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





3.47 | 346 ratings

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3 stars Review Nš 393

"The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is the seventh studio album of Arena and was released in 2011. After having wait 6 years for their new studio album, we all had high expectations about it. After "Pepper Ghost", fans became very curious to hear the new studio material from the band, really. This is another album with some changes on band's members. It's their first studio album to feature the presence of their new vocalist Paul Manzi, who replaced their previous vocalist Rob Sowden. It has also the returning of their bassist John Jowitt, who replaced their previous bassist Ian Salmon.

So, the line up on the album is Paul Manzi (vocals), John Mitchell (backing vocals and guitars), Clive Nolan (backing vocals and keyboards), John Jowitt (bass) and Mick Pointer (drums).

"The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is a conceptual album with a very strange and macabre subject. The concept is about the journey from the last hour of our life to the first hour of our death. With 13 tracks in total and a playing time of over 56 minutes of length, this is an album with a very impressive artwork. The album comes in a 3 leafed digital book with a 28 pages counting pullout booklet, packed with the original artwork. The special edition, which is mine, offers a bonus DVD of about 50 minutes featuring the making of the album, in which the five band's members give their personal point of view to the viewers, about the process they went through when composing the music of the album.

As happens with most of conceptual albums "The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is an album made of interwoven tracks and recurring themes. So, as usual on the most cases of conceptual pieces where the music and the lyrics flow throughout the album for the most part of it as if it were only a single theme, I'm going only to do a global review of it.

As we all know, Arena presents itself as a band playing different music styles ranging from symphonic to hard rock with a touch of metal style. On this album, the hard rock parts have become more prominent as the usual expenses of the symphonic progressive ones. Songs are also simpler and shorter than is usual, guitars sound heavier and the new vocalist Paul Manzi sings with a vibrato which is clearly a typical characteristic of hard rock and metal front men. By the other hand, the mixing of the album was done by Karl Groom of Threshold, what has happened with their previous sixth studio album "Pepper's Ghost", which probably had some influence with the overall heavier sound of the album, like happens with the new sound of Galahad. That is particularly evident, for me, on the eleventh track "Burning Down".

The first two songs "The Great Escape" and "Rapture" shows an album that has a lot of power. "One Last Au Revoir" is a nice song with good melodic guitar work of John Mitchell. "The Ghost Walks" is a slow song where you can hear some Steve Hackett's influences. "Thief Of Souls" and "Close Your Eyes" are two typical Arena's rock songs with some melodic vocal accents. The short track "Echoes Of The Fall" is an up tempo rock song. A more interesting track is the following song "Bed Of Nails" in where you can find more melody and a beautiful vocal line. It's full of synth strings and melodic guitar parts. The song has more diversity. This is something I usually miss in the more rock oriented songs. After this strong song it's time for the ballad "What If?". John Mitchell uses a guitar sound that reminds me sometimes the sound of Gary Chandler from their compatriots Jadis. This ballad has some beautiful vocal melodies and a nice melodic guitar solo. "Trebuchet" with his broad synth carpets and "Burning Down" are perhaps the two more typical Arena's rock songs on the album. The lengthiest song on the album is entitled "Catching The Bullet". In my humble point of view, it's the great highlight on the album, mainly because of the greater diversity on it. There is more room for instrumental interludes and it's, therefore, more interesting for the lovers of progressive rock. The album closes worthly with the track "The Tinder Box". The tension on the music of this song swells slowly towards a climax. Very nice really.

Conclusion: "The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is, without any doubt, a good and solid album with some catchy tracks. However, it doesn't sounds to me as a typical Arena's album. The replacement of Sowden by Manzi appears to me very strange because Manzi sings as a vocalist of a metal band. So, the final sound of the album is completely different that we were used to. By the other hand, the lengthy usual epic tracks of Arena are gone and has been replaced for short and conventional tracks, only slightly progressive, losing the album the usual magic of their music. Most of the songs on the album are more rock oriented. So, it lacks to the album the diversity and creativity that became really exciting for me. Thus, from a band with such high reputation and one of my favourite neo-prog bands, I expected more than a load of good rock tunes with just a progressive twist. I was maybe with too high expectations. In my point of view, "The Seventh Degree Of Separation" isn't clearly as good as all their previous albums, but it's a good consistent progressive rock album. All in all, I think the fans of Arena became enough pleased with it. But, I really think that the adventurous prog fan after six years of waiting for a new work from them, certainly expected a little bit more.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 3/5 |


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