CD REVIEW Linear Sphere  

Band : Linear Sphere
Album title : Manvantara
Label : Linear Sphere Records (own release)
Distributor : iTunes – Amazon - ReverbNation
Release date : 07/07/2012
Release : CD

A couple of weeks ago, our editor-in-chief forwarded me an e-mail by Linear Sphere guitarist Martin Goulding, in which he announced that the band had finally released its sophomore album. Remembering that I had given the 2005 debut album a sizzling review, he invited me to check out the band's new website, and already forwarded some info, as well as the question whether the band could submit an album for review. Well, now, how long did it take for me to compose the mail that answered that request, do you think? Hum...in hindsight I cannot remember having exhaled before I ended the mail...funny! I mean, bands like London-based Britain's Linear Sphere, who play an exhilarating hybrid of Jazz Fusion Metal, don't come around too often, you know!?

So, well...why did it even take so long for the band to return? It would seem there had indeed been some line-up problems due to musical differences, which then simply led to a period of contemplative inactivity. But, let's put things in their proper historical context, and not go ahead in the account of events, without the necessary details, okay? By April 2006, the blueprint of this new album was already formed, with guitarists Martin Goulding and CharlieGriffiths writing 3 new songs and drummer Nick Lowczowski contributing two others, proving himself to be a worthy composer as well (he'd come into the LS fold àfter the material for the first album had been written). A 5-track pre-production demo was sketched out, in what would become the concept album Manvantara, the story starting in Atlantis and mankind's journey traced from the Golden Age Of Enlightenment Man living in accordance with nature and the law of one) to and age of exploitation, greed, corruption and decline (mankind being infiltrated and guided by dark and ancient otherworldly forces outside of his perception) (the same explanation, but more extensively, can be found on the band's website).

With rehearsals and writing sessions less frequent over the next year, the material underwent considerable change and refinement, and in March of 2006 a new pre-production demo was recorded. However, after that the band members' individual schedules clashed even more, and eventually a difference of opinion arose between the guitarists, as how to develop the new music to its conclusion. Around that time, time was put into the preparations for some London shows, these including support slots with UK Prog Mtal act Tomera, and US Tech Metal legends Cynic, but progress toward a new album stagnated. In early 2007, the band line-up was enhanced by the addition of keyboardist Jamie Brooks (yet another accomplished professional musician – for more info on him, and on the other members of LS, consult the band's website), but by late Summer of that same year the music had progressed to such a point where it became impossible to make it compatible with the lyrical concept, and following several months where the band actually tried to make the new arrangements work, Charlie eventually decided to leave on a friendly basis (he had a long friendship with Martin and Nick, which continues to this day) to join UK Prog Rockers Haken.

This effectively put the band on hold for a while. After some reflections, Martin then returned to the original 2005 blueprint for the album in the summer of 2009. Not an easy task, as all his original files had been heavily modified, and so he had to re-write the music from scratch, working closely with the rest of the band to finish the material. A completely finished pre-production blueprint (with guitars and an additional track, “Inner Flame”, written by Martin) was finished in January 2010, and in March drum recording sessions were commenced at Heartbeat Studios (situated in Wembley, the studio is owned by one John Papas, whom frequently uses Nick as session drummer, and is also a close friend of Martin). With Martin recording and producing, the rest of the album was recorded over the course of the next year, and between September and December 2011 Martin and John mixed the material, which was subsequently sent to the renowned Alan Douches, for mastering at his New York City West West Side Music studios.

Pfeeww...some long explanation, eh? Well, this story don't really stop there as, working towards the physical release of the album, the band ensured itself of the services of Ashley Christudason at Jungle Eye for the artwork of the 12-page booklet. Also, as an album teaser, an animated video clip was prepared with selected samples of the album's music and, of course, the band gave their website (www.) linearsphere.com and slight overhaul. So...there the album now is, and I can assure you that fans of Technical Metal with clear Prog Rock and Jazz Fusion elements have reasons aplenty to be exited. The line-up changes didn't really change a lot, as the band had keyboard/ synths in the debut album as well...but perhaps they are a little more present now, being brought by an expert (also, some passages, like the opening of title track “Manvantara” and the ensuing “Cycle Of Ages” are pure – Ambient – keyboard parts). With Geron using his voice more in higher octaves (and actually doin' quite a bit of clean singing as well), the Death Metal elements may be less up-front, but nevertheless they occasionally come through in the heavier parts of the music. The music...a follow-through of layered melodies with nice intricacies, in which the guitar and keyboards are not the only lead instruments. Indeed, when bassist Steve Woodcock plays his Chapman Sticks, there is a very nice lead play coming from him indeed, and it's best not forget to also hail the very astutely diverse and expressive drumming! A special guest role was laid aside for actor Paul Marrow (whom the Sci-Fi fans among us may remember from his role as Avon in the British cult series Blake's 7, which ran 4 seasons – 13 episodes each – between January 1978 and December 1981) as narrator in the track “Cycle Of Ages” and, may I say, his distinctive voice really gives the track an extraordinary touch!

So taken in by the whole of it was I, when I gave the album a preliminary listen halfway this week (while preparing bike bags for a week's holidays of fossil hunting), that I simply could not turn away from it, and continued to give the album listening session after session on a diversity of music player means (the ultimate being when I listened to it through headphones and the mp3-player, while biking up and down to town to make the necessary purchases for my holidays). Then and there, I decided to give the review absolute priority, and do my bit in order to promote this album as soon as possible! In order to give you an idea of the whole of the album, Martin posted 1:30 samples of all tracks at (http://) soundcloud.com/martin-goulding (alongside the 4:00 album promotional montage). To see the excellence with which Steve plays the Chapman sticks (during the recording of the track “Cycle Of Ages”, with the rest of the music including vocals in the “back”), check the “Media” section of the band's own website (www.) linearsphere.com. There, you will also find the aforementioned album teaser video clip, and camcorder videos of Nick playing his drums to the two parts of the song “Reset Realign”. The latter however, without any background music. By all means, dó look into the story behind the concept of the album, it's very interesting indeed. The band is also present on facebook and ReverbNation, but as no extra audio/ video material I available there,...

Put everything together, and the true music lover can only come to the conclusion that this is one of those rare albums we keep looking out for, and therefore more than deserves a place in my personal “Best Albums Of 2012”-lists. One of those gems that stays with us no matter what...something which could only be altered with the end of the world, as predicted by the teachings of the Manvantara, which tells us that the cycle ends on the 21th day of the 12th month of the year 2012...or would it be that the masses realizing what's happening, and more and more people taking responsibility toward positive change...might actually bring a change in what is supposed to be an endlessly returning cycle? Then again, there's the premonitions done by the Mayan Stone Of Wisdom...things like the Reign of Fascism on earth (Hitler), the first atomic bomb, and earlier and later stuff which was all predicted over 500 years ago, and became historical facts...and that same stone relating nothing after the date mentioned above...!? If we live to see Christmas this year, we'll know that the end prediction may simply be due to the possibility that the Wisdom Stone's predictions were simply discontinued due to the Mayan people being destroyed by Modern Man.

99/100

Tony.