Released: 2008, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
SWEET BLOOD THEORY is album number 5 from Italy’s Secret Sphere, but I’ll admit that prior to this release, I’d never heard of the band. Though they’ve been signed with Nuclear Blast for their last few records, this new release isn’t even listed on the band’s page on the label’s web site. That’s entirely disheartening, as SWEET BLOOD THEORY is an impressive slab of power metal goodness. A concept album of sorts, SWEET BLOOD THEORY is loosely based on the 1819 John Polidori novel, “The Vampyre” (which predates Bram Stoker’s epic “Dracula” by almost 80 years). But wait – there’s more! Not only is this a concept album about vampires from classic literature, thematically, the album was inspired by the work of film composer Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo, anyone?) and Tim Burton films like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “The Corpse Bride.”
The Elfman/Burton influence isn’t as pervasive on the disc as their press would have you believe, but may have been more a part of the creative process rather than the finished product itself. So, for the Hot Topic mall crowd expecting songs about “the Pumpkin King” and whatnot, put away you’re eyeliner and black nail polish because you will be disappointed. That disclaimer aside, SWEET BLOOD THEORY is 12 songs of well executed symphonic power metal. “Evil Or Divine” is a quick intro (the most Burton-esque part of the album) which leads into “Stranger in Black.” As the true album opener, it’s an aggressive, galloping ride complete with soaring vocals and flamboyant guitar runs. “Bring On” could also be titled “Power Metal 101”, as it’s as traditional as you can get within the genre. “Welcome to the Circus” is a little more sinister in its arrangements while still staying upbeat. “The Butterfly Dance” is a straight up power ballad, that while not a bad song is a little too saccharine sweet here. But that’s balanced out on the other side with the title track, which is another darker tune carried by creepy keyboards and some bouncing guitars. “Feed My Fire” might be a cliché song title even within the European metal scene, but it’s still one of the more powerful tunes presented here. “Vampire’s Kiss” is the official close of the disc (“The Day at the End of the World” is an import bonus track) and is arguably the best song of the whole album. Gang vocals, a strong keyboard presence, and some dizzying guitar solos create a tremendous song that closes the coffin on the tale of the Vampyre.
The album isn’t without its faults though. Ramon Messina’s vocal delivery adds a lot of character to the songs as a whole, but it isn’t as strong as his peers in the field. His English pronunciation sounds almost phonetic in spots and while he can hit those important high notes, he sounds like he’s really struggling to control where his voice is going. Nit picking aside, the overall delivery and presentation of SWEET BLOOD THEORY is a success. I’ve never been a rabid fan of this style of metal, but even I was swayed by the smart arrangements and strong performances. Concept album aside, SWEET BLOOD THEORY is best listened to from start to finish, as each song compliments the next and collectively it makes for a more enjoyable listening experience. If you dig traditional styles of metal, this is a no brainer to add to your collection. Let’s hope that Nuclear Blast gets on the ball and starts promoting Secret Sphere and SWEET BLOOD THEORY properly.