Nebuleyes - "The Universal Being" (CD)
"The Universal Being" track listing:
1. Universal Prelude
2. Korzum Inc.
3. Mother Universe
5. The Universal Being
9. Clash of the Titans
11. Doll of Flesh
12. Universal Finale
Reviewed by Progressivity_In_All on November 16, 2011
It can't bode well for the rest of the album when you're stuck shaking your head after the first song. It's not that the band hasn’t got the drive. France's Nebuleyes has put out two albums prior to "The Universal Being," which shows the group investing time into its craft. It's not that Nebuleyes hasn’t developed a recognizable style. The band members follow a by-the-books prog formula, complete with a fictional story that's more out-there than an episode of The X-Files. They've even got an opera singer for a front woman! Yet, here I am, shaking my head after the first song.
The intro, "Universal Prelude," is a good start, with its rising synthesizers and opera vocals. When the full band comes in, however, the energy built up by the intro falls into an abyss pool of poorly-produced electric guitars and a dull and unclear drum machine. It quickly becomes apparent that these opera vocals have no dynamics to them, and there's an unfortunate lack of assisting vocals to act as counterpoint. The vocalist is also noticeably off-pitch in one section. The first guitar solo may be the only thing worthwhile about the track, but the second guitar solo is off-key and feels amateur. There is nothing exciting about this.
What makes it even less interesting is that there is a detailed story line to "The Universal Being" told to the listener on the liner notes. Something about a company starting a role-playing game, NeoGods, and a baby made of "genes of animals and vegetals," among other things. Even without the misspelling of that word, they're still talking about a human-plant-baby. Then there's something about satellites and having sex with an anaconda to increase power. This sounds like a bad Sci-Fi movie that might poke fun at itself later. It might just say, "Yeah, it's weird. We know. AN ANACONDA?!" ...But, no. The band is serious.
At least "Mother Universe" has a nice synth/vocal intro. The tempo changes kill it afterwards, immediately and drastically changing the momentum of the song. Once again, some of the guitar solo is well played, but the song feels like a half assed cross-breed of synth-fonic black metal and doom-prog. "Senso-Fecondae" is more up-tempo, but suffers from the same shortcomings. I can love a vocalist without having to hear what she's saying if she sings well, but if a band has a story to tell, they should make vocal clarity a top priority so that the lyrics can be heard. I can't understand a word of what vocalist Drama Elfamorta says.
"The Universal Being" and "Neo-Generation" bring us to the halfway point of the album. The guitars aren't even timed precisely with the drums, and they're not even the cool type of off-time that comes from a band jamming without a click track. Auto-tuned computerized vocals are introduced in places, leading me to believe T-Pain exists in this fantasy story as well. I hope he knows better than to try to have sex with an anaconda.
"Interlude" is the only thoroughly-likable song on the album. It plays like a Dead Can Dance instrumental, and finally shows some beautiful emotion with the opera vocals hanging in the air above light piano. This instrumental saves the album from a one-skull rating. The songs here on out have the T-Pain Voice, and it's nothing but comical. "Clash of the Titans" is too power metal for its own good, but ends up being a little bit fun.
"Doll of Flesh" edges in on Stratovarius territory and takes the cake for best full-band song on the album, but the two guitar solos and flowing synth can only do so much to make it good. For an album to reach greatness, overall, it needs to be like a statue: firm, decisive, and strong, with few cracks showing. If there are cracks showing, those cracks need to add to the character of the statue. Otherwise it's just a sign of amateur craftsmanship or inferior materials, which is why I shake my head again after the likable outro, "Universal Finale." A great album doesn't force you to like the intros, outros, and interludes more than the full songs.
Highs: "Interlude," "Universal Finale," "Doll of Flesh"
Lows: Muddy sound, strange story, pitchyness.
Bottom line: A fair effort at a synth-fonic prog opera that is destroyed by a hilariously strange story line, among other things.
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