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Magenta - Seven CD (album) cover





4.07 | 345 ratings

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3 stars The Death of Neo-Progressive Rock

I love neo-prog. For a long time, I've called neo-prog my favourite microgenre, the tiny group of artists that fit into this very specific sound I all love evenly and completely. Only recently, I've been having a bit of neo withdrawal. I honestly don't know if I truly enjoy this genre any more, or that the bands I do enjoy are just coincidence. The fact that Marillion and IQ and Arena are amongst my favourite bands is just pure coincidence to the fact that they all sound the same, because I'm really not enjoying some of these 'other' neo bands, even though I know they sound the same.

It's one of my little annoyances with the neo-prog bands, that they all must sound the same. They all have that IQ-style analogue synth, the one that I describe as "stretchy". They all have Steve Rothery on guitar, or someone who does those wailing and epic high end guitar lines whilst most of the rhythm that guitar normally is used for is taken by the bass and some ambient synth pads. They all seem to find a vocalist that sounds exactly like Peter Nicholls or Fish (who, in turn obviously sounds like Peters Gabriel and Hammill). The simple fact that there are such specific sounds required for a neo-prog album and yet there are so many neo-prog bands mean that once you get past the top, there's an awful lot of derivative and cloned music.

Magenta's Seven is seen as somewhat of a modern classic in the genre. Magenta weren't formed in the wave of bands that came in 1983 like most neo-prog bands, but they most certainly sound like it. The one sole difference is something that's become a cliché of new neo-prog, the addition of a female vocalist in replacement of the necessary Peter Nicholls. Sure, that's not unique now? *cough Landmarq Harvest Touchstone*. But this album is one of the more highly regarded albums in the neo-prog style from a band that has been formed since. I can think of other albums like Abraxas or Shooting Albatross that also fit this category, and strangely, I can't get into those albums either.

Let's start off from the beginning; "Gluttony" is pretty embarrassing. I mean, it's not horrendous, but shit, if you have the balls to open up an album with "cha cha chaa... cha cha chaaa" in the obligatory 7/8 time, you're really pushing your luck at getting fans. Cringeworthy opening aside, the song continues in the same meandering fashion as the rest of the album, but after a few minutes, the female vocalist (or maybe it's a different vocalist altogether) dons this weird and quite uncomfortable voice for a few verses that really just kills any sort of pleasant vibe this song may be aiming for. I honestly quite enjoy the normally sung verses at the end, but the other voice just makes me ask ? did they seriously record that and not think it was an absolutely terrible idea? Occasionally during this track some nice piano comes in, or there is a moment of goodness in the synth or guitar, but the entire track never really recovers from the cheese overload in the intro, especially since the lyrics are equally cringeworthy.

Actually, we should go even further back from the beginning, and take a look at this album as a whole. When you look at this album in your library, before you even hear it, you see two things:

1. All of the tracks but one are 10 minutes or longer 2. The titles are the seven deadly sins

Which can only mean one thing: terrible concept album. And honestly, after looking through the lyrics on this, I can't pick up much of a concept, but that doesn't stop the lyrics being rather bad (like on a concept album). I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics about paparazzi and fame during "Greed" have to do with greed at all, they really just seem to be a weak portrayal of Magenta imagining what it might be like to be famous.

But to stop being so negative, I have to say that I really do enjoy "Envy" although (like basically every song here), there is no reason for it to be 10 minutes. It has a really sweet melody that continues through most of its runtime, sung rather nicely by Christina Booth, whose voice fits this style of music far more than the wank-driven prog of many of the other tracks. Here, she reminds me of Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn, whose music fits female vocalists far more. The intro has a pretty weak synth part and there are plenty of bits throughout the song that I question my enjoyment of it, like the inclusion of the warblephone or the unnecessarily long instrumental breaks, but there's a lot that a great melody can do for a track.

As for the rest of the album, I honestly can't remember an awful lot. I know that "Lust" has a nice melody on the chorus and that "Greed" could be alright if it weren't for the really embarrassing lyrics and the need to repeat every line with backing vocals (repeat every line with backing vocals). I also know that this album has a very thin production, most of the tracks feel like there are maybe three layers of instruments, regularly killing any vibe I have from parts of the music here. But basically every one of these tracks lose me at some point of their duration, and I'm fairly certain none of them justify even half the length of which they are presented to us, they just meander and wank and occasionally do something nice.

I guess Seven just evades me completely in the end. This is to neo-prog what Transatlantic are to symphonic, by-the-numbers, old-fashioned, and too focused on instrumental showmanship, and every time a nice moment comes along, they trample all over it. I could pick maybe 20 minutes of material on this album that I quite like, but it would all be dotted everywhere, maybe a bar or so here or a riff there, no real excellent tracks or even segments. "Envy" is certainly an exception to that, and is the sole reason this album isn't going straight to the trash, but I really just haven't been able to get into this style of neo-prog at all.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Gallifrey | 3/5 |


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