SPIRAL ARCHITECT — A Sceptic's Universe

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SPIRAL ARCHITECT - A Sceptic's Universe cover
4.18 | 14 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 2000

Tracklist


1. Spinning (3:23)
2. Excessit (6:13)
3. Moving Spirit (3:44)
4. Occam's Razor (1:32)
5. Insect (5:54)
6. Cloud Constructor: x. Cloud of Unknowing / y. Being and Nothingness / z. Shuffled (5:25)
7. Conjuring Collapse (6:30)
8. Adaptability (4:34)
9. Fountainhead (6:30)

Total Time: 43:49


Japanese edition:

10. Prelude to Ruin (Fates Warning cover) (07:34)

Total Time 51:23

Line-up/Musicians


- Øyvind Hægeland / vocals, keyboards
- Asgeir Mickelson / drums
- Lars K. Norberg / bass, programming
- Kaj Gornitzka / guitars (rhythm)
- Steinar Gundersen / guitars (lead, rhythm and acoustic)

About this release

CD released internationally on January 18th 2000 on Sensory Records.

Previously released in Japan on December 16th 1999.

Thanks to Bosh66 for the updates

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SPIRAL ARCHITECT A SCEPTIC'S UNIVERSE reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
The third Watchtower album! Except by a completely unrelated band!

While progressive metal had its origins in the 80s with bands like Queensryche, Fates Warning and Dream Theater bringing the fledgling metal style a greater audience, the true honor goes to the Texas based Watchtower who with their “King Crimson effect” pioneered a release that many consider the very first progressive metal album “Energetic Disassembly” all the way back in 1985. Although very few were listening, they would skip a few grades in the world of complexity just when metal was just becoming popular in the mainstream. While the style would evolve and splinter as new metal sub-genera were springing forth, very few if any bands would emulate the unique technically demanding assault of sizzling metal freneticism geeked out in more jazz infused compositional constructs at least when accompanied by high pitched vocals.

While Watchtower would release two amazingly brilliant albums during the brief run in the 80s, unfortunately very few were listening since they were well ahead of the pack and the overall public was just getting accustomed to the nascent thrash, death and black metal genres, however the techniques involved didn’t go unnoticed by musicians themselves. As the 90s saw a huge evolutionary development in the metal universe, the technical aspects that had debuted with Watchtower ended up being used in the newer styles especially in the rich fertile fields of death metal which would soon develop its own technical strain of complexity. While bands like Dream Theater were more akin to symphonic prog of the 70s with more metal aspects, bands like Cynic, Voivod, Atheist, Pestilence and Death would adopt many of these jazzified technical aspects of Watchtower and run away with it.

Far away in Norway, a band called SPIRAL ARCHITECT was born when guitarist Steiner Gundersen hooked up with the remains of the band Anesthesia which included the members Kaj Gornitzka (guitar), Lars K. Norberg (bass) and Asgeir Mickelson (drums). This team of seasoned veterans had a mission and that was to recreate the progressive metal magic that occurred with a very few bands that exercised technical chops in the more traditional 80s metal style in the vein of not only Watchtower but Fates Warning and Psychotic Waltz without resorting to adopting the snarling death growls that the technical metal universe had been gravitating towards since the early 90s. While formed in 1995, it would take the band five whole years to craft their one and only album A SCEPTIC’S UNIVERSE which married the technical finger busting wizardry with the passionately delivered emotional intensity of the classics of 80s metal.

A SCEPTIC’S UNIVERSE offers both a sense of familiarity as well as stunning new mind-blowing displays of technical metal profusion where no compromise is the name of the game however the band’s primary focus isn’t to blow away the audience (although that does occur) but rather craft cleverly complexly constructed compositions that revolve around rather accessible melodic developments. Much like Cynic and Death, SPIRAL ARCHITECT finds the right melodic grooves to riff around and then simply offers a multitude of progressive variations that include everything from tempo shifts and bizarre dynamic changes to time signature rich angularities. With a firm grasp on not only metal sensibilities, the band incorporate the wide array of jazz influences into the mix with allows an amazing dexterity in polyrhythms and contrapuntal gymnastics that leave the listener bedazzled in disbelief.

With a keen sense of guitar riffage that would prove to be influential for death metal hybrids like Necrophagist and a keen sense of traditional power metal from the likes of Crimson Glory, SPIRAL ARCHITECT is like the ultimate tech infused tribute band that not only nails all the head-spinning technical workouts like pros but also seamlessly evoke many of the greats that led up the turn of the millennium when this was released. A SCEPTIC’S UNIVERSE is one of those albums that is literally flawless but yet seems a little too derivative in its blatant rampage through the Watchtower meets Psychotic Waltz meets Fates Warning worship. While the impeccable juggling act of emotional fortitude, instrumental prowess and atmospheric embellishments warrant a 5 star rating, the fact is that this band merely took what was already presented by their influence and exaggerated everything substantially and while a completely satisfying listen in the end, still leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth because i really want this to be a new Watchtower album which is what it sounds like.

While technically this technical band from Montreal, Quebec is still in existence, the reality is that in their two decade plus existence, they have only released this sole album and most members are involved in completely non-related projects mostly existing in the black metal realm, however for those who completely despise death growls for vocals and in the process are completely shut out of the magnificent wealth of technical death metal bands that exist in the 21st century, this will be an album that satisfies on many, many levels and if it weren’t for the exaggerated Starcastle effect (the band that cloned progressive rock Yes’ early works), i’d be on board for declaring this a bona fide masterpiece and if it actually were the third Watchtower release or the next chapter of Psychotic Waltz or even a blip on the Fates Warning canon, i would indeed but i do subtract points for being too blatantly inspired. Still though, impressive album that must be heard by any fan of progressive metal’s top tier albums.
Necrotica
Playing technical metal music can be a bit of a risky gamble. While it's often fun to showcase your skills in a more complex and intricate setting, the balance between emotion and technicality tends to be incredibly tough to strike effectively. Sure, bands such as Brain Drill and Trigger the Bloodshed could pull you in with their insane levels of musicianship, but how long will it be until you get bored of pure technicality and brutality alone? How about integrating some atmosphere, or maybe some meaningful interludes to offer some breathing room? Well, one band from Norway was able to create a wonderful experience of both mind-boggling technicality and borderline-beautiful moments of progressive rock bliss; they are known as Spiral Architect.

Not to be confused with the Black Sabbath song of the same name, Spiral Architect were (and are, since they somehow haven't disbanded) a progressive metal band with technical elements similar to Watchtower or Psychotic Waltz. While their music is strictly progressive metal, it's interesting to note that (other than Scariot) every band Spiral Architect are associated with members-wise are involved with Norwegian black metal. Anyway, they ended up gracing the world with only one studio album, A Sceptic's Universe, back in 2000. First of all, I'm not going to beat around the bush with this statement: A Sceptic's Universe is the most musically technical album I've ever heard. More technical than Necrophagist. Or Watchtower. Or Atheist. Those are not statements to take lightly, but the sheer intricacy and complexity of each composition is absolutely mindblowing. Right from the opening track "Spinning," there's often a sense of chaos and frantic energy despite how calculated each passage is; the guitar/bass interplay of album highlight "Insect" is another fantastic example of this, especially in how the guitar line emulates the unsettling keyboard part in the intro. Then there's the singer Øyvind Hægeland, who brings an almost operatic quality to the experience with his strongly-layered harmonies and use of power metal-esque vibrato. His work is especially well implemented within the more melodic moments of the record, such as in the main verses of "Excessit" and closer "Fountainhead," but it also serves the more intense moments with the more dramatic and even semi-theatrical elements involved.

Beyond the vocals, however, the real shock of the experience is in just how much emotion and beauty it all contains. The typical progressive metal wankery certainly hasn't gone away (is it ever truly absent), but the difference is in how much of the wankery is necessary in fitting the confines of the band's songwriting. The way every instrument fits into the overall product ensures that everyone in the band is essential to how the music plays out, and there's not much genuine musical excess to be heard. "Insect," "Spinning," "Conjuring Collapse," and "Fountainhead" in particular feature some amazingly tight playing and wonderful chemistry, while songs such as "Cloud Constructor" and "Adaptability" allow the musicians to stretch their talents over more expansive arrangements. "Cloud Constructor" is definitely one of the standouts on the album because of this, featuring a slower and more sprawling sound along with beautifully harmonized guitars from Steinar Gundersen and Kaj Gornitzka aside often subdued vocals. It even has a few instances of *gasp* 4/4 time! Believe me, it's pretty surprising when considering the rest of the album. "Occam's Razor" is another instance of breathing room on the record, a slow interlude featuring Hægeland's synthesizer work to a greater degree while Sean Malone (of Cynic) plays a neat little chapman stick solo near the end. But the more emotional elements of the album even make it to the most technical sections; in fact, there's both a sense of chaos and even what sounds like a sense of impending doom in both the lyrics and the atmosphere. This is especially displayed in moments like the unsettling chugging breakdowns of "Insect" or the slow moments of "Cloud Constructor," the latter displaying a lot of bleakness in its subject matter as well. Finally, I have to mention the amazing talents of bassist Lars K. Norberg and drummer Asgeir Mickelson, who are perhaps the most impressive musicians on this thing. Norberg is especially phenomenal: he just rips through bass lines at speeds I've rarely heard in metal, and his level of precision in the process is just ridiculous.

A Sceptic's Universe, to me, is the route that more progressive metal artists should go in making a record. It's extremely technically impressive, atmospheric, emotional, has plenty of time for thought and intrigue, and is all brought together by quite an underrated frontman (who was also in Arcturus, I might add). The album might occasionally lack in terms of variety, but it's a small price to pay for one of progressive metal's more underrated and overlooked modern gems. If you can handle the ridiculous technicality, you really should try A Sceptic's Universe; it's a near-perfect mix of complexity, atmosphere, and emotion.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)
Andyman1125
Is that a solo or a tornado?

Spiral Architect is an interesting band. They emerged like a small flame in the intense heat of the mid 90s’ “jazz metal” frenzy, where bands like Death, Atheist and Cynic were releasing revolutionary music with the interesting fusion of jazz and technical death metal. Spiral Architect has a very similar style to Elements era Atheist, with an intensely fast and speed driven jazz fusion esque bass and guitar lines, this time with more melodic vocals. The band released a single album, A Skeptic’s Universe, in 2000 before disintegrating into oblivion. The band, even with just one, obscure album, has succeeded in leaving a significant mark on the progressive metal world with their interpretation of a brief musical movement.

The album’s musical makeup is very similar to much of the jazz metal of the era, with a bit more thrash metal, melodic vocal pieces, and a slightly dissonant guitar feel at points. Although they have obvious influence in the likes of Atheist and Death, the band is still able to break away with a slightly more unique style, fusing more traditional progressive metal, jazz, and thrash metal to make an interesting view on the jazz metal scene. The songs have some really superb points, but others seem like essentially every other jazz metal band of the time period – fast, intense, technical metal manias with ample shredding and hard post-bop influenced bass lines. Although the music at times seems like nothing special with the slew of bands just like it, it does have a slight attractive quality that makes the cold lines of intense music appealing.

One think I’m really bent on is whether to say I really love the incredible audible, intense bass lines, or say that they’re unnecessary. Although I absolutely love the fact that they are on the same aural level as the hissing guitars, some part of me thinks their over-technicality adds some kind of a frigid, inaccessible quality to the music. Although they are “necessary” to make the music have that “jazz” feel, at times they just aren’t right for the music. However, I must commend the band for their incredible skill of adding an odd harmony between the tornado off bass lines and the crunching, technical guitar lines. Although at times the crazy frenzy is a little scary, overall the band has done a superb job of crafting a very interesting technical metal album.

Overall, this album, all together, is a very balanced display of technical metal. The band manages to balance being like every other tech metal of the age with having a unique and defining sound, making for a good, but not overly remarkable album. This technical monstrosity has its genius moments, its “that was unnecessary” moments, its moments of almost ironic melodic grace, and its moments of “this is just like every other tech metal band ever,” equaling out to a good, but non-essential album. One can find more pleasure with bands like Death, Cynic (especially Cynic), and Atheist. Although this album is in no way bad (it is quite good, in fact), it is no essential addition to a collection, unless the listener wants a more inclusive tech metal collection. 3+ stars.

Members reviews

ovidiu
ATTENTION!Pure masterpiece of technical metal!This is an album for eternity,a milestone in extremelly technical music!An absolute musical pearl and in 2010,10 years after it's release,this album is more actual than ever!It is as important as WATCHTOWER'S-CONTROL AND RESISTANCE in terms of technicity and virtuosity and I wonder if SPIRAL ARCHITECT isn't even more technical than the American's album!SPIRAL ARCHITECT from Norway have pushed really to extreme the technical boundaries and definitelly this album meansvery much for all young musicians who want to start playing or seriously learning an instrument!What makes the difference with other extremely technical bands like PESTILENCE,DEATH,ATHEIST, CYNIC...are the vocals-sensational too,comparable with BUDDY LACKEY' s style.What we have here is power technical metal with massive guitar riffs and twisted solos ,amazing technically drum stuff ,a scarry bass player indeed and a very skilled vocalist -overall a band of 5 aces,monster technicians and a fruit of their talent-put on an album that epitomizes what was made in technical metal music until 2000!A difficult audition,but in the end the satisfaction to discover a band with strong personality which is delivering amazing technical metal at an atomic level!It's technical progressive trash undoubtedly and I strongly belief thet SPIRAL ARCHITECT will never do again a second album ,because all the members are involved in their own actual projects.A SCEPTIC'S UNIVERSE was only the chance to assembly 5 fabulous musicians together in a magical formula and it's like one moment in time musical happening! S STARS for a monster album in technical prog power trash metal!

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  • tapfret
  • Colt
  • Lynx33
  • piposo
  • Anster
  • Earendil
  • luanpedi
  • cannon
  • muerte_inoxia
  • spitf1r3

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