Spheric Universe Experience – Back Home (Uprising! Records)

Wednesday, 25th May 2022
Rating: 9 / 10

Celebrating twenty years as a group, the past decade has been fairly inactive for Spheric Universe Experience as far as studio work. The individual members pursued other side projects and did a European tour with Threshold that yielded a Live in London 2016 EP release in 2017 – allowing for a bit of decompression to establish direction and focus on this fifth album Back Home. A conceptual record shouldn’t be much of a surprise with a progressive metal act such as this (a sci-fi piece of human beings flying back to Earth after centuries on distant planets, realizing their homeland is the best place to live), these thirteen tracks taking the listener on that audio/visual odyssey that mesmerizes as this style is apt to achieve.

We all know the definition and parameters of progressive metal have expanded over time – these French musicians come at things from a classic, traditional perspective in the sense of incorporating virtuoso, classical, and progressive rock angles into arrangements of cohesive hooks, melodies, and passages that are circular and catchy enough to maintain residual payoffs. It could be a closing high register melody and circus-like/Kansas movement during “Where We Belong”, or the simplicity of a funky bass line giving chase to a synchronous keyboard/guitar interplay movement while the pulsating drumming comes through Rush/Dream Theater measures on the follow-up “Transcending Real Life” – highlights appear in quiet as well as energetic spots. Possessing three songwriters promotes diverse approaches – sometimes keyboard forward in layers as “Legacy” illustrates, or more power-oriented with some modern/cyber splashes as “The Absolution Part 2” achieves.

The heavier riffs and time signature switches during “Defenders of Light” prove to be a mid-album highlight, Franck Garcia as a vocalist using every tool in his multi-octave register to deliver the lyrics in a fierce, passionate mold. Saving the longest song “Dreams Will Survive” for the finale at 9:31, the calm serene opening builds out between keyboardist Fred Colombo and bassist John Drai – eventually including the full band in a mid-tempo marching atmosphere with uplifting vocal melodies before the adventurous instrumental sections serve up dream, awe-inspiring progressive lines allowing Franck to hit that eagle high money note as the guitars fade away.

For those who did not like the heavier left-turn that 2012’s The New Eve record ventured into, Back Home sets Spheric Universe Experience on familiar ground that most progressive metal followers prefer and expect. Those into Pagan’s Mind, Symphony X, and Dream Theater will happily bring this band into their collective consciousness.

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