Monday, November 30, 2015

Album Review: Born of Osiris - "Soul Sphere"

Not that along ago, as their reputation was beginning to take shape, Chicago based Born of Osiris was the singular talk of Mayhem Festival.  Every musician you talked to wanted to mention the band, with commentary ranging from their diversity of sound to the gripping rhythms of their anthems.  Born of Osiris, by comment of their own established peers, was the band to watch.

So now we see the band, fully come of age after more than a decade in existence, releasing their fourth record, “Soul Sphere,” a story of existential crisis in three parts, told with the band’s proprietary mix of metal elements and customary power.

“Soul Sphere,” at first blush, comes across as a more well-read cousin of Unearth’s “The March,” a pounding effort that uses heavy rhythms and soulful melodies to tell dramatic stories, albeit with less guitar theatrics than the Boston metalcore veterans bring to bear.  That said, where Born of Osiris separates themselves from that template is in the unique layering of sounds that are often heard together in modern metal records, but seldom arranged so differently.

Different even from their European contemporaries who tend to use keyboards as an accent to the overall melody (see: Arch Enemy, for one,) Born of Osiris tends to engage the electronic ivories in strict harmony, adding another layer to their composition.  Notice that in the final third of “Goddess of the Dawn” the keys are used to juxtapose the clean guitar tones, which makes Born of Osiris more three-dimensional than most similar albums this year.  It’s chaotic for those expecting more of the norm, but as Marco Ramius told us: “a little revolution now and then is a healthy thing.”

There is beauty in the chaos, however.  “Throw Me in the Jungle” in trumpeted as the album’s signature single for its anthemic approach, but “Tidebender,” which follows it, is actually the better song.  Sure, it relies more heavily on Born of Osiris’ metalcore leanings, but it’s also the album’s most cogent track, bridging pieces together without effort and accenting their natural fury with incredible use of open space.  The bare-bones, unaccompanied vocal chanting in the middle bridge is stark and powerful, a clean contrast to the layered pounding the rest of “Soul Sphere” offers.

As you may sense, that plays into the one weakness of “Soul Sphere.”  Despite the band’s clearly meticulous efforts to keep this thing moving with direction, the album gets a little noisy.  Many of the tracks struggle with consistency – not in the talent or arrangement, but in the chaining together of rhythm, melody and harmony.  The listening of “Soul Sphere” can become disjointed and uneasy, making it hard to follow whole sections of the record.  No one is advocating that Born of Osiris needs to back away from the technical edge of their talent, but some discretion in the application, or a little more polish to make the joints flexible would have made “Resilience” or “The Sleeping and the Dead” an easier listen.

There’s a lot to like going on during “Soul Sphere” and it’s easy to see how many other musicians think of Born of Osiris as a novel and intriguing group of artists.  But while the record is academically interesting, it can be a challenging, or at worst, grating listen and isn’t for the casual fan.

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