About a year and a half ago I had my first run in with France’s SPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE through their “Mental Torments” album. When I saw that they had another long player, their third, coming out, I hoped I’d get the promo. So when “Anima” showed up in my mailbox, I was rather excited. “Mental Torments” was a really strong slab of melodic Progressive Metal with strong virtuosic tendencies, comparable at times to ANDROMEDA’s “Extension Of The Wish,” but with some overly familiar material that at times dragged down the album as the whole.
Almost immediately, “Anima” is a step back from “Mental Torments.” One of the issues with the previous album was that it seemed of two minds, producing some really fantastic instrumental runs and creative riffs before sliding into some tired, derivative material that we’ve all heard a thousand times before. With “Anima,” the songs have made a palpable slide toward the latter quality, though the former is not necessarily done away with. Additionally, there has been a slight change in style; while it’s more melodic than its predecessor, there is also a good deal of the sort of choppy-yet-rolling song riffs made popular by EVERGREY (seen especially in “Sceptic” and the 10-minute-epic “The Key”).
It’s a bit disappointing, but at the same time “Anima” is not a bad album. Fred Colombo and Vince Benaim still shine on keyboards and guitar when given the chance, but I can’t shake the feeling that they simply have fewer chances here. And when they go off, it simply isn’t as memorable as on “Mental Torments.”
It’s a perfectly competent—nay, good—album that has the misfortune of coming after a really good album. The comparison unfortunately makes “Anima” seem worse than it is and, oddly, “Mental Torments” better than it was. If you haven’t heard SPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE before, this isn’t the best album to start on; paradoxically, you’ll probably have a higher opinion of “Anima” if you hear it before its predecessor. Fans of the previous albums can pick this one up, though it doesn’t quite live up. It comes up short, but not too badly.
(Online August 21, 2007)