Tech Death Thursday: Spheron
Last year blew for a variety of reasons, but not for lack of awesome tech death. Spheron had a great one that we passed over, so let’s rectify that.
First, the news:
- Cytotoxin are in the studio, and those few snippets of new material are sounding mighty fine.
- Virulent Depravity’s crazy good debut is now streaming in its entirety. Go jam that ASAP.
- Sort-of deathcore band Shadow of Intent has a ripping new single out right here. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, “The Horror Within” is worth listening to solely for the riff immediately following the breakdown. Reclaimer is out on April 28th.
One could be forgiven for thinking that A Clockwork Universe would resemble a certain Ulcerate album given the striking similarities in their cover art, but that is not the case. Actually pinning down a solid point of reference for Spheron is difficult; it sounds like they share a common ancestor with Rivers of Nihil, but even that resemblance is little more than skin-deep. You might catch a fleeting glimpse of the progressive side of Obscura or be struck by a sense of majesty akin to Sarpanitum, but the music largely feels like its own entity.
The similarity between RoN and Spheron comes in that while both bands’ music is complex and technical, it’s used more as a vehicle to convey atmosphere and feeling than virtuosity and raw musicianship. The riffs are certainly there- this is still tech death, after all- but the band displays a more contemplative side than many of their contemporaries. You won’t hear any blindingly fast scale runs or gratuitous arpeggios on A Clockwork Universe; instead, the music is largely chord driven, focusing on building tension with angular intervals and moody progressions over complex finger acrobatics. That said, it doesn’t sacrifice any of the genre’s intensity to make this work. The drums are almost constantly moving at full throttle even while the guitars are taking their time. It feels like sitting atop a tiny raft on a misty, tumultuous river. It’s certainly not the typical atmosphere conveyed by a tech death band, but that only adds to their mystique.
As much as I like the fast, heavy stuff, I think the band really starts to shine during their slower, cleaner sections. The band makes excellent use of these parts, exploring more intricate melodies that enhance even the heavier parts bookending them. One such instance comes partway through “The Blind Watchmaker;” the use of clean guitar, while brief, marks a massive shift in tone for the song. Everything slows down, the singer’s delivery becomes moody and dramatic, and a powerful lead joins in to push the song forward. Many of these other segments have a strong Politics of Ecstasy vibe going on, too, which is always a plus as far as I’m concerned. “Pendulum” in particular calls those early Nevermore tunes to mind; they’re dark and mysterious, a perfect fit for the album’s Watchmaker Theory concept.
Spheron does a lot of cool stuff on A Clockwork Universe, and it’s a shame I let it fester in my backlog for this long. It’s definitely not a typical tech death album, and that alone makes it worth a look. It’s progressive without being pretentious, the concept is genuinely interesting, and it still retains all the speed and aggression you’d expect. If you prefer your tech death with a little more brains and a little less hyper, then this is exactly what you’re looking for.
A Clockwork Universe is available from Apostasy Records, and you can follow Spheron on Facebook for all that social networking goodness. That’s all for this week, so until next time,
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