Spheric Universe Experience – Back Home – Album Review

Artist: Spheric Universe Experience

Album Title: Back Home

Label: Uprising! Records

Date of Release: 20 May 2022

The origins of Spheric Universe Experiment date back to before the Millennium, but the ensuing quarter of a decade have not been plain sailing for the French progressive metal outfit. Line-up changes and break-ups have featured amongst other things, meaning that we had to wait until 2005 for a debut album (‘Mental Torments’) Another three records were released subsequently, the last being ‘The New Eve’ in 2012. After a period of touring, a live album, (‘Live In London 2016’), and extensive songwriting, the quintet have finally returned with a new studio album, entitled ‘Back Home’.

Founder and guitarist Vince Benaim remains in place to lead Spheric Universe Experience into a new chapter of their career. He is joined in 2022 by keyboardist Fred Colombo, bassist John Drai, vocalist Frank Garcia, and drummer Romain Goulon, all of whom are integral members of the Cote d’Azur-based band and feature strongly on this new record.

The title of the album, with its beautiful and striking artwork, has a double meaning. Firstly, and most simply, ‘Back Home’ represents the fact that Spheric Universe Experience have returned with a new album and are in their natural, happy place. But additionally, it also references the album’s central story because in good old fashioned progressive metal style, ‘Back Home’ is a concept album, with a bold and strong sci-fi/space flavour to it. The central characters are, amongst other things, returning to Earth, hence ‘Back Home’.

In the past, if I had a quibble about the music of Spheric Universe Experience, it would have been that I found the music to lack a little in the melody stakes as well as the overall sound of the band. What I mean by this is that the melodies didn’t always stick with me as I would have hoped, sometimes being a little convoluted or fussy. Additionally, I felt that the compositions came across as a little weak sounding, lacking enough grunt or muscle, particularly where the guitars and bass were concerned. As such, despite showing flashes of brilliance, their previous albums narrowly missed out on being essential listening for me. Others will naturally disagree with this, but that’s my opinion. Or it was, because ‘Back Home’ addresses all of these things and in so doing, delivers a truly compelling listening experience that, for me, announces them as one of the genre’s brightest prospects.

Funnily enough, a week or two before I got my hands on this promo, I was thinking that 2022 had so far been a fairly mediocre year for what I would loosely describe as ‘classic’ progressive metal, the kind of music that was spearheaded by the likes of Dream Theater, where strong melodies combine with technicality and impressive virtuosic instrumentation. The kind of progressive metal for which I have a definite soft spot despite not always being the biggest fan of Dream Theater themselves ironically. However, Spheric Universe Experience have come along at just the right time to redress the balance and scratch this particular itch of mine.

What I like about ‘Back Home’ as well as the improved production, is the way in which the Frenchmen manage to blend progressive metal with flashes of power metal speed, and a sense of bombast and flamboyance to enhance the effect of the concept story; in some ways, it has the feeling of a heavy rock opera almost, such is the ambition on display here.

I will be completely consistent with my criticism though and state that ‘Back Home’ is, at 77 minutes, too long. After a decade without new material, it’s not surprising that the band wanted to return with a bang, but the net result is that it’s a tad bloated, and in need of editing in places. To begin with, six of the compositions stretch beyond six-and-a-half minutes, and there are no less than four instrumental pieces within the thirteen tracks that feature on ‘Back Home’. They are not without merit, particularly the opening piece, ‘On Board SUE5-2469’ and ‘Synchronicity’ which is wonderfully cinematic and clever in the way that it reprises melodies heard in the former.

Despite this, when Spheric Universe Experience get it right, they really impress me. Take the double header of ‘Final Fate’ and ‘Where We Belong’ as perfect examples of everything that make Spheric Universe Experience such an exciting band. ‘Final Fate’ opens in true progressive style, all energy, odd time signatures, virtuosity, and power. Immediately, the importance of the synths is clear, lacing the whole thing in atmosphere as well as moments of solo virtuosity, but never entirely overdone. There’s a nice groove to the verses, whilst Frank Garcia impresses as he lets rip over a very melodic chorus; it may simply be the passage of time playing tricks on me, but I never remember the vocals of Spheric being this good before. ‘Where We Belong’ delivers one of the album’s killer choruses but is overall a much more theatrical piece, whilst still producing the chops, riffs, and complexity that will have prog fans grinning from ear to ear. I’m not overly sold on the way the song veers into West End Musical territory in the final couple of minutes, but you can’t fault the ambition for a second. And that chorus will be in your head for weeks, trust me.

One of the most interesting songs on ‘Back Home’ is the multi-faceted ‘Transcending Real Life’. The melodies are deceptively catchy, almost insidiously so actually. But it is the way the musicians are able to incorporate so many ideas into the track that makes it to compelling; funky slap bass, chunky and muscular riffs, gentle 80s-esque keyboard-led sections, and a strong Middle Eastern flavour with the introduction of Arabic-like melodies and vocals in the later stages – they all combine to great effect to fully engross me time and again.

I’m also a sucker for the ballad-like chorus and melodies within ‘Legacy’ which, at times, is also one of the heavier tracks, with some powerful riffs. This juxtaposition is a nice touch and demonstrates the skill of the band in being able to blend different styles together without seemingly a second thought. ‘Defenders Of Light’ is also very worthy of a mention as it kicks off as if it has been set alight, before dropping a fantastically fast and energetic chorus that’s strongly influenced by the power metal genre.

On balance, despite the misgivings about its length, I have to conclude that ‘Back Home’ is a hugely gratifying experience, not least because it signals a long-awaited return from a very talented band. They have left nothing at the door and have thrown the kitchen sink at this record in an attempt to create their strongest material yet. And, when the dust has settled, it is hard to argue to the contrary. With plenty of high-quality performances throughout the band, tons of variety, and a palpable sense of passion at every turn, ‘Back Home’ has to be the best release yet from Spheric Universe Experiment.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Outshine – The Awakening

Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones

Zero Hour – Agenda 21

Scitalis – Doomed Before Time

Morgue Supplier – Inevitability

Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates

Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)

OU – One

Haunter – Discarnate Ails

Aara – Triade II: Hemera

Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus

Demonical – Mass Destroyer

I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping

Haunted By Silhouettes – No Man Isle

Delvoid – Swarmlife

LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness

Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain

Dischordia – Triptych

Dragonbreed – Necrohedron

Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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