Spiral Architect - A Sceptic's Universe

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Sensory
Catalog Number: SR3008
Format: CD
Total Time: 42:29:00

Spiral Architect are one of few bands that have recently sent shock waves through the tech-metal scene. They are heavily inspired by their predecessors Watchtower, Cynic and Spastik Ink, yet SA retain their own identity. The 4 Norwegians that formed over 5 years ago had played together in various metal outfits in the 80s and early 90s. It took them 3 years to find a suitable singer that could for fill their wishes. A two track DEMO was recorded in 1995, both tracks were released on a double compilation CD together with songs from 7 other up-and-coming progressive metal bands from Norway. They hired ex-Noen Night vocalist to do the vocals on "Fountianhead" and "Purpose." Leif Knashaug did a fine job; in fact I still think that Knashaug handles "Fountainhead" far better than ?yvind H?geland. H?geland used to be the front figure in another well known Norwegian prog-band called Manitou.

Well, lets get back to the important thing here, A Sceptic's Universe. It's nearly impossible to explain what SA sound like. It's progressive; in fact, it's way past progressive; technical metal is a definition that has emerged or as SA put it themselves - "Thinking man's metal." There are clear parallels to Cynic and Watchtower. The ingenious mix of classic metal and jazz / fusion is always present. One thing that really cuts through is Lars K. Nordberg's bass playing. His bass sound is not exactly "bass," as in low powerful notes, it all happens in the midrange. Like a surgeon he performs his precise incisions with such clarity it's hardly believable. Asgeir Mickelson follows the bass with ease, his drumming supersedes most of the technical drumming we hear today. Once you think he is going to keep to the current beat, he breaks off and starts playing some kind of weird poly-rhythmic figure. Great stuff!

Both the original guitar players recorded this CD, but near the ending of the recording sessions, Kaj Gornitzka quit. I'm not sure why ... this left the band's second guitarist, Steinar Gundersen to finish the final guitar parts. Gundersen's solo work is flawless, his fluid lines and exotic tonal choice should set standards within metal guitar playing. Just like the rest of the band, his style is a mix of many different elements, a strong sense of fusion can be heard throughout the CD. Gundersen's playing sometimes reminds me of Allan Holdsworth's guitar wizardry with an exotic twist of Marty Friedman. We must not forget that Gundersen also is an excellent rhythm guitarist, too. With such an inferno of instrumental talent, is there room for vocals? If you ask me: YES and NO.

?yvind H?geland concentrates his melody lines in the upper region. It must be a nightmare for a singer to interact with such a complex song structure, but he manages well. Things sound a lot better in the less technical songs, like "Cloud Constructor." When given the necessary "space" he delivers a brilliant performance that blends in perfectly. When the songs get too "busy," the vocals are too rapid without being able to live a life of their own. Maybe SA need to write songs that are more vocal friendly? The best songs are "Insect," "Spinning," "Cloud Constructor" and "Fountainhead".

All in all this is a breathtaking CD. It should be enjoyed in small portions. There are too many details to mention - new parts crop up every time you listen to the CD. My only disappointment is the production. The whole CD sounds "flat," there's no punch. The bass guitar is very dominating in the mix, too. All in all an average sound production, but one hell of a musical masterpiece!

Released in Japan in 1999 by Avalon/Marquee

[This review originally appeared at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

Spinning (3:24) / Excessit (6:13) / Moving Spirit (3:45) / Occam's Razor (1:33) / Insect (5:54) / Cloud Constructor (5:25) / Conjuring Collapse (6:30) / Adaptability (4:35) / Fountainhead (6:30) / Japanese Bonus Track: Prelude To Ruin

?yvind H?geland - vocals, keyboards
Steinar Gundersen - rhythm, lead and acoustic guitars
Kaj Gornitzka - rhythm guitars
Lars K. Norberg - bass
Asgeir Mickelson - drums

A Sceptic's Universe (1999/2000)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin SE

Added: January 15th 2005
Reviewer: Dylan
Artist website: www.spiralarchitect.com
Hits: 945
Language: english


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