Before even popping SECRET SPHERE’s latest into my system I just had to pause for a moment to marvel at the decidedly tacky front cover staring me in the face. A medieval-themed street in shades of green, pink, and yellow with two skanky looking chicks superimposed over it all – terrible. It’s fortunate, then, that “Sweet Blood Theory” is not half bad, musically speaking, and I’d say the rather long three year wait since “Heart & Anger” was well worth it.
If you’ve loved these Italians’ workman-like take on European Power Metal before then you’ll also like this new one as it continues in much the same vein. SECRET SPHERE continue to avoid the overly bombastic elements of countrymen RHAPSODY IN FIRE, instead dishing out a satisfying mix of mid- to fast paced Power Metal carried forward by a fine balance between speed, progressiveness and the odd symphonic embellishment. In this sense they’re comparable to THY MAJESTIE. One great aspect in play here is that they succeed in churning out lots of catchy choruses without having a note come off as cheesy or saccharine. Their grasp of both melody and unabashed heaviness is immediately evident in “Stranger In Black”, while “From A Dream To A Nightmare” sees the symphonic elements kicked up a bit. So far so good but the album only gets really good when “Bring On” starts rocking out with an instantly memorable chorus and subtle but effective riffs that recall a more focused EDGUY. It’s catchy, uplifting and simply fun! The EDGUY influence is felt even more strongly in “Welcome To The Circus”, a heavily synth-laden number that impresses despite being a total rip-off of the former’s song “King Of Fools”. The obligatory ballad can be found in “The Butterfly Dance”, while the title track is another stellar mid-pacer that maintains a fine balance between heaviness and almost Tim Burton-esque orchestration. They are perhaps guilty of trying too hard to sound “spooky” (to go along with the album’s vampire theme, see) but it works, for the most part anyway. The final three tracks are also some of the best pieces on here, especially the powerful semi-ballad “All These Words” (excellent vocal/piano interplay here), and album closer “The Day At The End Of The World” that took me by surprise with it’s almost Death Metal-like heaviness. The chorus isn’t the best but the grit of the main riff sees it through.
At the end of the day I am well satisfied by “Sweet Blood Theory”. The band doesn’t reinvent the wheel here but they do what they do well and the entire affair has an undeniably mature feel to it that has to be commended. I don’t listen to Power Metal that much anymore but albums like this are always a fun way to pass the time, and seeing as how HIBRIA’s latest left me cold this was just what I needed.
(Online April 7, 2009)