1. Medusan 2. Idol in Human Form 3. A Potent Wind 4. Faceless 5. Awaken 6. A Homicide Divine 7. Lift High the Banner of Falseness 8. The Birthing Apparatus 9. A Subtle Texture2002 Lifeforce Records
Let me just start by saying that this album deserves all the hype and anticipation that it's receiving. It is a great album that will most definitely be remembered many years down the road. However, I'm afraid my haphazard prose will ultimately fail to describe how monumental and impressive Earth and Sphere really is. In other words, I hope I don't botch this review, 'cause this is one album I truly hope I can convince people to pick up. So, where do I begin Perhaps it is best to start with my initial listen... After the first track, a seductive piano piece, my jaw remained glued to the floor. Song after song I listened, from "Medusan" all the way through to "A Subtle Texture," and as each minute passed I grew more and more absorbed. This was, pure, unabridged passion that was emitting from my speakers. Unable to articulate what I heard, I traveled to the band's web site to check out what other reviews I could find (what, you think I actually listen to the CD's I get more than once Har, har...), and unwittingly I did happen to stumble across the "review" section. Here's what the band had to say: "Yeah, so we have a bunch of reviews for the records we've put out, but A) we don't feel like typing them and B) you shouldn't give a shit what some fuck/self-proclaimed master of all that is music has to say about a record, so we've gone ahead and saved you a whole lot of reading time and wrote our own review that serves as a blanket statement for everything we've put out to date: "There are no breakdowns and no blast-beats, therefore, you probably won't give a shit about this record." And, believe it or not, their description is wholly accurate and succinct. Of course, that shouldn't stop anyone who has the slightest understanding of 'implied sarcasm' from listening to their shit, but you get the idea. So, how could I, who is now under enormous pressure to write a decent and thorough review explain what Earth and Sphere is like Well, the music itself is rich, dark, and brooding; that's for sure. In fact, it's so ominous and Poe-like that most people with only half an ear would write Beyond the Sixth Seal off as an overly-pretentious metal rip-off (hey that's funny, 'cause this review is starting to sound a little pretentious itself...). However, assuming that you have both ears fully functioning, it is easy to appreciate the beauty and work that went into creating Earth and Sphere. Throughout the entirety of the album, I was hard-pressed to find something trite, overdone, or bland. Nothing sounds forced or mechanical, and the production and engineering quality is crisp, solid, and unmistakably Ballou (Kurt, that is).Every riff, every drum beat, and every low growl serves a purpose, and with the addition of Mike McKenzie of The Red Chord fame, Beyond the Sixth Seal is able to take both new and old material alike to a level uniquely distinct from most other black metal outfits, lyrically and musically. My only qualm is that they left out the words for "Faceless" for reasons they cannot disclose. To this end I will now give my interpretation of the only line (read: fragment) I could somewhat make out - "Never shall I forget the little faces of children." As a last note, Earth and Sphere also wins this year's "Funniest Secret Track" award for the "Animal Song," which I'm sure the Fisher-Price toy company would enjoy immensely. Bottom Line: Buy this fucking album. In fact, buy one for yourself and your best friend, as well as your mom, dad, little sister, and dog, 'cause everyone should take at least two minutes out of their life to listen to what Beyond the Sixth Seal has to offer. Earth and Sphere, besides being the band's best effort to date in my opinion, is easily one of the best metal albums of the year, period. Believe the hype kids, because even without the insipid blast beats and breakdowns we've all come to worship religiously, this 4/4 opus will rock your fancy, little socks off.