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Seven Reizh - Samsara CD (album) cover

SAMSARA

Seven Reizh

 

Symphonic Prog

4.14 | 70 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Talk about progress! French band Seven Reizh's debut album was universally applauded by many prog aficionados throughout the planet and meritoriously remained in my personal elite list and probably will never leave. The ingredients were an intoxicating brew of Breton influence (French Celtic from Brittany) both instrumentally and lyrically with some heady doses of outright prog in terms of succinct guitar forays and great rhythm work. This was a true masterpiece that would be hard to emulate or repeat. So they didn't even go there and opted for a complete change of course in all aspects. Firstly, "Samsara" comes with a hefty book of assorted paintings and photography that hankers back to Greenslade's "The Pentateuch" and has a sticker price that will scare off the used CD hunter/collectors. Secondly, the Gaelic flavor is now twinned with a Kabyle slant (The Kabyles are the original inhabitants of North Africa, particularly Algeria, before the Arab invasion) that merges very well and also encompasses some of the realities of modern France. This decidedly "Eastern" influence alternates some male vocal contrast to the similarly detailed lilt of the female Breton language (a distant Gaelic dialect), maintaining the powerfully plaintive use of bagpipes and considerably toning down the once crunchy guitar solos. "Samsara" is therefore an infinitely more elusive progressive animal, veering into ethnic/world territory without the saccharine fluff. From the opening sway of violin, flute and piano with "I Have a Dream" samples in the background, a languid female vocal unites in spirit with choir mellotron and some ravishing synthesized trumpet. "Ay Adu" offers up the first glances of the Saharan influence with the male voice setting the tone in a cascade of half-notes, led by the magic violin and clashing gently with the serene blasts of the Celtic bagpipes, various percussive effects and an almost Andalusian acoustic guitar solo. Délicieux! The tumultuous "O Redek" retains some of the debut album's recipe with the powerful "cornemuse"(French bagpipe) weaving suavely with brash electric rhythm guitar, a tremendously invigorating epic arrangement with more plaintive female arias, fluid piano tinkling and tons of polyrhythmic folly. An explosive finale with a stop and go electric solo really cuts to the chase and convincingly stamps these nearly 10 minutes as an album highlight. "Qim Iydi" serves up a simply mind blowing lead vocal, part Kabyle, part French that sizzles fervently, a haunting melody led by sweet violin and piano. "Awalek" is another Kabyle lament, somewhat more atonal and tentative (hinting at a quasi Deep Forest experimentation), chock full of synthetic effects and reverbs. "An Touriou" starts off like Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine", before the feminine voice takes this elsewhere altogether, with a high spiraled chorus that hints at a very ambient Kate Bush. Interesting audacity! "La Longue Marche..." is probably the most blatantly gentle track here, with an angelic Breton lilt softly dueling with the male voice, a sensuous flute and whistles , clouds of effect organ, some French lyrics, an intense mélange that just relaxes the battered soul. From here to the end is where this album swivels away completely , yearning towards music akin to This Mortal Coil : "A Roak" prefers a darker contrast, an funereal impression that's heavy on the sorrow (plaintive, almost somber organ), not far from an almost Dead Can Dance feel, a seriously extended schizoid lead guitar adds even more angst to the proceedings. In the fine spirit of always keeping the listener off guard, "Vers la Maison" is a high-pitched infantile lullaby morphing into serene Celtic sonics, a strangely odd disparity with the flow, maintaining an eerie sense of peace. Next track is an outright yet brief spooky affair, once again chock full of dissonance, as if Eno recorded something in Damascus! Bees Are! The following piece maintains a momentary sense of unease, featuring a poetic mournful French voice before ushering in the majestic tour de force "Kouezhan" with its repetitive urgency and a extremely restrained Fripp/Pinhas style guitar meandering into strange uncharted territories, exploring odd meters and frenetic wailing. The titled epic introduces some fine fretless bass noodling, putting Percy Jones of Brand X fame to shame (well not quite but close), a scowling womanly vocal loaded with vibrato and passion, , a booming percussion display, a lovely piano-led main melody, most definitely the finest and most complex track on this rather ballsy record. "Samsara" will turn out to be a completely different kettle of fish from "Strinkadenn Ys" (though still their best in my book) , way more subtle and detailed, much more personal and requiring a deeper sense of musical acceptance. It's a challenging listen; you have to be in the mood, candles lit and incense aglow. But definitely prog ! 4 far bretons.
tszirmay | 4/5 |

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