(Technical, Progressive Metal) Spiral Architect - A Sceptic's Universe
Technical AND progressive? Not possible, you scoff. Wrong! Whilst being overly technical, and on the odd occasion entering wank off territory, they have many long instrumental passages, adding the progressive feel to their songs. They are influenced by bands like Watchtower, Atheist and Cynic.
Steinar Gundersen - Lead Guitars
Lars K. Norberg - Bass
Kaj Gornitzka - Rhythm Guitars
Asgeir Mickelson - Drums
Oyvind Haegeland - Vocals
Whilst this particular type of music falls under the technical/progressive genre, the singer, Oyvind Haegeland, gives the group an almost power metal feel, with his alto, opera like singing. Picture Dream Theatre, multiply the technicality by 2, add some Blind Guardian vocals, and Cynic's bass playing, and you have this album. Not an easy album to listen to if you are trying to relax, but an amazing album to listen to nonetheless. Their lyrics, like most technical bands, focus on things like mythology, and metaphors. And one more thing, Norberg is an absolute monster on bass. He is similar to Sean Malone in that they both play fretless, but he doesn't stick with the drummer, he plays his own thing, almost like a 'lead' bass. And being fretless, his bass gets a real distinct sound of out it. A beauty to listen to.
The CD opens with Spinning, and what a way to open a CD! There is about a 3 second opening passage which is totally unbelievable, it manages to lose you in the minute time it is played. It goes into a guitar part, then more technical carnage. It is hard to explain, the guitars do the same thing, and the bass is doing something else in a different time signature, and the drums is somehow holding the two together. Then the guitars will do a half second of shredding, and throw them out of whack, so you have two guitars doing different things, and the bass is continuing on with it thing. Then the vocals come in, making it even more confusing. About 2/3's of the way through, there is a bit where the whole band does that phasing thing, which sounds cool.
The unfortunate thing about this album, is that, being so technical, you can get lost in the music. I've done this several times, I put it on as background music, and after a while I don't know which song I'm up to. The vocals do little to distinguish between songs, so that doesn't help. And the bass, whilst being ultra-impressive, tends to sound the same throughout all the songs.
Occam's Razor is a well-deserved break from the technicality. It is a cool little instrumental, at only 1:33. It has a computer-type sound throughout, and has instruments like bongos, and clarinets (I think) playing an odd riff. It leads onto Insect, which is probably the greatest song on the album. The guitars go absolutely nuts, even moreso than they have previously. The bass keeps up, and of course does his own thing. Everything seems to fit in this song. A classical guitar is introduced, but unfortunately isn't well heard. The solos are great as well. It changes time so many times, it's hard to keep up. But it is probably the best song, and not overly technical. The bridge breakdown is the best thing on the CD. This song has tons of world influences on it as well, there's a whole lot of instruments that I couldn't name in this song.
Another fault I find with it is that being so technical, it takes spotlight away from the soloists. The solo is meant to be the main thing at the time, but because the music has so many things going on in it, it doesn't let the excellent soloing shine like it should.
The final song I will mention is the excellent Fountainhead, closing the CD of quite well. The first 1:20 or so is complete mayhem, technical bliss, and has one of the best solos on the CD, but after that, the song gets into an excellent groove, and is almost in 4/4 timing! Subdued words, and the bass sticks with the drummer. Compared to everything else, it is almost ballad-like. It constantly gets more muddled up, but doesn't enter the wank off stage, where some other songs on the album do. And there is a great bass solo about 4 minutes in. The whole song remains really mellow, and it turns out as one of the better songs on the CD.
I will give this CD a 4/5. Too many times it is overly technical, or just plain wank off. However, the musicianship shown is incredible. If you want excellent technical metal, check out Atheist.
Cool review, just before I was thinking about reviewing this, no plans to, just the idea came to mind, this makes it a bit easier.
The lyrics seem really arrogant, and I mean more than "seem" when I say that.
Personally, I think Insect is one of, if not the most technical song on there, even though I have managed to play the intro, and the outro riff is pretty easy once you get the timing down (great fret arm workout). Still, the rest of the song is sooo technically intense. The bass does a madcore fast run starting from about 0:52
One thing I really like is the vocal harmonies - Finding the nice vocal harmony is like finding the DK coin in every stage of Donkey Kong Country 2, except easier, I could probably do a walkthrough for harmonyspotters.
Spinning - 1:07
Excessit - any bit where it goes "ooo ahh heeeyaahaya"
Moving Spirit - right near the end
Occam's Razor - N/A, but any time after the hard bit, the stick sounds good
Insect - 1:54
Cloud Constructor - whole second verse
Conjuring Collapse - 4:41, 4:56
Adaptability - 2:44
Fountianhead - 3:54, 5:57
Prelude To Ruin - 5:55
Prelude To Ruin (7:34) - bonus track on Japanese version, probably not too hard to find online.
It's a cover song originally done by Fates Warning. I think Spiral Architect made a huge improvement on it. It's pretty much the same music, but it sounds so much better. Every single element sounds better than the original.
The standout bits for me are the intro, done on nylon string guitars, and the Time, Time, Time bit, where the guitars sound like harpsichords and of course the vocal harmony that starts that bit off.
So... what a random bag of ideas I have about the cd..
Easy entry - Occam's Razor, Excessit, Cloud Constructor, Prelude To Ruin.. and maybe Fountainhead
Full technical blast - Spinning, Insect, Conjuring Collapse
I've heard a little of this album and it's in my opinion, too technical. It's like they weren't trying to create real music. If anyone is willing to prove me wrong, you can send me some songs (see profile for AIM)
Good reviews, both of you, thanks. I only got this album a little while ago, so I haven't really given it enough listening time yet. I really like it so far, though I'll have to get back to you with further thoughts in a few weeks.
i've heard alot about this band, but i don't find the whole "let's be technical for the sake of it" a premise for me. i find it off putting when they are just trying to wank their instruments for the sake of it.
awesome review though, i may check out some of the songs one day.
Well, I downloaded a couple of their songs to see if I liked them. I have one word to describe them. Random. There seems to be no co-ordination between instruments on the songs, it's a case of incredible musicians, who couldn't write a song if their life depended on it.
Also, the bassist has one of the worst tones i've ever heard. Like a midi track almost.
There are some good parts, but it's mostly forgetable.
I have downloaded that album recently, and I can't stop listening. The technicality is insane. Yes, it gets to the point where it just doesn't feel like "music" anymore, but I still love it. Brilliant.
I've heard some songs off this album, and it surprised me. Usually I like technical stuff, but this was too technical. It doesn't even sound like music. Its like, "OK. Drums, go into that room, do whatever you want. Guitars and Bass, into different rooms, and do whatever you want." Then they cut out parts and put them together. There's no flow or anything. I'll try listening to it some more, some of it is good, but overall, its just too technical.
Before I start, does anyone know where I can find Spiral Architect lyrics???
I had to register at this forum just to post in this thread because of the people saying the separate instruments don't go together--and to rant about SA for a while. Spiral Architect has created the most meticulously composed music for a rock band I have ever heard and there's not a second throughout the whole album that they aren't right on. I've listened to a Skeptics Universe so much I can actually nod my head to the songs. The way the instruments move in and out of melody, syncopation and harmony (and a bunch of other stuff I don't even know about) is like nothing I've ever heard before. This is an aesthetic that defies a lot of people's tastes because it is so constantly extreme-TO THE MAX!!!!!!!!!-but if you can listen fast enough you'll constantly discover things you never heard before on the album or anywhere else. For the first few months I was just blown away by the fact that I still didn't know what was going on, only that it sounded amazing; now that I've really digested every song I think they straight up ROCK harder than any other band simply because the music is so technically intense, not to mention as heavy as a freight train. A Skeptic's Universe gets my vote for best...album...EVER.
edit: Forgot to mention, "real music" and "wank" (unless referring to Yngwie Malmsteen, because he's such a wanker) are ignorant terms. I agree that music has a specific definition and purpose, but SA is totally making music. If they had made a few tape loops or put some contact mics in a burning log, I'd say they crossed over into the realm of sound, but this stuff is strictly composed and they use their technical skill as a means to create a unique musical aesthetic.
Yeah, there are a lot of bands doing sick stuff like this out there, but I think these dudes are one notch more progressive, technical, complex, fast, and beautiful than the others. I just happen to love this stuff, and if you know of any other bands I should listen to please do tell.
[QUOTE=Robeast]Yeah, there are a lot of bands doing sick stuff like this out there, but I think these dudes are one notch more progressive, technical, complex, fast, and beautiful than the others. I just happen to love this stuff, and if you know of any other bands I should listen to please do tell.[/QUOTE]
It depends what kind of music you like, really. If you're not averse to harsh vocals, then there are bands like Cynic, Atheist, Theory in Practice, etc. If you don't mind instrumental music, Spastic Ink's first album (Ink Complete) is amazing. Spastic Ink's second album (Ink Compatible) is also excellent, and has vocals. For a start.