Artist: Secret Sphere
Album Title: Lifeblood
Label: Frontiers Music
Date of Release: 12 March 2021
Italian melodic power metal band Secret Sphere have been around for the best part of 25 years but are one of those bands that have never quite taken the world by storm. Without being too disingenuous I hope, the quintet has always hovered around the periphery whilst never quite setting the world alight. In my case, I bought ‘Scent Of Human Desire’ in 2003 when I heard it playing in my favourite record store at the time. I really enjoyed the music on that record but, two things happened. Firstly, I began to spin it less and less over the months and secondly, I didn’t feel any great compulsion to rush out and listen to the follow-up records, of which there have been five.
‘Lifeblood’ is the ninth original full-length release of the quintet’s ongoing career and, seeing as I’m listening to more new music than ever before, I thought now was the perfect opportunity to see if the Italians could finally pull me fully under their spell. After all, I do like a good dose of melodic power metal with the occasional progressive flourish.
For this new record, Secret Sphere welcome back vocalist Roberto Messina, who was in the collective from the beginning until 2012. He once again joins guitarist Aldo Lonobile, bassist Andrea Buratto, keyboardist Gabriele Ciaccia, and drummer Marco Lazzarini, most of whom have been in the line-up for a fair while now.
So what of ‘Lifeblood’ then? Well, the reason this review sees the light of day after it’s release is because I’ve not really known how I feel about it. Much like ‘Scent…’ and other albums, there are some really good songs on the record that make me think that this has to be better than an average European power metal outing.
After the expected instrumental intro piece, the title track offers real pace and energy as it bursts from the speakers with real speed, intent and decent heaviness. Swirling keys, fast-picked riffs and powerful drumming open ‘Lifeblood’ before it settles down a touch to introduce stronger melodies, laced with tinkling keys in the verse. The chorus returns to the pace of the opening to create a bombastic affair, with Messina’s voice soaring effortlessly on top.
‘The End Of An Ego’ follows and maintains the urgency of its predecessor, with the guitars offering some nice lead flourishes and a catchy-as-hell lead-up into the chorus. It might be the shortest song on the record aside from the intro, but it packs a real punch and stands as a favourite of mine, especially given the bright, effervescent lead solo late on.
Another one of the very best cuts has to be ‘Alive’. This is how you do quality European power metal; it is fast, heavy, and properly anthemic with a huge uplifting melodic chorus. The drumming is relentlessly powerful, driving the song on with authority, whilst the keys bathe the song in symphonic splendour from beginning to end. And then, in a slight change of pace, ‘Against All The Odds’ delivers a cut that’s almost pure melodic hard rock /AOR fare.
However, there are other tracks of which I am less fond, that get me wavering again.
‘Life Survivors’ caught my ear on an opening listen or two, but despite the increased symphonics and cinematic grandeur, it fades a little with repeated listens somehow. ‘Thank You’ is also a bit of a disappointment despite the heavy opening complete with cool pinched harmonics. And I’m really not a fan of ‘Solitary Fight’. As hard as I try to find something I like about it, it just falls flat for me.
When it comes to deciding whether an album is good or not, I tend to revert to my tried and trusted method of determination. Essentially, do I look forward to listening to the album multiple times for the purposes of the review, or am I itching to complete the review so that I can listen to something else? In the case of ‘Lifeblood’, it’s a little bit 50/50 which is frustrating in the extreme. And it leads to procrastination, hence the delay in publishing.
But, having had a stern word with myself, I have alighted from the fence to conclude that ‘Lifeblood’ is, overall, a positive listening experience. It isn’t the very best that the genre has to offer, but neither is it anything even approaching a poor album. The highlights do outweigh my reservations quite significantly, with the best tracks really impressing me. It’s just there’s the lack of a spark for me, of that indescribable magic. It means that it therefore falls short of receiving my most effusive praise. Nevertheless, if you’re new to the band, or you are a fan of melodic power metal, ‘Lifeblood’ offers a fun and enjoyable listening experience.
The Score of Much Metal: 75%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: