Secret Sphere - Portrait of a Dying Heart (Scarlet Records)
By: Kenneth Gallant
[8.5/10] After 12 years, six records and numerous world tours Roberto Messina decided to leave Italian power metal outfit Secret Sphere due to musical differences. This could have been a major blow to the band, but former Vision Divine vocalist Michele Luppi was added to the ranks and a new album was announced. Remarkably, the new album was said to be a concept record based around a novel and would be accompanied by a 40 page booklet – novel included.
This is very lofty ambitions for a band intending on unveiling a new singer, but I am happy to report that Portrait of a Dying Heart is a master stroke. Luppi has strong pipes and definitely carries the music from start to finish, and his versatility as a singer affords the band a chance to experiment a bit. The big difference here is the reinvigorated energy infused in the music, driving the songs forward with bombastic riffs and solid arrangements. Songs like “X” and “The Fall” exhibit some serious crunch, becoming a riff-fest early on.
Guitarist Aldo Lonobile orchestrates his leads with much conviction and he’s the glue that holds the proceedings together. Lonobile and Luppi work extremely well as a tandem and on the song “Healing” fits into a furious combo of prolific leads and commanding vocals. “Secrets Fear” is another number where Luppi’s vocals add melody to the heavy rhythmic assault. Again, Lonobile's tasty guitar solo runs rampant on “Union” but things slow down a bit when Luppi's heartfelt vocals are added into the mix. Despite the heaviness at times, though, the album does veer off into softer territory, opting for more ballads and giving way to a slower emotional side.
Overall, this is a new beginning for Secret Sphere and Portrait of a Dying Heart is arguably a fine moment for this outfit. Luppi is the star here with his amazing lead and harmony vocals, adding that unique flair to the music. Hopefully with his addition to the band, this should take Secret Sphere to the upper echelon of the power metal elite. If anything, it should also give longtime fans a chance to listen to some impeccable symphonic power metal and Portrait of a Dying Heart will do just that.
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