Fist-Pumping Retro 80s Stadium Sounds From Secret Sphere
Secret Sphere occupy a space more familiar to Europeans than Americans: the intersection where Blue Oyster Cult crashes head-on into Metallica and then sideswipes Abba. Their new album Lifeblood is streaming at Spotify.
They open with Shaping Reality, a creepy, neoromantic orchestral theme that reaches action movie levels and morphs into the album’s scrambling, blustery title track. Keep in mind that this an Italian band writing songs in English. “What is life without emotion, how can we deny what a mask can hide?” frontman Roberto Messina wants to know. Good question for 2021! Guitarist Aldo Lonobile and and keyboardist Gabriele Ciaccia run the rapids, drummer Marco Lazzarini fueling the stampede out.
There’s nothing particularly deadly, nor any real sense of finality, in The End of an Ego. Ciaccia’s spare, glittering piano and blustery string synth follow Lonobile’s flangey guitars to build a late 70s BOC feel in Life Survivors…ok, they’re not Death Survivors.
Logically speaking, the next song on the album is Alive, Lazzarini and bassist Andrea Buratto leading the rampaging, lickety-split attack, up to furious cascades of synth and guitar: at that velocity, it’s hard to tell who’s playing what.
The band move steadily through dissociative, tricky rhythms to a catchy four-on-the-floor stadium stomp in Against All the Odds: with the chorusbox guitar backdrop, it’s very 80s. As is Thank You, but in a neanderthal Eye of the Tiger vein. It’s not clear who’s on the receiving end of Messina’s gratitude.
There’s a jagged early 80s new wave hit peeking out from underneath the bombast in The Violent Ones: stormy as this music is, it’s clear that violence is not this band’s thing. 80s Ozzy meets ELO at escape velocity in Solitary Fight. After that, there’s no place to go but Skywards, a hazy, summery psych-folk ballad: Avi Fox-Rosen would have a field day with it.
Ciaccia saves his most plaintively rippling piano work for album’s shapeshifting final cut, The Lie We Love, Barclay James Harvest with loud guitars.