Italian power metal sextet Secret Sphere get technical and heavy on its tenth release, Blackened Heartbeat. The album is devoid of garish overtures, as the band prefers dynamic compositions with heavy riffs and percussion. “The Crossing Toll” is a two minute instrumental with beautiful acoustic guitar playing from Aldo Lonobile. The lush, tranquil track is rather the deceptive as the band go full swing on “J’s Serenade.” The hammering drums and lumbering riffs could awaken a giant as Roberto Messina’s vocals soar through the onslaught.
“Aura” continues the assault with slicing guitar riffs over thundering bass drums that transition to a militaristic mid-tempo rhythm. Marco Lazzarini’s drumwork is the star on this track as he lays out some complex fills and tempo changes that heighten the mood of the track. It feels like one is caught in a chaotic forest battle with no idea where to turn. “Captive” is notable for its haunting piano line and orchestral samples. It leans more on the gothic side than the previous tracks but fits well. Lonobile’s soulful lead on this track is icing on the cake.
“One Day I Will” is a moving song with its constant rhythm changes from thrash to groove. I especially like the sense of urgency and resilience on the track. The one-two combo of “Psycho Kid” and the title track to conclude the album is a pleasant surprise. “Psycho Kid” is a blitzing track with weeping piano to offset the aggression. The guitar lead and drumming in the track’s second half are top notch and the track’s conclusion will cause severe headbanging. The title track opens with a squealing pinch harmonic reminiscent of Tommy Victor from Prong. This is a mid-tempo number with a stronger symphonic sound but with some nice guitar fills that properly concludes the record.
Secret Sphere’s musicianship is nothing short of excellent on Blackened Heartbeat. This band is cohesive yet each member shows off their musical virtuosity. The band does not overdo it, and this is evident by the brevity of the tracks. “J’s Serenade” is the longest, clocking in at slightly under six minutes. There is still some filler on Blackened Heartbeat, but it is kept to a minimum. The production is thick, particularly the percussion, which makes for a fuller sound.
Blackened Heartbeat is a fun listen for fans of power metal and even thrash. There are some fast songs and tracks on this record that surprised me. The album is nearly 48 minutes long, and the band could have trimmed a little more fat, but this is a minor sticking point. Check this album out.
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