Released: 2009, Laser's Edge
UNREAL marks the third album for the mouthful that is Spheric Universe Experience (S.U.E.). I was pretty happy with their first album, MENTAL TORMENTS, but unfortunately missed out on their second album, ANIMA. Their debut showed a hugely talented group of musicians, plying their trade into the progressive metal realm, wearing their Dream Theater influences on their sleeves. Nothing wrong with that, as MENTAL TORMENTS was a good album, if slightly derivative. Let’s see how the band has changed in the last four years.
The thing about progressive metal is that it’s rarely catchy, and is more of a vehicle for the band members to show off their talents – that’s not to say that there are not some phenomenal prog-metal songs though. Still, it’s rarely what you’d call catchy. So while S.U.E. have not suddenly written the next Top 10 hit, it’s obvious from the first listen to “White Willow” that the band have managed to temper their progressive tendencies with a more accessible aesthetic as it’s easily the most memorable song they’ve written. The silky smooth chorus of “Lakeside Park” is also indicative of the more hook-laden direction the band has taken their music.
However, as with the debut album, the overwhelming sense is of a band that is enthralled with Dream Theater. All of the twists and turns S.U.E. takes sound eerily similar to something that Portnoy & Co. would write. To be honest, it’s sometimes distracting but the conviction of the band wins the day. So, while UNREAL (boring title guys) is easily recommended to prog-metal fans, just be aware that the album suffers from the typical pitfalls of the genre (sometimes incomprehensible musical shifts, instrument masturbation) and a certain familiarity that has more to do with S.U.E.’s influences than their own previous albums.