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





3.47 | 346 ratings

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3 stars After a long break of six years, Arena return with no Rob Snowden on vocals and a concept album yet again (Clive Nolan is responsible for all the lyrics), this time on what they call the 7th degree of separation (or rather connection?): that to the dead. This abstract theme is recurring in the album but don't expect continuous storytelling.

There is a significant change of structure compared to Pepper's Ghost with only one composition exceeding the 5-minute mark. Paul Manzi does a good job on vocals, albeit his range sounds narrower than that of his predecessor, but that fits the overall build of the album: verse-chorus-verse compositions with a strong rock character, very good melodies and solid rhythm section but little grandiose and theatrical twists and turns. AOR does come into play and does fit nicely to the new path Arena have decided on this album, with a rather strong commercial feel and without necessarily eroding the characteristic sound of Nolan/Mitchell, at least when compared to the band's post-2000 heavier releases.

''Trebuchet'' and (the long-ish) ''Catching the Bullet'' are perhaps the only tracks with a direct reference to the material on Pepper's Ghost and constitute, along with ''Burning Down'' and the very Marillion-esque closing ''The Tinder Box'', the more interesting compositions in the last part of the album. Furthermore, there are excellent vocal sections in ''Bed of Nails'' and ''Rapture''. The Threshold-prog-metal-type sound is quite dominant and even in songs where the commercial approach might go a bit too far (''One Last Au Revoir''), Arena manage to pull the ideas and melodies to maintain consistence, with no stand-out weak tracks.

A good album that flows freely; certainly not essential, but the potential is there for a return to their excellent moments. 3.5 stars.

aapatsos | 3/5 |


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