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THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION

Arena

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Arena The Seventh Degree Of Separation album cover
3.47 | 191 ratings | 19 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential


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Studio Album, released in 2011

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Great Escape (4:38)
2. Rapture (4:22)
3. One Last Au Revoir (4:34)
4. The Ghost Walks (3:19)
5. Thief Of Souls (3:52)
6. Close Your Eyes (3:25)
7. Echoes Of The Fall (2:26)
8. Bed Of Nails (4:39)
9. What If? (4;35)
10. Trebuchet (3:39)
11. Burning Down (4:29)
12. Catching The Bullet (7:42)
13. The Tinder Box (4:16)

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Clive Nolan / keyboards
- Mick Pointer / drums
- Paul Manzi / vocals
- John Mitchell / guitars
- John Jowitt / bass


Releases information

Release date: November 28, 2011
Label: Verglas Records

Special Edition includes a 50 minutes DVD about the "making of" of the album.
This edition is only available when purchased at their gigs or at their own "Verglas" store (http://www.verglas.com/arenaworld).

Thanks to progshine for the addition
and to easy livin for the last updates
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ARENA The Seventh Degree Of Separation ratings distribution


3.47
(191 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
19%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
32%
Good, but non-essential (31%)
31%
Collectors/fans only (14%)
14%
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)
4%

ARENA The Seventh Degree Of Separation reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A little (wink) intro to this "Arena" album:

"Five years, that's all we've got We've got five years, what a surprise We've got five years, stuck on my eyes We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot Five years, that's all we've got?"

Five years is a bloody long time between two albums. Especially from a band who were rather productive in their early days?

There were apparently some problems to release this work as it was scheduled for release on November 2nd 2011 and was postponed to the 28th of this month. The only way to get it by now, it to witness an Arena concert and buy it on the spot. Not only will you only pay 15?, but you also will purchase the "Special Edition" which includes a DVD of the "making of" the album for this price.

I was lucky enough to witness the first concert of their tour in Verviers on November 4 and therefore I am able to review this work with some kind of anticipation. Actually it was a world premičre!

To tell you the truth, the DVD is not really awesome. You are brought in a series of interviews starting with Mick (which is the poorest part of it IMHHO). Comes then a close up to the vocal parts which is extremely short and the only one who speaks about it is ?Clive! There are very little words from the new front man indeed.

Some Clive words about the keys, a close up to John's guitar work ... I was kind of surprised to see a poster from the Clash during John Jowitt's interview (this is a superb connection between prog and some othe rmusical genre...wich I like both).

To cut a long story short, the DVD is not really worth as far as I am concerned.

Now, about the music?

I was rather thrilled to listen to this new "Arena" album after their very long hiatus. To top my expectations was rather complicated since their last studio album "Pepper's Ghosts" is my preferred one and reached the 5 stars ranking in my review.which is rarely considered as you might know.

This album is a concept one and covers the last hour of our planet and the first one which starts just after. Rather thin, but OK.

The gig was excellent because there were a mix of old / new songs. When you listen to this new release only (and I have been doing quite often during these last two weeks), I can't help: there are very few points of comparison with their previous releases.

The heavy side of their music is at times present, the melodic side as well ("What If") but I am deeply lacking their emotional angle. This album is a collection of good & crafted songs which starts to be really catchy towards the second part of the album.

The excellent "Trebuchet" holds each of the ingredient that an "Arena" fan can expected: power, melody & strength. As far as I am concerned, the best number is also the longest one: "Catching The Bullet" contains each of the aspect that we love from "Arena" (already depicted). John's guitar is just SUPERB (as he always ought to be).

I was glad to have witnessed their concert at the Spirit of 66 because it was excellent. I could also have a chat with John and Clive and I got my copy of this work signed.

The artwork is extraordinary but very dark and oppressive.

To summarize, don't expect any epic or grandeur here. This album is good. "Arena" never released weak albums as far as I am concerned, but I am a little disappointed with this release. Even if the last track ("The Tinder Box") is one of the best track.

Three stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#571212) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review by Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Oh dear.

Okay, as one of the biggest defenders of Arena, I have to say that my hands were sweaty with excitement at first. Okay, the trailer said:' Their best work yet!'. Uh-Oh. Something's ALWAYS wrong when a band claims that their latest work is the best (Metallica, Journey and Rush went through the same pattern). Then, the songs they chose to give us a listen were..uh..tacky? So I got suspicious...with reason apparently.

Tacky. That's about the only word that sums up well. Arena always flirted with the 80's, and 'till Pepper's Ghost, it was the good side of the decade. But this time, oh Lord no. No! NO! It's really under what this band can do. Looks like the heavyness is there to stay, and John Mitchell is carrying the whole album on his shoulders with, as usual, a talented mix of power chords and arpeggios. The vocals are done by Vincent from the Beauty and the Beast Tv Show, and well I might add...but I still do miss Rob; he sounded less pop. What's lacking then?

The things that I liked about Arena are kinda gone: blistering keyboard solos with a victorian style, varied atmospheres of songs (not just sad), and more inventives structures. Now, it's just the same song for 50 minutes, with the same boring keyboard textures, drumming exciting as a bathroom scale for a gift and the same Stratocaster sound over and over. Where's the instrumental prowness? Where's the colors? Where's the reflexion?

Oh man. I really wanted this to be grand. But alas. The songs are from another era, a bad one. Feels like Adult Oriented Rock (AOR), like a blend of REO SpeedWagon and Bruno Pelletier. Like a scrawny guy acting tough because he has a goaty, Arena is trying unsuccessfully to be edgy and black, instead we see through this and find cheesy hard rock taste, a bottle of Hair Spray and a Trixter T-Shirt. Good Lord what happened?!?

*Sigh* Well, cheer up. Looks like Metallica's also having a crappy year.

It's like a can opener with a pink ribbon around: okay but still disappointing.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#571989) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars It's been six year's since we last had an album from Arena, the excellent Pepper's Ghost. After such a hiatus it needed to be a good one and although band members have been active in their other bands (Pendragon, Frost, It Bites etc) Arena as a band could have been in danger of missing out on the current prog resurgence. Fortunately The Seventh Degree Of Separation is a winner though likely to divide the fan base on opinion.

They have a new singer to replace the departed Rob Sowden who left after not being impressed by the direction of the new material. His replacement is Paul Manzi and whilst not so much in the prog singer mould, if there's such a thing, he turn's out to be the best vocalist the band have ever had. More of a traditional rock vocalist not a million miles away from Bernie Shaw of Uriah Heep. Another new recruit is excellent bassist John Jowitt who should need little introduction to anyone who's been listening to prog for a few years or more.

Onto the music - and this is where fans are likely to be divided. Firstly The Seventh Degree Of Separation is a concept album about someone dying covering their last hour of life and the first hour of death. All very prog so far but musically we find Arena in much more accessible and commercial territory. While it's recognisably Arena, particularly on the darker sounding moments such as Rapture and Trebuchet where Clive Nolan's lush keyboard work stamps their melancholy mark with his trademark sweeping chords, the music often has an almost AOR feel. Check out What If? for the perfect example. Fortunately whilst this may have some fans reeling in horror there's no denying the quality of the tunes here. Of some disappointment is the fact that there's less instrumental work and when it comes it's very welcome such as on the excellent Catching The Bullet, incidentally one of the album highlights. Fans of John Mitchell's heavier guitar work are well catered for though as he features strongly throughout but a few more of his searing solo's would have been appreciated.

As good as it is this is not Arena's greatest album and unlikely to be thought as such by any existing fans. Nevertheless with a vocalist of the calibre of Manzi they have the potential to transcend boundaries and appeal to music lovers outside the prog genre, particularly with their more accessible edge. Whether this can happen so far down the road in their career is unlikely but the possibility remains. Personally I'd love to see them come back in a couple of years with an album along the lines of Immortal? which would be fantastic to hear with a vocalist of the calibre of Manzi. For now though I'm thoroughly enjoying this one.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#587939) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars The seventh studio album is separated from the others in terms of quality

Six years after the previous Pepper's Ghost, Arena returns with this album, their seventh studio album overall. Being a big Arena fan I was naturally excited to hear this, but while it is an enjoyable listen, I must say that I am disappointed. Pepper's Ghost was already a bit of a disappointment for me, but The Seventh Degree Of Separation is inferior even to that album. Hearing this album one wonders if this really is by the same band that made such amazing masterpieces as Contagion, The Visitor and Songs From The Lions Cage.

The first thing to notice is the new lead vocalist Paul Manzi. He is not a bad vocalist, but he is not as dramatic and distinctive as previous vocalists. He sounds good, but somewhat anonymous. Still, it is not primarily with the vocals that I have a problem. Another thing to notive directly is that with only one exception all the songs are between two and a half and four and a half minutes long! This is, of course, not a sure sign of a musical decline, but it is an indication of something and in this case it is very telling. While albums like Contagion and The Visitor runs like complete pieces of music, The Seventh Degree Of Separation is rather a set of individual songs. Yes, there is a concept, but musically the songs are independent from each other. The concept itself revolves around the borderline between life and death. Wait a minute? Is that not the concept behind The Visitor? Not very original.

The songs are mostly strong and melodic, but rather conventional in structure. There are almost annoyingly catchy choruses in every song and the guitar and keyboard solos are close to nonexistent! Where are the dynamics? Where are the instrumental workouts? The tempo and mood changes? The dramatic twists and turns? Even the lyrics, which are usually brilliant, fall somewhat flat. The Arena of old is sadly hardly recognizable at all.

This fan must conclude that this is certainly the least good Arena album of all. A decent album in its own right, but definitely below the standard we expect from such a great band.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#599320) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, December 30, 2011

Review by lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It's been a six year wait for Arena's follow up to Pepper's Ghost, and this was one of my most anticipated albums of 2011. It is another concept album, describing the last moments on God's Earth of the subject, and his passing over into the other side, although it should be pointed out that it did not need an imaginative mind to figure this one out. Subtle it most certainly is not.

It also features yet another new vocalist in Paul Manzi (don't place bets on how long this one will last!), and the excellent bassist John Jowitt, recently departed from IQ.

It opens with The Great Escape, a massive slab of theatrical pomp. Our hero thinks he can escape the inevitable, and, as with much of this work, lyrically it is hardly very subtle, but it certainly sets the scene for much of what follows, namely an album purposefully looking to a more mass rock market appeal, rather than us sad old neo fans. It has a wall of sound, with Nolan & Mitchell working together particularly well, and Pointer & Jowitt combining to keep the riffs chugging along at a fair old pace.

Rapture (Explicit) has, gasp, swear words in it, hence, I suppose, the "explicit" tag. It is pure, glitzy, American pomp radio rock, albeit very well performed. It is, however, very much throwaway, with rather standard riffs.

One Last Au Revoir is far better, with a nice symphonic introduction, before the track moves along into a very commercial, and very good, rock track, with some nice keyboard riffs thrown in with a lovely, crisp, John Mitchell guitar solo.

The Ghost Walks also interests. It is a very nice, heavy, doom-laden track with an apocalyptic guitar lead that Mitchell carries off with some aplomb. In fact, his work on this track reminds me strongly of some of Hackett's finest work, and when the entire band join in, it is as close to classic Arena that is heard thus far in proceedings, with some lovely soundscapes backing the main riff.

A lovely piano at the close leads us into Thief Of Souls, an operatic track at its heart and clearly borrowing more than a little from Nolan's side project, before it morphs into a more standard rocker mid-point. The closing section is pure radio rock, but, again, very well performed.

Close Your Eyes continues this vein, and, indeed, expands it, with Manzi giving us a glimpse of a fantastic melodic voice amongst the otherwise operatic goings on. This track screams out to be played on FM radio, and fans of that type of thing will love it, and passages remind me strongly of a harder commercial, later period, Genesis. In fact, the whole mood of the track is quite out of keeping with the subject matter, where our hero is supposedly nearing his last breath moment!

Echoes of the Fall can be described as an intermission track lasting 2:26 minutes with a good, chugging, riff, but is far too stereotypical to be anything special.

Bed Of Nails is another very "standard", "heavy" rock track. Again, it's very well performed, especially with Nolan's lovely synth at the fore, but by this time you really are wishing for something a little more imaginative. You can't, though, take anything away from Mitchell. another lovely solo shows him to be at the top of his game.

What If? Well, this is, of course, the "What if I had done things differently", and "I should have" passage of the story. Full of regrets, very nicely sung, and utterly unimaginative in terms of the narrative. It is VERY commercial, and you really do need to check at this stage just who it is you are listening to. A contender for the Billboard Top Ten in days of yore, methinks.

Trebuchet is, as the name suggests, a veritable siege engine, with our hero banging at the door of death into the afterlife. Swirling keys, pounding drums, and doomy bass/guitars, together with suitably operatic vocals, paint another not altogether subtle track. However, the musicianship here is never anything less than supreme, and it does have that characteristic sense of Arena theatre.

Burning Down, and I'm starting to flag a bit here. It is, again, a track made purely for FM radio, and is as forgettable as most you hear on that medium. Also, can't Nolan be just a little bit more imaginative with the lyrics describing the passing over, something which is, after all, the supreme moment of our lives? Things do improve when he gives us (an altogether too brief) solo, but this album needed far more of that. After all, we have waited six years.

Catching The Bullet is the longest track on the album at 7:42. Our hero is going! Cue sympathetic & downbeat keys/riffs to start, before we go again with the toe tapping, anthemic, pace. It is actually very good, and Mitchell again shines at the end. Midway through, there is a lovely intermission with delicately thoughtful keys. As said before, though, this lasts nowhere nearly long enough. When they appear, we have Arena back, with passages that remind you strongly of classics such as The Visitor.

It all comes to an end with The Tinder Box, which, I believe, borrows a lot from the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the same name. It is a lovely track, marvellously well played, with an incredible guitar lead, and avoids the formulaic stuff which went before in much of the album. The "The End" bit at the close is also a nice touch.

So, what to make of this? Well, I must emphasise that I have nothing whatsoever against commercial rock, as my reviews prove. When this album is on form, it is very good, and it is never anything less than well played, as you would expect from this group of seasoned pros.

However, this is Arena, one of the best of the modern neo-prog bands, and, to be honest, I expected a lot more. Manzi sings perfectly adequately enough, but I can see why Sowden got so cheesed off with the direction the band were taking. It is, essentially, a commercial rock album, with a concept. Nothing wrong with that at all....except.... except.... you expect a little more from them.

It is not a bad album at all. Quite the opposite. Three stars, which I rate this, is a good album. It is, though, nowhere near the quality or imagination of classics such as The Visitor or Contagion, and ultimately that is a slight disappointment.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#618376) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars Arena are a band that I have had some interest in over the years and I have heard their so called best albums "Pepper's Ghost" and "Contagion" but "The Seventh Degree of Separation" is a very different approach to their music. It feels heavier and more distorted in places, the medieval nuances are gone and the new vocalist Paul Manzi is a lot more lower in the register, perhaps more angry sounding, and it is rather a commercial AOR sound overall.

It begins well enough with the Neo metal opener 'The Great Escape' and then gets quite aggressive on 'Rapture' where the riffs are doomier and the lyrics angry with the f bomb thrown in once. 'One Last Au Revoir' has a quick tempo percussion beat and some excellent melodic rock. It is almost like Journey or Boston, quite a commercial sound. Nowhere near as progressive as the past Arena catalogue by any means. The melodies are pleasant though and the musicianship is excellent. John Mitchell 's lead break sounds like traditional metal. The chorus is rather repetitive and it fades.

Next is 'The Ghost Walks' with gloomy low buzzing synth, John Jowitt's bass, and low key vocals over a wonderful lead guitar. The violining guitar is nice, and there are some ominous effects. This is more proggy and Clive Nolan's keyboards add an ambience. The drumming of Mick Pointer is steady.

'Thief Of Souls' begins with piano phrases and melodic vocals; "cry for them, Sometimes death is not fair, mourn for them". There is a concept amidst all these lyrics somewhere but I am not into it. The music is good though, it seems to be getting better as the album progresses. 'Close Your Eyes' is a very commercial top 10 hit, it sounds like it anyway. Just melody on melody and power ballad retro throwback. Followed by darker more enigmatic music with 'Echoes Of The Fall' with great lyrics; "the tick and the tock of the cosmic clock", and finishes with "you can never guess and now its far too late to confess."

A very slow ballad beat is heard on 'Bed Of Nails' but it is not Alice Cooper's classic. It is okay as far as melody goes and has an infectious chorus. 'What If?' is a gentle emotive ballad with finger picking clean guitar intro. Manzi's vocals are very good once again. He nails these ballads that is for sure and the simple time sig is complemented by a stirring lead break. But I am still waiting for something resembling prog.

'Trebuchet' continues the AOR sound, a faster tempo and very melodic sing along chorus. An interesting metal riff, and rhyming phrases; "naked and alone, am I the only one, fading from the world, is this where I begun."

'Burning Down' starts with a low droning and then Manzi's balladic vocals come in; "I can see the falling cinders making ghosts upon the ground." I like the riff that follows reminding me of a Sky Architect riff I heard today. It is a better sound for Arena. Cool lyrics resonate with me; "This place is the story of my life and I see it burning down". I like the break before the next chorus. Actually this is the best track on the album so far undoubtedly. Even the riff is proggy and that keyboard break is terrific. The atmosphere is really eerie; "all signs are gone now of my previous existence, all signs are gone now of my relevant significance, all signs are gone now of my innocence, my childhood, my birth." Excellent!

'Catching The Bullet' keeps things moving with a steady crawling tempo and sustained key pads. The drums are great on this. Manzi's voice comes in and augments the majestic feel; "Standing perhaps at the end of the bed or floating through your dreams, its true I wil be long departed before you decipher what it means." There is a strong soundscape generated with keyboard runs and metal guitar distortion, bass and drums maintaining a steady cadence. The protagonist is about to depart; "this is me signing off." A lengthy and scorching lead break and keyboard chimes over proggy time sigs are signifying more progressive territory, but we are at the end of the album so it's a bit late. However, this is definitely a stellar track and well worth a listen.

'The Tinder Box' closes it down with piano, a ballad tone, Manzi sounding emotional; "I saw the little people working there, in the echoes and the chambers of my mind, and I saw the lantern man as it stood so stil,l and the child knew this gentle soul, his kindess, the light went on and he was gone, but the meaning, the meaning still remained, like the fading away of a sweet familiar taste, like the cleansing of the cool summer rain." the track builds with majestic lourishes and an absolutely brilliant lead guitar throughout the song from Mitchell. "We're a spark from the Tinder Box" is the harmony that is repeated leading to the finale. It even states it is "The End".

Overall, this is a pleasant sounding soft metal commercial album, not very Neo and not very prog, but it is okay as a diversion from intricate time sigs and creativity because Arena are not in that league with this release.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#618751) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars A great degree of inspiration

It astonishes me to think that it is some six years since we last had a new album from Arena, 2005's "Pepper's ghost" still seeming like a new album. Since that time, vocalist Rob Sowden and bass player Ian Salmon have left the line up, to be replaced by Paul Manzi and the great John Jowitt respectively. Despite these changes, it still takes considerable effort on the part of all concerned to come together in the studio, such are the demands on their time from the various other projects the band members participate in.

In the months leading up to the release of "Seventh degree of separation", Clive Nolan teased us with talk of this album being "darker" than anything which had gone before, and the sleeve image certainly has a menacing quality.

I have learned over the years not to judge an Arena album after a couple of listens. It takes time for each release to reveal itself, initial impressions inevitably proving misguided as familiarity replaces novelty. Albums such as "Contagion" and "The visitor" still continue to offer new and exciting dimensions whenever they are played, even after all these years.

So it is with "Seventh degree of separation". Here we have an album whose structure has more in common with the aforementioned albums than with others such as "Immortal" or "Pepper's ghost". The tracks here are generally shorter but designed to flow together to create a greater whole. This perhaps makes it logical that it is a concept album, the basic theme being set in the last hours of life and the first hours of the afterlife.

Manzi's arrival is nothing if not dramatic, his unaccompanied introductory call of "Can anybody hear me" clearly having live performance in mind. The song, "The great escape", is similar in style to "Immortal's" opener "Chosen", the heavy guitar riffs driving a song which features a fine vocal performance by Manzi's. "Rapture" is really a continuation of "The great escape" as it retains a similar style and pace (plus the "..hear me" reference), but is even more bitter, including a superfluous wee sweary.

"One Last Au Revoir" has the feel of "The visitor", the up-beat, positive vibes allowing John Mitchell to add some of his delicious flowing lead guitar runs. It contrasts completely with the troubling doom of "The Ghost Walks", perhaps the heaviest track ever recorded by Arena. Even here though, Mitchell and Clive Nolan combine to create a wonderfully atmospheric wall of sound. "Thief Of Souls" is one of the album's more straightforward songs, as is the brief "Close your eyes", either of which might at one time been potential singles.

"Echoes Of The Fall" is something of an out and out rocker, with a bit of a (dare I say) Queen feel. Nothing wrong with that in my book, indeed the song oozes enthusiasm and excitement. "Bed of nails" is reminiscent of "Ascension" from "Contagion", the song featuring similar majestic vocals against a regal backdrop. On "What If?", Paul Manzi displays a different dimension to his voice, the quasi-rock ballad sound of the song suiting his style well. This is probably the most melodic of the songs on the album, and therefore the most instantly accessible.

"Trebuchet" opens with the trademark Arena sound as the main character moves from life to death. The music though is anything but downbeat, Nolan's epic keyboards and Mitchell's soaring guitar being driven by the powerful rhythm section. "Burning Down" is one of those typically Arena tracks which misleads those who jump in too quickly into thinking they know it after one or two listens. There are subtle musical cross-references afoot here, as there are in many Arena songs.

"Catching The Bullet" is the longest track (or section) on the album, but that is of little relevance really. The track has a decidedly progressive arrangement, with John Mitchell displaying various aspects of his prowess on guitar, while Clive Nolan creates a superbly symphonic bed of keyboard sounds. We close with "The Tinder Box", a song with echoes of "Friday's dream", the song which closed the "Immortal" album. The song brings everything together, lyrically and melodically, setting up a magnificent conclusion to this captivating album.

In short, a magnificent album from a fine band. The line up changes have proved inspirational in music terms, the result being an album which flows superbly while offering a diversity of moods and styles. To those who were quick to judge upon the album's release, I can only suggest that you revisit the album, get to know it, and discover the magic of Arena once more. This is one of the band's best ever albums.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#733675) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 20, 2012

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The first spin of this album came to me in the form of 320 MP3 file with a very good sound quality. But unfortunately I was not impressed at all with this album as the opening vocal line by the new vocalist sounded awkward to me. I did not then pay enough attention to this album until I got the CD. The album comes in a 3-leafed digibook with a 28 pages counting pullout booklet, packed with original artwork. Mine is special edition with a bonus DVD of 50 minutes, featuring 'the making of' the new album, in which the five members give the viewers an insight into the process they went through when composing the music. It was a long wait, approximately 6 years from their previous album. It's basically shorter than what IQ took to release new album. Of course I expected something better than their previous album.

Well, with the CD version at my hands I was then feeling obliged to spin again the album. Surprisingly, I did enjoy the second spin and then I kept playing the album many times. Oh man ... this album is really a grower for me as the more I listen to it the more I like it. And then I kept asking question: why didn't I like it at first spin as the music is basically not so complex and it's typical Arena albums after all? Was it because of the MP3 format? I don't think so as there have been so many albums that I got the digital file first before I then got the CD and I had no issue at all. By the way, at the end of the day I always rip my CD into digital file format for convenience. Having pondered myself with that question I finally conclude that this album is a real grower for me. I started with disliking and then grew into liking it and finally now I'm loving it. I'm really happy that Arena is back in its form with consistent music direction.

Let's have a look in detail ....

Am I still here? Am I hidden from your sight?

Oh my God ....! I really love the powerful vocal line by Paul Manzi opening the album in "The Great Escape" (4:38). Quality-wise, I am impressed with his clean voice and it's better than his predecessor Rob Sowden. "The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is a concept album about the journey from the last hour of life into the first hour of death. WOW! It's a subject that really fits with me as I always wonder how I would end my life. Of course I always pray to God that at the end of the day I would want to die as a good moslem. The lyrical verse of this opening track visualizing how would it like one hour before death. Paul really dare to start this wonderful track with acapela followed with symphonic rock style that flows in medium tempo like typical neo prog music. There are many good riffs mixed softly, showing the vocal power of Paul.

The second track "Rapture" (4:22) starts with an ambient nuance followed nicely with simple but catchy riffs continued with nice vocal "I always wondered how my destiny would go" .... oh... I really love this simple shot. Style-wise this track is basically a riff-based prog rocker with great variation of percussion work combined with excellent drumming in the middle of the song especially during the lyrical verse "Don't tell me - what you think i should believe". It's really a great variation and it helps accentuate the music.

"One Last Au Revoir" (4:34) sounds poppy at first listen of the album. But later I think this can serve as a nice bridge to the next track. Melody-wise, it's a very good one especially when the style changes in some segments after the continuous music. There are nice guitar shots here and there during the entire song - and most interestingly in the interlude part where it has a stunning performance combined beautifully with keyboard work. Mitchell and Nolan collaborate really really well here as always with previous albums.

The next track "The Ghost Walks" (3:19) reminds me to Steve Hackett's "Defector". I don't think Arena does it intentionally as it does not really sound the same - only the nuances are similar especially through the combined work of guitar (in Hackettian style) and keyboard with similar beats, drumming-wise. Of course the two are not the same, only similar. When the vocal enters the music, the two are different.

"Thief Of Souls" (3:52) starts with soft piano work followed with vocal line and howling guitar work at background, mixed softly. As the title implies this is now the time when the soul moves away, lyrically. It flows nicely to "Close Your Eyes" (3:25) which opens with guitar work followed with vocal line. It really reminds me to the style shown in Arena's masterpiece work "The Visitor". This track serves as a break as it's different compared to other tracks.

Musically, "Echoes Of The Fall" (2:26) serves as an important bridge as this short track has a relatively fast tempo with some rocking segments where guitar riffs play significant role combined nicely with Pointer's drumwork. "Bed Of Nails" (4:39) continues with slower tempo maintaining the overall tone of the storyline. I like the interlude part that actually does not demonstrate any long solo work but the nice guitar work during transition pieces. It then slows down with guitar fills that remarks the start of next track "What If?" (4;35). This one actually quite boring at the intro part. Again, Mitchell's guitar work is stunning right here.

The rhythm guitar work in Burning Down is great!

"Trebuchet" (3:39) moves up the tempo through its dynamic beats featuring a combined work of keyboard as well as guitar. Even though this song sounds just flat to me but the guitar work as well as vocal are really nice. Most importantly this track serves beautifully as a transition piece to the next wonderful "Burning Down" (4:29) track. I do enjoy this track because of its rhythm guitar work is really top-notch. Actually I am about to get bored with the music but as this track enters I come to the situation where I am energized with how this song flows. Well, not only rhythm guitar work after Manzi shouts "Burning down ..."! WOW ....!! I really love this part. This is one of the reason why I can stay with this album as I know that I will reach this wonderful eleventh track. This track really stirs my emotion especially that guitar rhythm plus beautifully crafted keyboard (Hammond?) solo. I bet you love this track as it's really great!

Having been satisfied with "Burning Down" I actually do not really care with how it would look like after this track, i.e the remaining two tracks: "Catching The Bullet" (7:42) and "The Tinder Box" (4:16). These last two tracks conclude the concept album nicely and I enjoy how these two are really placed here at the final chapters.

Four or five stars?

One chief reason why I have deferred very long not writing a review of this album is because of this one single question: four or five stars? have to admit that this album cannot surpass the materpiece work "The Visitor" the band has ever made. Comparatively, I can say straight to the point that this seventh album is much better than their sixth "Pepper's Ghost". So, for sure I can give four stars for the Seventh. And then, is it good enough with four stars? I do not think so, because the storyline is really good. Yes, musically this album is much simpler and much straighter than The Visitor but then I ponder myself with this intriguing question: does prog really require to be complex? Nope! So .... finally I give this album with 4.5 plus stars that rounds up to be five. If I do not consider the lyrical verses, just looking at the music perse, I might have given four stars rating. But this one deserves a five star rating. JRENG! Keep on proggin' ...!!!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#852184) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars After a 6 year hiatus comes Arenaīs new work. I tried very hard to give this CD a fair review. I didnīt wanto to rush my opinion over it, which I almost did on Pepperīs Ghost, their previous album. But, alas, to no avail. Thsi work does not seduce me like any other Arena did in the past. Donīt get me wrong, itīs not bad, far from it. Itīs very well done, perfomed and produced. And I was quite hopeful, since bassist extraordinaire John Jowitt is back to the fold. New vocalist Paul Manzi is good and his voice is not very different from that of former singer Rob Sowden

But something has changed: too much vocals, too few guitar solos (and no keyboards solos at all), no instrumental tracks and most of the songs are too much alike. In other words: not much to do with their previous works and style. It almost seems like guitarrist John Mitchell took over as a leader and Clive Nolan is just happy to follow along filling the few spots left by the ever present distorced guitar riffing. Of course there are several good moments (like Close Your Eyes), but nothing that stands out too much. Overall the feeling left is that of somethingīs missing.

After repeated spinds over the year my opinion hasnīt change much: The Seventh Degree Of Separation is good, but definitly inferior to anything those guys have released before. I like to hear it when I put it on the CD player, but it doesnīt make me feel like other Arena material used to (i.e., to push the repeat button over and over again). So donīt be fooled by the two stars rating. It actually deserves three, but I decided to give it a little less to counterbalance the reviews that rate it as a masterpiece (something I really donīt understand, specially because Iīm a big fan of Arena). I really hope next time theyīll come up with more convincing material and performances.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#990764) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Review by Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I've spent lots of time with this album. All I can say is that despite all the negative assessments, this album is definitely a slow-grower. My first few listens to this album were under-whelming. I certainly could hear the talent involved, yet, I could not understand why this arrangement would be considered 'top-class' within the Neo-Prog genre, as many have claimed to be... All I can say is that throughout all the songs presented here is that : yes, they are catchy, almost commercial sounding to be honest, and yes, there are some cheesy elements involved - like repetitive choruses and riffs etc. The band do take a certain 'metal' approach to this offering, it is quite heavy and I have to admit that guitarist John Mitchell does steal the show, whether it be crunching metal-chords or ripping solos. I have been familiar with Arena's Neo-Prog for years, yet never taken the plunge.

My assessment concludes that yes, Clive Nolan's keyboards aren't as 'widdly-widdly' as one has expected - if you want this style, just spin some Pendragon .......he constructs a certain symphonic wall of sound that permeates the entire album, it is always there, it forms an amazing atmosphere, and is quite inspired. Pointer's drumming is all one would expect from a neo-Prog band, clever and intricate, but not virtuosic, nor does it really need to be. I have to say that despite Jowitt's talents on bass (leaving IQ, for whatever reason....) he really doesn't hold himself back, his amazing bass lines run throughout the album, rumbling busily or holding stead-fast to what the song requires. New singer Paul Manzi recalls those 'big hair' Metal vocalists from the 80's. He has a strong voice, he knows about structure and complexity, and he sings with a strong passion. I am brief as I'm sure my submission will be timed out. However, there's so many superb moments amongst the 'mainstream cheese' attributed to this album. Not so much tech-instrumental display (but it's present in certain pieces), this thing is a 'vision', and it doesn't necessarily take complex times sigs (though these are often present) and widdly-widdly synth solos - we'll go for a Pendragon album for that, shall we ?? This pretty intense and impressive album has given me much dilemma, is it an excellent 4, or just a good 3 ??? My conclusion is that it's a 3.5 star effort pushed up to a 4, because it just 'works'...... Top tracks - One Last Au Revoir, Trebuchet and the near 8 min Catching The Bullet, of which the last half is what all Proggers wish to hear.... May I also mention that the imagery found on the inner sleeves is astounding, morbid, fascinating, disturbing, yet incredibly captivating, further adding to this 'last hour of life/first hour of death' concept....

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#1241367) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014

Latest members reviews

3 stars This is at the same time a significant departure from Arena's style yet it retains the essential ingredients of their sound that make them Arena - pompous, forceful rock with highest quality ingredients throughout - from words to vocals and individual instruments (well, maybe except for the drums) ... (read more)

Report this review (#1015547) | Posted by Progrussia | Saturday, August 10, 2013 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I am an Arena Fan Boy! I became hooked with their first two albums with its early 80s Neo-Prog style sound and during their further development into a more harder, almost metal sounding style I followed faithfully. Their highlight for me remains Contagion. During a live performance I even once had ... (read more)

Report this review (#734648) | Posted by King Manuel | Saturday, April 21, 2012 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I honestly cannot believe that anyone would consider this a masterpiece! This is probably the most disappointing album I've heard this year (and i thought Opeth's Heritage could not be topped in that category). Truthfully, Arena has set the bar high with their 4 previous releases, so my dis ... (read more)

Report this review (#582329) | Posted by jverweij | Monday, December 05, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A new cd from Arena, thatīs great news. I heard a couple of songs live in Verviers. The gig was amazing I like the new singer he has a great voice. After the show I bought the new cd....and since that day I listen to it. After the first 5or 8 times i had some favourite songs I always had to lis ... (read more)

Report this review (#576175) | Posted by thuur2 | Sunday, November 27, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It is a real masterpiece indeed! I have been reading all the reviews about The Seventh Degree of Separation, and I started to become curious about hearing they re new album, which is what I have done since a week ago when I bought it in they re website. My first impression was the vocal change ... (read more)

Report this review (#575714) | Posted by hogarth | Saturday, November 26, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 7/10 Over the years Arena has built a considerable reputation in the circles thanks to neo-prog albums like The Visitor and Contagion. Being my favorite band of neo-prog alongside Pendragon I was really curious to hear your new album, despite the mixed reviews it has received. After it has be ... (read more)

Report this review (#572890) | Posted by voliveira | Tuesday, November 22, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 music ... (read more)

Report this review (#572808) | Posted by stewe | Tuesday, November 22, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This album rocks! That would follow since it's a rock album. But it is not a Neo Prog album though? But it is a disappontment... The addition of Manzi appears to have complemented the Arena brand. Whilst Sowden took (by his own admission) some time to accept the mantle thrown off by Carson a ... (read more)

Report this review (#571859) | Posted by huge | Sunday, November 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Arena has not released a studio album since 2005 when Pepper's Ghost came out. Their four previous albums (Pepper's Ghost included) were all great at the very least, every single one of them unique in its musical style, and it all seemed that Mick Pointer and Clive Nolan had built a stable line-up ... (read more)

Report this review (#571014) | Posted by Link28 | Saturday, November 19, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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