SECRET SPHERE is something of composite character in Italian Power Metal scene, initially getting caught up in the RHAPSODY storm of 1997 and being pegged as a coinciding clone of said band. Although I’m only casually familiar with their earlier material, “Heart And Anger” walks a fine line between the epic tendencies of many Symphonic Power outfits from Italy and the Progressive/FATES WARNING tendencies of LABYRINTH and VISION DIVINE.
Musically this album puts a lot more emphasis on the guitar and riff work than RHAPSODY does. One listen to high speed works such as “Where The Sea Ends” and “Lights On” and you can hear a good amount of “Painkiller” influences here, although they often tend to come and go between the rhythmic change-ups that are more common to the Progressive genre. The Classical influences in the background choirs and keyboards are a little closer to the ANGRA model than the RHAPSODY format, only used at certain key parts of the song rather than sharing equal footing with the metal edge of the guitars and drums.
Vocalist Roberto Messina sounds a heck of a lot like Ray Adler, probably even more so than Rob Tyrant, who interestingly enough has a guest slot on “First Snake” for a compare/contrast. It is sort of ironic that the current LABYRINTH vocalist is singing on a song that is not all that far removed from what he sang along with on “Return To Heaven Denied”, as his band has since given up on playing good Metal and is now putting out a bastardized hybrid of “Disconnected” era FATES WARNING and muddy Modern Rock. This duet is one of my favorite high lights of the album, it makes me nostalgic for the better days that now seem to be only existent in LABYRINTH’S past.
Other exceptional moments on this album are mostly found in the remaining speed injected songs. “Leonardo Da Vinci” has a nice little acoustic intro before launching into more hard edged speed riffing, some background acoustic work, and the best guitar solo on the album. “Bad Blood” is the heaviest track on here, switching between a fast Thrash drone and a slower harmonized groove surrounded by a blurring double bass rumble. The album closer “Faster Than The Storm” is the most epic and RHAPSODY-like out of the bunch, although Speed Metal fans will be more pleased with this than with LUCA TURILLI’S strictly simplistic model. The choral intro is solid, as is the nice little operatic soprano line in the middle, but the true power is in the speed riffing.
Although there is obviously a large amount of Power Metal out there, this album is definitely worth your time if you are a fan of LABYRINTH’S work and the more Epic Symphonic bands like ANGRA. The slower tracks on this album are not quite as entertaining as the high speed stuff, but there are few weaknesses on here. There are many Italian Power Metal outfits out there that are a bit too light for the general Metal audience, but this band has enough of a Metal edge to avoid that cliché and have some cross over appeal to more traditionally oriented Metal fans, particularly late 80s JUDAS PRIEST.
(Online January 20, 2009)