Spheric Universe Experience - Mental Torments
Nightmare Records
Technical Prog Metal
9 songs (69'09)
Release year: 2006
Spheric Universe Experience, Nightmare Records
Reviewed by Marty
Surprise of the month
Spheric Universe Experience are a prog metal band from France that originally got started in 1999 by guitarist Vince Benaim under the name of Gates Of Delirium. Initially an instrumental band with no keyboards, they quickly realized that this severely limited the band's repertoire and added a keyboard player and vocalist; changing their name to Amnesya. Lots of gigs followed and the band cut a demo CD but the band split leaving the remaining members to form Spheric Universe Experience in 2002. They released a demo in 2003 called Burning Box and eventually employed the services of Tommy Hansen (Helloween, Pretty Maids) to produce and mix Mental Torments, the band's first full-length album. Originally only available in their home country of France, this CD finally available worldwide.

When discussing very technical progressive metal, one inevitably has to draw comparisons to Dream Theater, the band that really started it all. Spheric Universe Experience play the type of ultra-technical progressive metal that Dream Theater fans should eat up. They display a very similar technical ability and the use of extended instrumental bridges, odd time signature changes and some very heavy guitar riffs are all very reminiscent of more recent Dream Theater releases namely Train Of Thought and Octavarium. The first track on the album So Cold, is pretty much a showcase for the full capabilities of this band. Employing both clean guitar and heavy power chord riffs, this one has a very catchy chorus that's right out of the Dream Theater/Fates Warning school of prog metal. Vocalist Frank Garcia has the same sort of strong and higher pitched voice as James LaBrie but he can also infuse a little more edge and passion; often sounding like Dirk Thurisch (Mercury Tide, ex-Angel Dust). This track also features an awesome and very technical lengthy instrumental break with lots of speedy fills infused with hammering double bass drumming and some brilliantly executed lead guitar and synth soloing. This track is the best mix of melody and instrumentation on the entire album and is the perfect introduction to the band. The only other track that comes close to the quality of So Cold as far as striking the perfect balance between melody and technical riffing, is the 15 minute epic title track Mental Torments. Heavy and dramatic in nature, this has a catchy melodic sense to the vocals as well as lots of very intense technical instrumentation that really brings out some classic Yes influences especially albums like Relayer with the extended jams and the use of odd time signatures. In fact, Gates of Delirium is the name of a track off that particular album...coincidence?

For the rest of the album, we are treated to three instrumental tracks that are very Dream Theater like and contain lot of wild and chaotic riffs that are played with the sort of precision that would normally only be seen with very seasoned veterans. The keyboards play very prominent roles in these tracks with Halleygretto featuring lots of excellent piano work. Sidereal Revolution even has bits of calypso-like rhythms and the syncopation between the guitar and keyboards is stunning.

For the remaining tracks that feature vocals, they are at times sparsely used in favor of extended instrumental sections. Moonlight has a heavier and moody Angel Dust feel with Saturated Brain showing some of the same influences. As a bonus track, Echoes Of The Stars is included and this one breaks up the pace a bit with a more laid back and solid atmospheric feel without any of the heavy riffs that are abundant throughout the rest of the album. With the drums, bass and keyboards carrying the track, the only real guitar that is heard is for the lead solos. This track is a nice refreshing breath of fresh air.

Technically, Spheric Universe Experience could give just about any prog metal band including Dream Theater a run for their money...yes they are that good! The problem is, they are trying to build songs out of lots of riffs and technical changes instead of working within a particular framework or idea and piecing the music together around it. For examples of just how to do that properly, they should pay a little more attention to the song writing styles of bands like Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Symphony X and even Evergrey. This band has absolutely everything going for them and they really sound amazing but a barrage of technical riffing and tempo changes does not always guarantee a solid song. More attention to melodic structure and song writing improvements will go a long way for this band. They definitely have the ability as is evident with several tracks on this album. Purists of the prog metal genre will love this stuff as it is actually very, very good but after listening to an entire CD of very technical riffing and tempo changes, it all starts to sound the same and in some cases is totally unnecessary. Watch out for these guys though, I have a feeling they are going to make some very big waves in the prog metal genre in the years to come. Sound samples are available...here.

Killing Songs :
So Cold, Burning Box Gala, Moonlight and Mental Torments
Marty quoted 76 / 100
Other albums by Spheric Universe Experience that we have reviewed:
Spheric Universe Experience - Anima reviewed by Marty and quoted 85 / 100
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