A new Born of Osiris album has a lot to live up to and overcome. Their first release The New Reign, one of the first on Sumerian Records, helped shape the label’s identity and the niche subgenre affectionately titled “Sumeriancore”. Their follow-up A Higher Place, while suffering slightly from poor production, was one of the most interesting metal albums in terms of rhythmic experimentation and off-kilter chord progressions. Then came The Discovery, which toned down the band’s experimental style, but brought refined songwriting and more lead-oriented playing. The follow-up, Tomorrow We Die ∆live, was a near-universal disappointment as it toned down the technical guitar work the band was known for.Reducing the playing to just open note picking but emphasizing keyboard work, the album caused many to write the band off. As such, Soul Sphere comes after three highly regarded albums and one massive disappointment. And while it’s not reasonable to expect a band to make a carbon copy of an album they made six years ago, Born of Osiris’s fifth release sees them going back to the much-beloved aspects of their old music and refining them with their new tendencies to create an album that will satisfy longtime fans and is perhaps their most well-rounded yet.
One of the many strengths of Soul Sphere is its diversity. Every song has several recognizable and memorable moments, characteristics that make them sound out. Even in this the album is differentiated from their previous release, which was rather, well, one-note. The first four tracks, with the exception of “Free Fall” are the closest the album gets to the sound of TWD∆, but even then those songs are more reminiscent of their older material with their leanings – especially the consistent songwriting from The Discovery. The instruments all work in tandem instead of laying a groundwork for the keyboards and vocals. The songwriting is a lot more developed, and the band don’t sound like they’re confused about what they want to sound like anymore. The exception in the first half of the album, “Free Fall”, is pure Sumeriancore goodness.
Then, suddenly, the album transforms. Starting from the 5th song “The Sleeping and the Dead”, the album becomes A Higher Place 2.0. With the exception of “Tidebinder” – which is mid-tempo headbanger with Middle-Eastern-influenced synths – the songs on the second half of the album all carry the trademark aspects of the band’s older sound, namely uncommon chord progressions, dissonant runs and rhythmic experimentation from A Higher Place and The New Reign. If any of those tracks were put somehwere in the band’s second album, they would fit right in. It’s not simply the technical elements of the band’s playing, but also how the vocals interplay with the guitars, how the synths are more subdued and how the choruses work, essentially the sum of the parts that make these songs similar to, but more refined than the band’s older material. And the album is great as a result, not because it hearkens back to some nostalgic yearning the fans of the band have held for a while, but because it takes the best aspects of everything the band have done over the years and stitches them together to create good songs.
Another worthwhile aspect of the album is the choruses. Well, since the songs don’t follow a traditional verse-chorus structure the label here is rather nebulous, but it’s a “you’ll know it when you hear it” kind of deal, as the band take to playing melodic chord lines with tapping leads and chanted lyrics. These moments are present in a lot of the songs, and they all work really well. In fact, quotable lyrics and sections that can be “sung” along are abundant, and combining these with more technical or rhythmic sections makes for a diverse listening experience. The vocals are more varied this time around as well, as both singers experiment briefly with different styles to keep things interesting. Born of Osiris have found their sound again, with every member in sync and giving it their best. While their previous release felt rather phoned in, here we see the band firing on all cylinders, combining their technical chops, memorable songwriting and experimentation into a cohesive whole.
Soul Sphere is a true return to form, combining the strong aspects of each of the band’s albums in a cohesive manner. It’s not a complete imitation of their older styles, but an evolution from all of their previous works in an organic fashion. This is Born of Osiris at their most complete and cohesive yet, with the drums, vocals, guitars and keyboards interplaying with each other instead of battling each other for attention. The end result is memorable songs full of engaging moments, which in turn makes the album the shot in the arm the band needed, and puts them back on the map for the very genre they were instrumental in creating.
Born of Osiris’s Soul Sphere gets…