WORDS: Henry Jones
BORN OF OSIRIS rattle a lot of nerves these days. With their fans firmly divided on their 2013 release, the questionably titled Tomorrow We Die ∆live, the band has a lot of queries to answer. Their latest offering, Soul Sphere, might finally offer at least some closure to those left wanting last time around, if not reigniting a love for the band.
The band have been teasing fans for months with a promise of returning to their roots, which is already a risky gambit. The band has been the subject to the departure of several lead guitarists since they parted ways with virtuoso Jason Richardson, and this has taken a noticeable toll on the style and quality of writing, culminating in the spectacularly mundane Tomorrow We Die ∆live. Unfortunately, this means a once promising act must now try even harder to pick up the pieces of their misstep.
All things considered, if the band really wanted to extinguish the gaping, fiery conflagration that Tomorrow We Die ∆live seems to have sparked in their wake on the road of their careers, perhaps Soul Sphere’s lead single should not have been the album’s second track, Throw Me In the Jungle. This is a song that appears to have been written in the spare ten minutes after they sent off the last of their 2013 offering for mastering, offering little more than an already repetitive chorus repeatedly thrown at the listener with no regard for actual progression or indeed structuring of any kind. However, since that risky release, several more singles have instilled somewhat more promise of the album’s eventual shape, offering a mixed selection indicative of the overall sound of the release.
Indeed, Soul Sphere is a mixed bag. Some tracks sound at home in their pre-2011 catalogue, others sounding more akin to the aforementioned Tomorrow We Die ∆live. However, there is a slight increase in technicality on the whole, making for slightly more interesting song structures. Similarly, Soul Sphere’s production is an improvement on their last album, capturing a much sharper, more defined sound. The guitar tone, compliments of Axe Fx II, is far more satisfying, emphasising the mid-range string rattle that sits incredibly well over a strong bass tone. Under all of this is a very exact and calculated drum production arrangement worthy of the best in the industry.
Unfortunately, where the album succeeds to new extents in production, it somewhat lacks in song writing and cohesiveness. There indeed some strong tracks on the album, but the release appears to lack direction, while at the same time remaining firmly rooted in the BORN OF OSIRIS comfort zone. Several of the more technically demanding songs, such as Tidebinder, or Resilience, are highlights because they show the band writing at a more challenging level, and the slight experimentation is welcome. But these little victories do little to detract from the first glaring downfall of Soul Sphere: it’s just too cheesy. No matter how hard one might try, a lot of the riffs are simply very difficult to take seriously, particularly those led by the synthesizer sections, an instrument not in and of itself detrimental to BORN OF OSIRIS’ sound. Here, they simply are not used to their full capacity, and it takes a lot away from the album’s effectiveness.
Soul Sphere’s real issue, however, lies in its purpose. The album feels as though the band are trying very hard to prove they are indeed worthy without ex-guitarist Jason Richardson’s monumentally technical and progressive pieces displayed on 2011’s The Discovery. Indeed, four years on, the band are still standing Richardson’s shadow, and Soul Sphere does nought to truly amend this factor.
This is an album that must be enjoyed in small doses. While it succeeds in little victories, and the album does boast some impressive moments, as a complete release, it suffers due to its own fairly limited scope. Unfortunately, BORN OF OSIRIS have apparently found their headspace, and are now unlikely to leave it, and until they do, it might well be difficult to produce an album that reigns in at anything more than slightly above average.
Soul Sphere is set for release on October 23 via Sumerian Records.