Album review: SECRET SPHERE – Lifeblood

Frontiers Records [Release date 12.03.21]

If Italy’s Secret Sphere aren’t the EU’s Power Metal poster boys, then they should be.

They are a relatively unsung band who’ve battled through multiple line up changes, and come up smelling of roses every time. Guided from the beginning by guitarist, songwriter, producer, Aldo Lenobile, the band has released ten albums in twenty years, with the latest, Lifeblood, celebrating the return of original vocalist, Robert Messina.

Many symphonic/prog/power metal bands favour the instrumental opener. Generally its purpose is to blur the boundary between classical and rock/metal. ‘Shaping Reality’ is the perfect example. It’s dramatic. It’s operatic. it’s cinematic. It’s enlivened by a brief but exciting passage of scenic cantata, framed by a dramatic string section.
It’s a great start from a band whose consistency and quality has never been in doubt, but not always acknowledged by the music press.

Then it’s business as usual, as the thundering hooves of a galloping rhythm section speeds over the Power/Prog Metal horizon to deliver the title track, ‘Lifeblood’.
The repetitive elements of Lenobile’s songs – the constantly recurring musical themes – add an hypnotic element to the music and provide cohesion. And in fact most of the tracks hang on a particular guitar and/or orchestral motif, expanded and embellished, twisted and turned into a full length song.

Even in the fast and furious power metal moments of ‘Alive’ and ‘Solitary Flight’, as much as in the Prog Metal variations of ‘The Lie We Love’ and ‘Against All Odds’, each movement merges fluidly with the last and the next. Messina’s voice swoops and soars and Lenobile’s axework, quick and agile, briefly zooms into orbit.

Sometimes things happen so fast you miss the transitions, a bit of magic. From the full blown symphonic orchestration of ‘End Of An Ego’, to the surging operatic undertow of ‘Life Survivors’, it’s clear that Lenobile has abandoned the limiting structures of heavy metal convention. No chapter and verse, bridge, chorus rules need apply here.
A breath of fresh air. ***1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

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