(All Album Reviews by Windhawk)
(originally written for www.prog4you.com)
Karcius hails from Canada, and was formed in 2001. Sphere is their debut album, originally released in 2004, and re-released this year through Unicorn Media.
In my opinion, these guys have a bit of an image problem. When you see the CD, with band name in distorted letters, gothic typefaces chosen for the writing on the cover, and song titles like "Liquid Meat" and "Lunatik", I at least expect to listen to some hard pounding metal. But what you get is a much stranger breed - or indeed hybreed - of music. Because Karcius have decided that their mission in life is to explore the world of fusion.
Now, I'm not too familiar with this genre. I listen to the odd tune by Meola's late 70's catalog, and these guys have done that as well. Especially on opening track "Kunidé" the influence from Meola can be heard in parts of the song. But the music on this album is so much more than a modernized version of the late 70's fusion wave, so to compare them to any of the classic fusion artists would give the wrong impression. Oh, and it's an instrumental album as well. No vocals in any form can be found here - so if you're not a fan of albums without vocal input, you can skip this review.
Generally, Karcius approach the world of fusion like many other artists. They mix up elements from the world of rock and the world of jazz, and try to mix together the best parts of the different genres. On this album, you can add metal to the description above; as there are just as many elements from metal in the mix as there are elements of jazz and rock.
All the songs on this album are complex affairs, with lots of different parts woven together. But you won't find a multitude of breaks in the song structure. Instead, the different instruments play along on more or less separate melodies, where one instrument leads the song into a new part, creating a flow that I personally associate with jazz. Usually, there are two different melodies being played in each part of the songs on the album, on some songs three slightly different melodies make up the soundscape. Which means that all the songs here have a feel and a flow to them rarely heard in the world of rock or metal.
What's important on an album like this, is how interesting the different parts of these songs are, and how well the different songs works as a whole. It's much too easy for an outing like this to become instrumental masturbations, which is fun for the group to play; but plain boring or annoying for anyone else to listen to.
Thankfully, Karcius have managed to create mostly good structures here. They do have a tendency to jam along a bit too much, but not enough to be annoying. Actually, on several of the songs there are parts that I would have preferred them to explore a bit further before they flowed on to the next part of the song.
As for what the music actually sounds like, that's a bit hard to describe. As one song can contain parts as different as classical piano, delving into prog metal and then moving on to 70's prog before it takes a u-turn to explore the world of funk and ending up like music that could have fitted well on an early Santana album...descriptions become futile. One trademark item of their sound can be described though: The guitar. As well as utilizing the electric guitar with it's normally clean sound, the guitar is also utilized in most of the songs with much more distortion - making a raw and gritty sound - the guitar equivalent of the whisky-soaked voice. Which creates a quite unique feel to the groups overall sound.
All in all most of the songs on this album work quite well. Personally, I found tracks 5 to 8 a bit on the tedious side; and rate them as average outings. The other songs on the album work equally well; with no particular song being better than the other in my view.
To get a feel for the music Karcius play, I would recommend listening to track 9, "Bois ta Musique". And if you like fusion, or are into complex instrumental music, this album should be worth checking out.
Reviewer: Olav Björnsen