Released: 2015, Sumerian Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Chicago’s Born of Osiris (or just BOO) shake off some, but not all, of the doldrums of their relatively mediocre third album Tomorrow We Die Alive with Soul Sphere, a more ambitious and cinematic effort that brings back a bit of the dazzle of their first two albums but leaves in place some of the 'core contrivances that made Tomorrow so irksome.
The departure of more technically inclined lead guitarist Jason Richardson prior to Tomorrow seemed to prompt something of a dumbing down of the band's music which, ultimately, paid off in a better opening week on the Billboard charts, but at the unfortunate expense of artistry. BOO were certainly a more imaginative group than they showed themselves to be there and Soul Sphere bears that out.
The album – the band's fourth - offers more thoughtfully incorporated keyboards and electronic flourishes from Joe Buras and expressive and occasionally fanciful guitar work by Lee McKinney. And on tracks like the fittingly titled “Resilience” and “Warlords,” it presents some of the showy djenty/tech-death playfulness lacking on the comparatively stiff Tomorrow.
McKinney’s delicate pitter-patter finger work on the opener “Free Fall” and technical busyness on “The Sleep And The Dead” and “The Composer,” and the electronic throb Buras adds to “The Composer,” along with the ambient outro to “Free Fall,” black metally trills on “Goddess of the Dawn” and lush sweeps on the anthemic “The Louder The Sound, The More We All Believe” and “River of Time” make for a welcome contrasts to the otherwise concussive histrionics here.
And Soul Sphere is one crushingly heavy album, especially over its more brutish back half, with McKinney's massive, chug-and-churn riffs and Ronnie Canizaro's leonine roar delivering a death metal/deathcore bludgeon that equals the weight and might of Meshuggah or Whitechapel. The big, brash production here and comparatively livelier songs keeps things from growing as turgid as they were last time around, despite a continued abundance of breakdowns.
The grating screamo and clean vocal tradeoffs also remain, with Buras chiming in above Canizaro with unfortunate regularity, and really piling it on in “Timebinder” and “Throw Me In The Jungle.” More effective and tolerable, though, are their harmonized hollering, as on the shuddering “The Other Half of Me.” More of this and less of that other stuff here would have been welcome.
But at least Soul Sphere is a step back in the right direction. It's an improvement over Tomorrow in just about every way, even it by a matter of degrees in some cases. And its utter heaviness cannot be denied. If nothing else, it will beat you senseless.