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Arena - The Seventh Degree Of Separation CD (album) cover

THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION

Arena

 

Neo-Prog

3.47 | 180 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

stewe
3 stars I was really eager to hear Arena's new effort which was already postponed many times.Seeing the band live three times in three different countries, between the release of Pepper's Ghost and this one, I felt that both Sowden and Salmon are already an integral part of this amazing group of musicians and also funny and easy-going persons. When I heard about their departure, I was worried, especially about the vocal part, which was entrusted to Paul Manzi. From the first listnening, it was clear that he immediately became their prominent member, supposed to steal the show here. Manzi's omnipresence and his position high in the mix somehow impedes others from opportunity to shine. Technically, Manzi might be better than his predecessor, but to me, he lacks passion, emotionality, uniqueness and also kind of nonchalance and bitter humor Sowden had. Manzi is more stadium hard-rock oriented and less theatrical than signers Arena used to have (which in and my opinion suited to Arena better).

The music itself also moved rather to straightforward riff-driven hard-rock in vein of Deep Purple or Uriah Heep (their latter albums) or heavier AOR music. Sound of the album is theier most powerful to date, heavy and pompous with many hooks. I would definitely have enjoyed more instrumental passages. The songs are more straigthforward in their structure with litlle place for any showcase. Clive Nolan has few moments to shine especially (despite there are some killer solos), his keyboard work is oriented on atmospheric layers and is very dark. John Mitchell, one of my all-time favorite guitarists, does mostly his routine, excellent though, again full of heavy riffing, but somehow doesn't push himself forward to be adventurous, sounding the same most of the time. Mick Pointer's typical heavy rhytms are still there as a trademark and John Jowitt's back with his fretwork. His return made me expect a bit, that it can sound closer to The Visitor, but actually, the album is still much closer to Contagion direction.

Last Au Revoir is undoubdely highlight of an album for me, catchy, atmoshperic piece combining especially talents of Mitchell, his amazing pop sensibility, and Nolan, which is apparent in odd instrumental part reminding Genesis's The Cinema Show. Wish that Mitchell was singing more, not just backing vocal. The opening pair The Great Escape and Rapture are also great, in typical Arena dark, heavily rolling, melodic pompous manner. I always thought Arena didn't have any weak or dull moments on albums, however, I can't say the same about the new effort. With the progress of an album I start to lose my interests, which is very unusal for Arena to me - I was used that albums had very consistent, interesting flow and gradation.

This is probably Arena's weakest effort (I'd say slightly weaker than 'Pride'), but considering my opinion that all other previous albums are from excellent to masterpieces, it doesn't mean it is bad at all. It can attract many new fans, also those, who actually didn't enjoy Arena too much. Musicianship is still great and music itself is quite accessible in dark colors. Personally I have mixed feeling about the direction the band went, I miss the spirit they brought with their development during Sowden's years. I was expecting something more after 6-year pause.

stewe | 3/5 |

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