Monday, August 28, 2006

New Gem and Forgotten Treasure

I've been playing some tracks the last couple of shows by a French Prog-metal band called Spheric Universe Experiment. They response has been good, so I thought I'd give you a look-see at the CD cover and give my impressions so far.
Mental Torment, their debut, has a comfortable Dream Theater vibe to the sound without being a slavish copy. The gravitate toward the more aggressive, rawer sounds of DT. The songs are longer than commercial radio would be happy with, but it suits us just fine--the title track clocks in at a little over 15 minutes!
Although the band is made up of virtuoso players, they do not go overboard with a lot of extended, flashy solos--they do what the song calls for, and leave it at that. A lot of veteran prog-metal bands would do well to take note. If there's a weakness to the album, it's that the lyrics do not stand out that much. They aren't bad, they aren't great. Again this is a failing of a lot of prog-metal bands, and the fact that English is not their first language grants S.U.E a little slack on that score. Overall this is a fine debut that the band can be proud of, and hopefully the first of a long line of great releases.
For our Forgotten Treasure I'd like you to cast your mind back to the late 1980's--a special time for the metal fan. Metal was at it's zenith, and the legendary Alice Cooper was in the midst of a major comeback, recording music that was unashamedly METAL!!. After testing the waters with the so-so ConstrictorAlice hit his '80's peak with "Raise Your Fist and Yell", with a kick-ass band (featuring Kip Winger and Kane Roberts) and some of the best songs he ever recorded. Side one had catchy, radio-friendly numbers (including "Freedom"--possibly the best anti-PMRC song ever recorded) but it was side two that was classic. The absolutely brilliant "Time to Kill" remains to this day one of my favourite Cooper songs. It provides a warm-up to the centrepiece of the album--the "Gail Trilogy". "Chop Chop Chop" "Gail" and "Roses on White Lace"tell the story of a deranged man's descent into homocidal madness. Sick, but in a schlocky, horror movie kind of way, "Roses on White Lace" is such a fantastic song that it is impossible not to forgive it for going a little over the line in terms of nastiness.
Sadly, after the "Raise Your Fist" tour (with the full stage show), Alice moved on to the disappointing Trash and the Kane Roberts years were curiously erased from the history of Alice Cooper. Alice never speaks of or performs the music that he and Roberts made together, and one of Alice's greatest achievements is now criminally neglected.

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