Monday, January 09, 2006

Spiral Architect: A Sceptic's Universe

A Sceptic's Universe
By: Spiral Architect
Year: 2000

One of the aspects of prog that attracts me is the technicality of the music. While that certainly isn't everything I like, it is a huge contributing factor. Listening to much of the music reviewed here, one will find precision playing, unusual time signatures with rapid shifts from one to the next, and multilayered writing that really gives each instrument something interesting to contribute. But today's album takes that technicality to an entirely new level. This is no longer prog metal, this can be called nothing less than technical metal.

Spiral Architect is something of a dream group, though few will recognize any of the members. An effort to combine the considerable talents of many players, the band was brewing for a number of years before the actual release of their debut (and so far only) album "A Sceptic's Universe". For those who prefer their music to be something that rests in the background, this album is not for you. Just skip it and move on to something more mundane. For those who want an intense listening experience that demands repeated, concerted listens to even begin to fully appreciate all that is going on, this is the album for you.

The musicianship is stunning. Incredibly complex playing from each member fills the album from start to finish. Truly, in attempting to describe the music, words fail me. The bass is all over the place, doing things that most bass players would find obscene. Polyrhythms abound, leaving the careless listener lost in the wake. The lyrics, while certainly playing second fiddle to the amazing music, are surprisingly introspective and intelligent. Guitars and keyboards often merge to create excellent harmonies. Vocals are also great, sounding amazingly similar to Buddy Lackey (aka Devon Graves) of Psychotic Waltz fame.

Tracks to catch:"Insect" has one of the most jaw-dropping bass lines I have ever heard. "Cloud Constructor" is a whirling, mind spinning trip. "Conjuring Collapse" has moments of surprising accessibility. Finally, if you are lucky enough to find the Japanese version you get an amazing version of the stellar Fates Warning song "Prelude to Ruin".

Objective Rating: 8 out of 10
Stunning musicianship and out of this world writing combine to make this an excellent technical metal album. The production is great, and each song is mind bending in its own right. One of the weaknesses of the album is part and parcel of its strengths: the amazing technicality. It can make the album difficult to really get into, and most of the songs have a very cold, calculated quality.

Biased Rating: 6 out of 10
I truly appreciate the technicality of the album. But it really seems to lack soul. There is nothing that connects this disc to me. Because of this, I end up not liking the album as much as I might. I definitely need to be in the proper frame of mind to really enjoy it, and honestly don't usually make it through the disc from start to finish.


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