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Secret Sphere - "Portrait Of A Dying Heart" (CD)

Secret Sphere - "Portrait Of A Dying Heart" CD cover image

"Portrait Of A Dying Heart" track listing:

1. Portrait Of A Dying Heart (6:00)
2. X (5:13)
3. Wish & Steadiness (5:37)
4. Union (4:12)
5. The Fall (5:10)
6. Healing (4:29)
7. Lie To Me (3:50)
8. Secrets Fear (5:57)
9. The Rising Of Love (4:29)
10. Eternity (6:05)

Reviewed by on December 6, 2012

"The 'secret weapon' this band has is one that is not present on any other great album [in 2012], save for Vision Divine: the ability to reach across the aisle and nab fans of pure rock and progressive rock."

Just when I thought that the flooded river of great metal from Italy had dribbled to a dry cracked crust in 2012, somebody went out and screamed “Luppi.” I'll be the first to admit that although I was always a fan of Secret Sphere, there was just something lacking in the formula to elevate this band from 'very good' to 'great.' Now with “Portrait of a Dying Heart,” Secret Sphere has found it...but given all the great albums this year, is it enough? Absolutely. Sure, you can easily attribute the missing ingredient to the presence of the former Vision Divine vocalist, but the song writing, and musicianship around him has been bolstered as well. Add to that perfection in production and “Portrait of a Dying Heart” should be on the want list of every progressive metal fan.

As if in a purposeful attempt to either flip off the "traditional flow" of albums or tease the fans waiting to hear Luppi, the band starts the album off with the six minute instrumental title track. If not for the magnitude of the guitar work of Aldo Lonobile (Death SS/Ex- Civilization One) and Marco Pastorino (Bejelit/Hate Tyler), I might have given in to the temptation to skip on with glee to hear the mighty voice. Once “X” hit and Michele’s voice kicked in, I realized that of all the bands he has been part of, this is the one he is destined to be in. Like Fabio in Vision Divine, Luppi is the additive to Secret Sphere's new mojo...no disrespect to Ramon Massina. With Luppi here and Lione with Vision Divine, the power/progressive world was set straight in 2012 and things are exactly as they should be. Who can argue with the results? Two fantastic releases have been issued. On “Portrait of a Dying Heart,” Luppi is as smooth as chrome, choosing occasionally to employ a jagged edge.

The energy level on "Portrait" is thicker than the strums from Andrea Buratto bass lines. The concept story may be one of passion, but all the rampant indignation socks you right in the jaw. You can feel it racing in the veins of tracks like “Wish & Steadiness,” “The Rising of Love,” “Lie to Me,” and the highly emotional charging closer “Eternity.” However, the hands down winner of the release is “The Fall,” the finest song offered by this six-piece in all its 15 year existence. The guitar work is extraordinary, with Lonobile evoking shades of Zack Wylde. Following that up in close suit is “Secrets Fear,” a speedy number with some nifty orchestration, which does sound a bit buried and faded, however, the band has always been guitar driven, so any orchestrated inclusion is an accent at best.

The real uphill battle for “Portrait for a Dying Heart” has nothing to do with the music, the perfect production, amazing musicianship, the star power, or all of that energy. It is finding an unoccupied pedestal to stand above so the great releases in 2012 from Italy alone. The “secret weapon” the band has is one that is not present on any of those other great albums, save for Vision Divine: the ability to reach across the aisle and nab fans of pure rock and progressive rock. This may the one metal album released this year that will please that girlfriend or wife for those who are unfortunate to have a significant other that does not share your musical tastes. Woo her with the smooth sounds of “Portrait of a Dying Heart” and regale her with the tale of lost love over a bottle of wine and some Luppi.

Highs: By far the best album from Secret Sphere, with fantastic guitar work!

Lows: With the flood of great music from Italy this year, its too easy to overlook this.

Bottom line: Enter "secret weapon:" thy name is Luppi!

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)