Spiral Architect - A Sceptic's Universe

Spiral Architect - A Sceptic's Universe (2000) - 3.5/5

If Psychotic Waltz met Watchtower, Spiral Architect is most likely what would result out of the fusion of the two. The most noticeable similarities are in the vocal and melody department. Øyvind Hægeland sounds like a near-exact clone of Buddy Lackey, but SA has a less developed sense of groove, or at least a weirder one. Throughout the entire album, each Spiral Architect song, despite how mind-numbingly technical it is, often keeps a good, subtle sense of grooviness or hook. Just listen to "Moving Spirit", which alternates between nice sudden Sabbath grooves, but like a lot of other songs, suddenly interrupts these grooves with technical displays of instrumental mastery, similar to Watchtower or Toxik. In fact, a lot of the bass lines feel like Watchtower, and are even more prominent than any Watchtower bass-work. The bass-guitar might as well be the lead instrument, as the basswork feels like its constantly running circles around the guitarwork.

The grooviness is the album's greatest strength. One of the problems of technical or prog. metal is that it can get carried away in the technicality or progginess, and while the complex changing song structures and jaw-dropping displays of mastery are there, the sense of melody and coherent flowing structure is still there. The problem here though, is that sometimes the band gets a bit too carried away in various songs, suddenly making the tech-runs a bit longer or too drawn out than necessary. This can suddenly cause normally groovy songs that will still impress both the casual headbanger and the Watchtower fanboy to bore the casual headbanger while giving the Watchtower fanboy a massive hard-on.

All in all, this is a pretty good prog/tech. metal album that fans of Cynic, later Death, Atheist, Behold...The Arctopus, Watchtower or Psychotic Waltz will enjoy. If you can get used to the band occasionally getting carried away, the hyper-technicality, and maybe the uncanny resemblance to Psychotic Waltz, you will probably enjoy this one heavily.

By J. Chan