Review: Born Of Osiris – Soul Sphere or Bowl Smear?
The Sumerians were an ancient Mesopotamian civilisation that spanned thousands of years. During this time they built gigantic and complex stone structures, utilised agriculture with irrigation coming from the tributaries of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, communicated using one of the oldest known written cuneiforms, invented arithmetic, domesticated animals, mapped the stars and achieved many other feats notable for their time. But all that is irrelevant now; it was all just a precursor to the real achievement of their culture… the siqq riff.
On their fifth album now, Born Of Osiris have had some time to grow and reflect. I don’t know if they’ve done that. I just said it, but they’ve had time, I guess. Time is inescapable after all. Their press statement reveals how they’ve been spending their time between albums –
Beyond Born Of Osiris, each member continues to enrich his own sphere. In addition to being a partnered Twitch gamer and streamer, Lee is involved in multiple music projects, spanning electronic dance music and progressive rock. His solo guitar project landed in the Top 10 of the Rock Chart alongside System of a Down and Black Sabbath. David runs his own jewelry [sic] line D A V I and remains an avid fisherman. Cameron splits his time between drum lessons and composition. Joe oversees and designs the band’s stage production, aesthetic, and lighting, and Ronnie envisions the sweeping sci-fi concepts inside the lyrics and inspiring the artwork.
Let’s recap that – Lee’s EDM project was this (I’ll just let that sink in) and every 14 year-old worth their weight in Monster Energy Drink is a Twitch-streamer. You have your own jewelry [siqq] line? You oversee the band’s aesthetics?? Fuck, end it now. I think the public could garner enough insight into the band’s personal lives from their infamous ‘Cribs’ video, resident TovH video-critic 365 Days Of Horror would have a field-day on that thing. But I digress, whatever their individual extracurricular activities entail is irrelevant, it is their music that we’re here to discuss.
On the 23rd of October, Born Of Osiris will release Soul Sphere, the follow-up to 2013’s Tomorrow We Die Δlive, an album which was met with some deserved criticism, mostly for falling well short of the expectations the hype-train created surrounding prior album The Discovery. People blamed the loss of weedler Jason Richardson, but he only contributed to that one album, and if you ask me, previous album A Higher Place was a slightly superior record anyway. I blamed the severe lack of memorable songs and further experimentation into the electronic side of the band’s sound, seemingly at the cost of actual riffs. On Soul Sphere, Born Of Osiris have made a shift back to a sound which will please some older fans while still pandering (in parts) to the newcomers who latched on during the last record.
They achieve this by craftily combining elements from all four previous works: the diminished runs from A New Reign, some of the quality riffing found on A Higher Place, the production aesthetics from The Discovery and the synthetic sounds and repeating lead motifs from Tomorrow We Die Δlive. Expecting a further departure from previous work, the first half of the album was a pleasant surprise, as the band rekindled some of the form that made them distinctive in the first place. A promising start, alas, it did not materialise into a recurring theme.
While the first five tracks competently displayed what made them rise to prominence amongst their Sumerian cohort, there was the perpetual spectre of doubt lurking in the back of my mind, when will the inevitable pseudo-dub-step attempt reveal itself? Surely it is coming soon, or worse still, they could drop some ghastly ’emotive’ clean track in (á la “The Solution“). Then near the end of the track “The Composer” the levee breaks, and the track becomes awash with a shitstorm of electronic buzz. For me that signalled the downhill slope, as the album descends into questionable territory. Any remnants of engaging interplay between guitars and drums disappear again, and you’re left with the chugs, computer sounds and angsty choruses. Maybe the last track will offer some respite; they have a tendency to dish out a good ending. Nope. It’s nothing to behold either.
Throughout the album, the keyboard player Joe Buras plays an elevated role on the mic. Performing a substantial amount of vocals, both backing and chorus-wise. In the press-release it is stated that the concept of the album came to him in a dream –
“The whole story of the record involves three levels,” explains Joe. “The first one is The Binding. You’re hanging, and you’re stagnant. The second is The Fight. You were hanging, but now you’re pulling away from this linchpin, whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual. The final is The Release. You break away and feel free, connected, and loved.”
Getting past the fact that being simultaneously ‘free’ and ‘connected’ is somewhat contradictory, I think that if you’re going to have an over-arching concept which you claim to be integral to the album, you should maybe leave it unsaid and trust in your audience’s intellect to find it out on their own, rewarding those who dig a bit deeper. If you’ve expressed said concept adequately through the music and lyrics, it should be apparent to the listener regardless.
Here’s the crux of my position; this record should have been the album they released on their last outing. It is not mind-blowing, but it could have served as a perfectly adequate follow-up to The Discovery. As it stands, it appears to signify a band who are now beyond the point of trying to push themselves, preferring to rest on their laurels. I could easily just give this album a low score and be done with it. This would please me, but instead I’ll put my objectivity hat on and say that while it does not interest me beyond a casual listen for the purpose of this review, it will please fans looking for the hallmark sounds associated with Born Of Osiris. With that in mind, the first half of the album would score decently but the back-end would be something much lower. I guess I’m just too old for this shit, man.