Homo Hereticus” CD I thought this is a new, only recently formed band, but surprisingly I was wrong and it turned out that Sphere is active since 2002 and after the demo 2004 they have released an album in 2007 (“Damned Souls Ritual” for Empire Records). Shit, I’ve been living in UK at that time, so that may be one of the reasons why I’ve never heard of this album before this morning, from the other hand though I’ve never been really so bothered about all those CDs, which Empire was adding to their famous magazine. Anyway, 2012 welcomes Sphere back to the scene with the second full length album, “Homo Hereticus”. CD is limited to 666 copies and I cannot really understand the reason for such a small quantity of this pressing, maybe Masterful Records don’t believe they’ll be able to sell more copies than that… Who knows. I can tell you one thing – if you’re looking for quality death metal from Poland, then get this album before it’s too late, otherwise you may be regretting it when all of those 666 copies will be gone.

The band plays death metal, what to some of you may be a reason enough to get the CD right now, but it may as well be one to avoid this CD – depends who you talk to hehe. Polish death metal has definitely grown a lot since the early 90’s and nowadays stands firmly as one of the most exciting scenes on the globe, but at the same time it still hasn’t been getting as much praise as the Swedish, Dutch or American bands… Which is just a matter of taste, of course. Definitely most of the Polish death metal bands have been choosing the way of more technical and fast, but still relatively obscure and straight forward playing, something on the verge of old school and more modern styles. It’s like most of the Polish bands wanted to be technical, but not over complex; fast and brutal, but without the monotony and to keep the right balance between that and the memorable riffs and song structures. And I guess Sphere’s music is exactly like that. It also has plenty of fragments, which have a definite old school touch, but also many, which sound more modern and sometimes also technically advanced. The band really goes through the varied methods of death metal destruction, incorporating a wide range of paces and riffing. Of course those of you, who’re into such bands as Deicide, Vader, Sinister, Stillborn will find here more than everybody else. And trust me, there’s some seriously brutal neckbreaking metal going on, with such tracks as “Forever Sworn to Blasphemy” for instance, which opens the album with killer riffs full of insanity and violence. And the same can be said about such tracks as “Third Scent Carcass” (fast as hell!), “Psalm to the Dark One” and “Homo Hereticus”. Not necessarily they’re just fast all the time, because the title song is more mid paced and has almost groovy riffs here and there, but it’s still very aggressive and merciless, something what will just make you bang your head without remorse.

“Godless Profanity” from the other hand brings some slightly more melodic and catchy riffs, which is OK… And one of my favourite tracks on the album is “War”, and this song is just pure violence, played in ultra fast tempo and with very simple straight forward attitude, just a basic riff and as the whole it even reminds me those tracks, which Marduk did on “Pazerdivision Marduk” LP. You know, it’s the relentless aggression, fast pace all the way through and constant bombarding, which ends within two minutes. And to make the album even more varied, there’s “Sadistfucktion”, which is almost punky and very much sounds like Impaled Nazarene, especially with those pervert lyrics! Some of you may find this song as a nice interruption between another cannonade of fast death metal, but personally I didn’t like it and I think this is the weakest part of the “Homo Hereticus”. Anyway, some of these songs I mentioned are quite short, what makes them even more uncompromising and right in your face and definitely Sphere will not let you fall asleep. And the fact that there’s an intro before every song doesn’t let the album lose any of its energy and aggression.

What I don’t like about Sphere’s second album then? Well, first there are some (luckily short and just few) vocal parts, in pig squealing style (in “Third Scent Carcass” and “Godless Profanity” for instance), which I don’t find as necessary and they just piss me off. I would rather not find them here, especially as the normal growl of Analripper is… hmm, arse ripping hehe! What else? Well, although I like Sphere’s music and can say that all these songs are very good, I may still miss a little bit more, something what would really nail me to the ground. It’s the same feeling, which I have when I’m listening to Stillborn’s albums. They’re very good, definitely worth having and listening, but it needs slightly more to cause pure chaos and devastation.

Uhhh… I don’t know whether Sphere will get much exposure and attention of the scene around the globe with “Homo Hereticus”. There are many better bands around, including few more significant representatives of the Polish underground, so few of you may not be really bothered with what Sphere has to offer. But I seriously advice you to check “Homo Hereticus” anyway, as this is very solid and in many parts impressive effort, which definitely stands above the vast number of mediocrity of the present metal and has enough to offer to feel satisfied and content. So, if you dig all those underground releases from small bands and small labels, but still aim for quality, then get “Homo Hereticus” without hesitation.

Sphere - 90%

Zerberus, May 1st, 2012

"Absolutely hellish death metal" was my immediate thought when "Forever Sworn to Blasphemy", the first track of Sphere's Homo Hereticus, toned in on my speakers. However you can never judge a band from just one track, but Poland's Sphere is no one-trick pony. Having adopted elements from both technical, brutal and melodic death metal aswell as grindcore they make it quite clear that they aren't going to let their music become stale or monotonous. That said, Sphere aren't exactly revolutionizing the genre. They do, however, play some tight fucking death metal.

Switching from simple thrashy riffs to more technical and intricate riffs are among the many strengths the polish band have. The drummer is great at varying his speeds and compositions and the production of everything from the lingering bass to the demonic lead vocals is just genious. They're certainly not afraid to throw in some blistering blastbeats into the mix, and tracks like Sadistfucktion has its' grindcorey moments while the third track "Third Scent Carcass" is borderline brutal death metal. Homo Hereticus is definitely some great shit for the lovers of fast death metal.

Usually after listening to an album a few times one will have found their favourite tracks, but on this 2012 album it's really hard to pick favourites because every track is just plain awesome in its' own right. I imagine Sphere is a great live band, and if they aren't it certainly isn't the music's fault.

Originally written for http://gouls-crypt.blogspot.com/

Heretic Poles - 80%

thrashtidote, March 19th, 2012

It is a certainity that Sphere do not produce the most old school sounding death metal around. And in addition to that, ''Homo Hereticus'' is not the most orginal death metal release either. Despite all these, I must admit that Sphere require more attention due to their supremacy in songwriting compared to several other bands. Hailing from Poland, a monster of a death metal scene, especially when we look at some of the old school acts, Sphere are an obscure act, that require more attention. While their brand of Cannibal Corpse-esque modernized death metal is utterly not very original, the refreshing sound is undeniable and tastefull. The music never ceases to stop in speed and the complexity of the riffs are well-done with blasting drum beats bashing ears from behind.

''Homo Hereticus'', has a variety of fast-paced riffs that come and go very stridently, and thus flow easily since the song lenghts never go above four minutes. As far as brutality goes, the album is an instant win, so long as the flaws in the other depratments don't take it down in quality. At this point the real question is raised: Is brutality everything? Clearly, the answer is no. However the album some other good qualities that negate the whole album from complete destruction. There is a good amount of thrash influence in the music as most of the riffs are thrashy and are mainly based on the simple, one dimentional thrash indicators such as palm mutes and also some violent chord-driven riffage which may draw roots on punk and hardcore though the main aspect of the album is the blatant brutal death metal sound, recognisable with the pertetual assault of invidious and chaotic tremolo chugs aswel as typical tempo-varied drum beats accompanied with harshly muted chords. That leaves the small amount of old school tremolo descendage, one element to spice things up. The album may border to some more melodic and modern sounds at times, but do not fear as these moments happen at seldom.

The ridicolously titled ''Sadistfuktion'' along with ''War'' are tracks which attain a high amount of energy and ferocity though only because of their sheer lack in lenght. These tracks mostly play a hardcore influenced game, with the hardcore punk influence showing more prevalence than the death or thrash influence. The tracks are played in a straightforward way, with little complexity but a superb boast of crushing punk attitude. The lack of complexity in these songs shouldn't make people sad, since almost every other tracks has a good deal of musicianship, noteceable from all the technical elements that are thrown in the mixture. The technical sense of the riffs sometimes grow to a certain point where it almost sounds chaotic, like black metal, but any fan of brutal death acts like ''Decapitated'', ''Cannibal Corpse'' and alike would simply take it as a grain of salt. The good thing is that ''Homo Hereticus'' still musters a fairly good amount of energy especially with the ridicolously hilarious bassy vocal tones appearing at random places throughout the album.

In the end, I have come to conclusion that Sphere require more attention and exposure only if they progress in quality with each album. ''Homo Hereticus'' is miles away from the worst though a little more originality and less frequent playbacks would never kill. The modernised sound is something is that I have enjoyed since its dose is not overused. To siply end things, ''Homo Hereticus'' is a good album that fails to go too much above average. There is a decent variety of riffs, but it is simply nothing any fan of old school death metal would enjoy to the fullest, while a brutal death metal fan may find it slightly less intimidating.

Highlights:
Vengeance's Core
Holistic Paralysis
Forever Sworn To Blasphemy
Homo Hereticus

http://laceratedthrashmetal.blogspot.com/

Homo Hereticus - 75%

todesengel89, March 5th, 2012

Among all the different regions where death metal has come from, the Polish scene has been particularly enchanting, with bands like Behemoth and Vader being some of the more prominent flag-bearers of Polish death metal. Sphere joins the ranks of these bands with Homo Hereticus, their second full length album to date since their formation 10 years ago, and boasting past and present members of bands such as Revelation of Doom and Hate in their lineup.

As the opening riffs of Forever Sworn to Blasphemy greets the listener, one is instantly reminded of fellow countrymen such as Infernal War in the tone of the guitar and in the ferocity of the music, especially with the buzzing trem-picked riffs, though Sphere prefers to take a slower and more intense approach to the execution of their music. Throughout the album as well, the Immolation influence is clearly audible, with many sections that are reminiscent of the former, and Analripper's vocals sound almost similar to Immolation's Ross Dolan. Analripper also constantly shows off his vocal range, going from a guttural death growl to grindcore-ish squeal vocals like on Godless Profanity and Psalm to the Dark One.

The technicality of the individual instruments are also displayed generously, with songs often littered with complex and progressive-sounding guitar riffs by Lucas and Cthulu, such as those on Godless Profanity and Devils Reunion, topped by the relentless and forceful pounding on the skins by Th0rn. There is also the inclusion of typical brutal death metal moments with not only the heavy chugging riffs, but also the punctuating of these riffs with pinch harmonics, like on Third Scent Carcass. Th0rn displays his abilities best on tracks like Holistic Paralisys, with the constant and precise gravity blasts being some of the personal highlights of the track. The bass of Burning also presents a constantly ominous, rumbling presence throughout the album, giving a somewhat groovy feel to the music.

For the most part though, the material on Homo Hereticus is blistering and relentless death metal, and at times with a slightly blackened edge infused to increase the intensity and heaviness in the music. The various sound samples that are included on tracks like Sadisfucktion also serve to provide some entertainment value, allowing the track to really live up to its title. Furthermore, the straightforward song structure of short tracks like Sadisfucktion and Grave's Cold Darkness at times give the album a grindcore feel. The organ at the beginning of Holistic Paralisys even reminds listeners of such moments that death/doom bands like Acid Witch like to utilise, and it is the inclusion of moments and surprises like these that keep listeners constantly engaged throughout the entirety of the album, not knowing what to expect next, making Homo Hereticus a thoroughly enjoyable release.

(http://www.heavymetaltribune.com/)

Solid Polish death metal. - 70%

volvandese, February 26th, 2012

Sphere are a Polish death metal act who released their second full-length album "Homo Hereticus" earlier this month. I have not heard their debut, so this was my first experience with the band. Though not floored, I was not disappointed.

The first thing that struck me about this album is that, even without knowing their place of origin beforehand, it would have taken about 10 seconds to guess this band was from Poland. Many countries and regions have recognizable styles that emerge in their death metal scenes, and Poland definitely has one of its own. Clearly enhancing that effect for Sphere is the fact that their vocalist reminds me so much of Peter from Vader. The general style of their riff construction and their very tight drumming further enhance the feeling of similarity to Vader. This is not on its own an entirely bad thing, as there are certainly worse bands one could sound like. There are, however, a couple downsides. One is that Vader have remained, over the years, pretty active and consistent, so there is not a shortage of actual Vader material without having to resort to sound-alikes. The second, and frankly more significant, problem is that while they have a very similar sound, they don't do it as well. The vocals again are largely responsible for this. While they are very similar in tone and style, they fall well short of Peter's powerful delivery and meaty low end.

On the up-side, the riffs are strong and driving, and most songs catch the listener up quickly and easily with their excellent level of energy. The track-list is also quite solid throughout, though "Sadistfucktion" fell pretty flat in my opinion. The drumming is probably the album's musical highlight as it is fast, technical, and perfectly executed. The production is good and clear, quite clean but not over-polished.

This album is actually quite enjoyable, but the grade goes down a bit because I can't shake the feeling that I'm listening to Vader Lite.

(originally written for http://beardsetc.blogspot.com)

Purveyors of proper Polish pugilism - 72%

autothrall, February 25th, 2012

Sphere is another little known Polish death metal entity which has seen about a decade of existence, but one I've encountered before. Their 2007 debut Damned Souls Rituals was a well rounded, if not wholly original effort that boasted some excellent production values and dynamic songwriting. Sadly, it never quite got the exposure that some of the band's countrymen have been receiving in recent years, an unfortunate byproduct of a scene so soaked in talent and potential that it suffers from 'too much of a good thing'. When monsters like Trauma and Lost Soul can't garner much attention, the chances for a band like Sphere to reach a wider audience are just not that high, and it's unfortunate, because they've got just as much to offer as several of the Polish forerunners like Decapitated (who have not written good music in over half a decade) or Behemoth (a solid band, admittedly, but for some reason I prefer their pre-rockstar era when they were still a raw black metal act).

Homo Hereticus picks up where Damned Souls Rituals left off in offering a good deal of variety and taut, intense songwriting which seems to leap right out of the recording and smack you upside the head. There's no direct influence I could cite over any one other, because they draw from a wide variety of brutal USDM, Polish peers and even a steady course of death/thrash that breeds a lot of excitement through the riffing architecture of "Forever Sworn to Blasphemy" or "Third Scent Carcass". Walls of blasting, double bass artillery and steady driving rhythms are soaked in fluid, punchy guitar tones that continuously place their fist in your gut while spikes of arpeggios and atonal melodies provide an extra, subtler dimension. I also enjoyed the ridiculous froglike gutturals that would well up in several spots like oil through virgin soil. In addition, the intros to a lot of tracks like the creepy organ before "Holistic Paralisys" or the keys and choirs that herald the thundering aggression of "Grave's Cold Darkness". These ambient inaugurations contribute to a firmer balance of atmosphere and savagery than one might expect from the tone and construction of the guitar progressions alone, but they also remind me of campy horror B-movies from the 80s which is never a bad thing.

Not all the punches thrown in this melee are equal, though. There were certain cuts here which I felt were less inspired or interesting in terms of the guitars and structure. For example, the brazen punkish momentum of "Sadistfuktion" reminded me of a lot of modernized death grind with roots in D-beat, like Nasum or Napalm Death, but the choice in notes did nothing for me. Also, a few tunes rely a bit too heavily on generic moshcore chugging sequences like "Psalm to the Dark One", which was rather forgettable. Then again, for each of these you've got something like "Devils Reunion" with its acrobatic, clinical death-thrashing verse rhythms that had my neck in a brace in just two minutes of ill advised exertion. In the end, Homo Hereticus is far from perfect, but the crackerjack drumming, muscular bass lines, blunt and caustic vocals, and the wide, indefatigable selection of guitar riffs ensure that it's worth checking out, and that Sphere earns some measure of respect against the flooded backdrop of their scene. I enjoyed it a mere fraction less than their debut, but I think its corpulent, loud production and ardent musicianship should attract an appropriately carnage-questing clientele.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com