This would be the last album released by the underground Dutch Death/Thrash-legends PESTILENCE, back in 1993. Apparently, shortly after this album's release and general "flop" with the fans, the members each went their separate ways and joined or formed different Jazz/Fusion-projects. Upon listening to "Spheres", this should not come as a shock to anyone, as there is such an overabundance of jazzy wankery that almost any self-respecting, rip-jeaned mop-top would not hesitate to use this album as a coaster! It is not surprising that such an album would be so ill-received with the fans, since this WAS the band which penned such untouchable Death Metal-classics as "Anthropomorphia" and "The Secrecies Of Horror". An album like this must have been the most awful let-down to the die-hards.
I think there is a reason that many bands do not attempt what PESTILENCE have attempted here, and that is the great risk of the dreaded "artsy-fartsy" factor, and this album simply reeks of it! Where CYNIC was somehow able to combine Metal with so many other styles, namely Jazz/Fusion (a genre which PESTILENCE unapologetically praises in the liner notes if you read into it enough), PESTILENCE have failed miserably with "Spheres".
While we did see some slight allusions to PESTILENCE's expanding musical tastes on the preceding album "Testimony Of The Ancients", I don't think ANYONE was prepared for this. In the liner notes, the band writes "there are no keyboards on this album", okay, then you open the booklet and it lists 24 different effects modulators which the band uses on the album. Well then, I think that would explain it! Littered throughout each song are multiple layerings of overdubbed guitar synth sounds, with tones that simply DO NOT WORK with the traditional Metal-guitar-tones. One can hear that they are trying to do what CYNIC did with their riffs, which was provide a subtle "coloration" to the main riffs, but the way that PESTILENCE do it is far too elementary to even work. In addition, the synth sounds are WAYYY to high in the mix, methinks the cheese factor could have been greatly avoided had they simply turned down the damn effects, or as Homer Simpson would say, "less artsy more fartsy!". I would also like to point out that the production has way too many high-end frequencies, the guitar buzzing is at times intolerably annoying.
Songs such as "Mind Reflections", "Soul Search", and "Multiple Beings" do seem to suggest some exquisitely original ideas coming from PESTILENCE, in which the guitar/drum/bass interplay is very advanced and melodically intriguing, but somehow it all exudes the unmistakable fact that the band is trying for too much here. They are simply not of the musical capacity to play the ideas they attempt to convey, and this fact is made especially obvious when the drummer goes for a fill or a beat that he simply cannot pull off. It's as though you somehow "feel" what they are trying so desperately to tell you, but they fail to make up for it in the music. There is definitely no mistaking this album for anything else, and if one were to listen to this album enough times (as I have), you might be able to pick out several moments of pure genius. I must also say that I greatly admire what the band is trying for here, and had they developed these ideas further, we might have been graces with some very cool music from them later on. However, I think in the year 1993, no one would have wanted to hear this, especially considering the band's roots and history.
On the whole, "Spheres" could be described as the bastard offspring of CYNIC's "Focus"-album (also released in '93). It is an album that could be considered "a lesson in how NOT to combine Metal and Jazz". I think the fact that I have a highly personal soft-spot for this album is of no relevance to what 98% of you would think about it, and the weird thing is that I WOULDN'T BLAME YOU! For die-hard, to-the-grave, serious-as-fuck PESTILENCE-fans only!