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The cutting edge of Progressive Metal
The first time I heard Linear Sphere, I thought of two bands in particular: Watchtower for their heaviness and Spiral Architect for their ultra-technical metal with strong jazz overtones. However, repeated listens suggested that Linear Sphere’s Reality Dysfunctional transcends comparisons. Therefore, any band I mention in this review is merely to provide a musical reference point; Linear Sphere is quite a one of a kind band.
Hailing from London, England, the band consists of Jos Geron on vocals, Martin Goulding and Charlie Griffiths on guitars, Nick Lowczowski on drums and Dave Marks on drums. All of the musicians are technically amazing, especially guitarists Goulding and Griffith. They marry a diverse range of musical styles consisting of ever shifting rhythms and odd-metered time signatures. Their playing is a hybrid of the jazzy sides of players like Greg Howe and Allan Holdsworth and the more metallic sides of Paul Masvidal and Fredrik Thordendal. The best part of the guitars is the dichotomy they provide during the harmonies; when Griffiths plays a distorted heavy section, Goulding immediately backs him up with a very clean jazzy passage. The same contrast is present in vocalist Jos Geron’s singing. Gerons utilises a harsh, raspy delivery, which is often enhanced by distorted vocals or added sound effects, not because he is uncapable of singing, but moreso to give the music and vocal harmonies an extra depth. That said, Geron’s singing style may be the make-it-or-break-it factor for some listeners. Personally I think he is an amazing singer and a very key element in the originality of Linear Sphere. He reminds me of a European version of Jon Oliva singing in a grittier tone, kind of like Garden Wall’s Alessandro Seravalle. Throughout the 65-minute album, there are lots of spoken passages, mostly in the beginning and breakdown sections of the songs. These voice-overs represent the lyrical aspect of the album, which seems to deal with capitalism and secret societies. In this respect, Jos Gerons often portrays a wide range of “moods” in his voice, going from clean regular singing to lower, raspier screams.
The music is highly intricate and multi-layered. Cynic’s Focus and Spiral Architect’s A Sceptic’s Universe are obvious reference points given the technical death metal riffing blended with textural guitar harmonies and ambient textures. “Reversal” contains brutal death metal guitars embraced by meticulous jazz solos and distorted vocals; whilst “Ceremony Master” is a superbly executed post-shred fest we’d normally expect from Thordendal or a Cynic album that was never released. The rhythm duo of the band is phenomenal as well. A good dose of Sean Reinert and Dennis Chambers with plodding bass add more colour to the band’s already solid songcraft, and elevate it to a higher level. Note the relatively slower guitar solos on “Marketing” and “Life of Gear”; both drip with sheer emotion, gripping melodies and charging power. “Marketing”, being acoustic driven, lets vocalist Geron shine like never before and do killer vocal harmonies. “Life of Gear”, on the other hand, is one of the most sinister songs on the album, especially with its eerily beautiful outro and textural guitar work.
However, the indisputable highlight of the CD is the 25+ minute monumental epic, “From Space to Time”. This is the ultimate embodiment of the band’s rich musical background as it covers death metal, prog rock, technical metal and jazz, and melts them all into a single form seamlessly. The first couple of minutes of the song are full with incredibly rhythmic melodies and guitar runs; then we’re off to a nice, slow middle section with prominent keyboards courtesy of Adam Robinson, and then back to the mercilessly heavy mood with the addition of evil vocals offering socio-political commentary. As the music itself, the artwork and booklet of the album are also dark, cryptic, yet, for an independent band, very professionally put together. The guys in Linear Sphere wrote, recorded and released Reality Dysfunction as independent artists, and the sincerity in their music is not too difficult to notice. This album could be the best debut of 2005 and a future underground classic for lovers of technical prog metal. Rating: 5 Stars