Monday, October 1, 2012

Sphere - Homo Hereticus (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 ov 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 many 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.

7 / 10 - Sheering Waves of Familiarity