"Relations in the Unseen"

(Long Branch/SPV Steamhammer)

01. Relations In The Unseen
02. Thanks For Nothing
03. The Ones We Never Knew
04. Out Of Phase
05. Panic Waves
06. Joker
07. Tonight
08. Origin Unknown
09. Walk On Broken Glass
10. The Ghost Of A Chance
11. …Like It Is
12. Golden Mean

RATING: 8/10

Germany's THE INTERSPHERE are being heavily marketed to the metal and hard rock markets, which might not be the best strategy considering they're better aligned with the alt scene. Then again, that doesn't necessarily cover their sound either. SPV/Steamhammer is normally as metal as it gets, so this is a curious backing on their part. There are punctuated, slamming guitar sections to be found in pocks on THE INTERSPHERE's fourth full-length album, "Relations in the Unseen". By and large, though, this is a pop-flavored, light prog rock album that makes for a cool diversion from headbanging mania, assuming you're up for it.

Following the breakout success of their previous album, "Hold On, Liberty!", THE INTERSPHERE reportedly opted for a scaling back of their primary instrumentation on "Relations in the Unseen" in exchange for decorative backgrounds filled with synth and string arrangements. MUSE and holds a subliminal influence over THE INTERSPHERE (most evident on the steady tapper "Joker"), but perhaps the best way to describe this band is they are a logical (and thankful) leap away from emo punk. In the case of this band, melodic doesn't translate into wussy and whiny, albeit if you're looking to thrash, you're well-advised to move on from this album. If, on the other hand, you're a supporter of pop proggers 3, then you'll cozy up to it.

"Origin Unknown" and "Out of Phase" are the heaviest songs to be found on "Relations in the Unseen" and that's mostly because of the plunking static strums from Thomas Zipner. However, as with most of the other tracks, expect a gradual straying from density to lifted, yet hazy key and string arcs that dramatically alter these songs' dynamics. Later, "The Ghost of a Chance" launches with a thick swirl of guitar and bass from Zipner and Sebastian Wagner, respectively, throwing out bare hints of RUSH. The song immediately takes a sweeping, harmonic stance with thin traces of angst planted beneath the whirligig choruses. Somewhat of a surprise, "The Ghost of a Chance" bolts away for a loud and banging finish. Afterwards, Zipner and Wagner whip up a few slow and meaty bars to "…like it is", a song that rolls along on the steady hum of Wagner's bass as Zipner and vocalist Christoph Hessler plead in their own manners overhead.

The correlation is subconscious, but "Walk On Broken Glass" rings transparently of COLDPLAY's "Clocks" on the verses before swerving into a higher key and turning out an entirely different melody on the choruses. Thomas Zipner's grinding solo presents a brief yet smart interjection from the yummy feel of the tune. Still, yummy, nimble and mellow is the leitmotif to songs like "The Ones We Never Knew", "Out of Phase" and "Golden Mean", even if "Out of Phase" comes off at first moody with its chunky chords. The layered synths, strings and whoo-oohing from Christoph Hessler (who is a terrific singer) undermine the plodding heft of the guitars to avoid letting the song turn depressive. By contrast, the uppity tempo of "Thanks for Nothing" unapologetically turns pop punk into a straightforward alt march with sharp hooks climbing between the bridge and choruses.

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THE INTERSPHERE may capture a fair chunk of listeners from the core demographic SPV caters to, but those numbers will come from the more open-minded and contemporary prog connoisseurs. Hessler, Zipner, Wagner and drummer Moritz Muller are all superb musicians and "Relations in the Unseen" feels like pure escapism. Their approach of pulling back their front line and allowing for extracurricular instruments to build their album's strength is sagacious and it creates a pleasurable listening experience for those who choose to embrace it.


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