ARTIST:

ARENA

(UNITED KINGDOM)
TITLE:

THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION

(2011)
LABEL:

VERGLAS

GENRE:

PROGRESSIVE ROCK

TAGS:
Concept-album, Easy-Listening
"This record is catchy, effective, mastered but not complex enough in its compositions to win the support of progressive music fans."
ABADDON (06.12.2011)  
3/5
(0) opinions from our readers (1) comment(s)

Six years!  It's a very long delay between two albums, especially concerning one of the leading bands in the progressive world. After 10 years of uninterrupted production and six studio albums, Arena took a break and each of its members took the opportunity to carry out various side-projects. Announced since mid-2011, awaited as a Christmas gift by all fans, the "Tinder Box" project is finally released under the title "The Seventh Degree Of Separation".

With John Jowitt's return on bass, the band is close to the line-up that delivered the unforgettable "Visitor". And like its illustrious predecessor, "7th" is a concept album.  The title of the album refers to a theory from the 1930s that states that all Earthlings know each other through no more than five people (6 degrees of separation). The 7th degree is the representation of death. Where "The Visitor" described the states and memories before death, "The 7th Degree..." focuses on what happens one hour before to one hour after this "passage". The vocal parts are performed by Paul Manzi, formerly a singer with Oliver Wakeman, Rob Sowden not having wished to continue the Arena adventure for various musical differences.

The booklet that accompanies the album is splendid, as is often the case with Arena, and must be considered as part of the concept. A little like "Contagion", the tracks are short (only one is more than five minutes long), but the band has already proven that they can stay in a progressive yet concise spirit (see the incredible "Running From Damascus" which summarizes "The Visitor" in 3'44 !). The lyrics are just like the booklet , dark and magnificent, full of skilfully posed existential questions, and very closely adapted to the music: an excellent writing work by Clive Nolan.

As any observant reader may have noticed, the rating given to this album is relatively low. And yet, "7th Degree Of Separation" is a war machine: the band has put all its know-how into dreadful compositions of efficiency, with unstoppable choruses like "One Last Au Revoir", magnificent melodic themes ('The Ghost Walks'), and very neat arrangements, whether on keyboards - which Clive Nolan uses with a sovereign mastery - or on the guitar: listen to the work of John Mitchell, a hard-rocker on 'Echoes Of The Fall'. On the microphone, Paul Manzi delivers more power than Rob Sowden, and his way fits well with these short tracks, even if purists will reproach him for his more pop style; his presence is a plus on tracks started smoothly, like 'What If','The Tinder Box' or the powerful 'Burning Down', a dynamic and immediately catchy song.

But then, what's the problem? Quite simply because the album almost puts aside the progressive aspect of Arena's music. At no time are there any reminders of themes that made the unity of a "Visitor". Instrumental developments are absent on the vast majority of the tracks, generally very simple in structure - the traditional verse-refrains alternation - and which end where Arena used to give us the best of itself. No doubt this album will attract new listeners who like sophisticated AOR or melodic hard-rock, but it will disappoint a good part of its basic audience, especially after such a long absence. Fans will still be able to console themselves with 'Thief Of Souls' and its intertwined themes, proof that it is possible to make prog in less than four minutes, or with the slow and very well conducted acceleration of 'Tinder Box', and especially with the great 'Catching The Bullet', resolutely progressive, containing an incredible guitar solo, technical and melodic which shows that John Mitchell is at the top of his art, omnipresent on the album, and more essential than ever in the band.

Mixed feelings therefore after listening to this album. Catchy, effective, mastered but not complex enough in its compositions to win the support of progressive music fans, "The 7th Degree Of Separation" misses its target. The future will tell us if the band's orientation will remain in this direction or will use these excellent melodic dispositions to take us into more in-depth musical worlds.


More informations on http://www.arenaband.co.uk/





TRACK LISTING:
01. The Great Escape - 04:38
02. Rapture - 04:23
03. One Last Au Revoir - 04:34
04. The Ghost Walks - 03:19
05. Thief Of Souls - 03:52
06. Close Your Eyes - 03:26
07. Echoes Of The Fall - 02:27
08. Bed Of Nails - 04:39
09. What If ? - 04:36
10. Trebuchet - 03:40
11. Burning Down - 04:29
12. Catching The Bullet - 07:43
13. The Tinder Box - 04:17

LINEUP:
Clive Nolan: Chant / Claviers
John Jowitt: Basse
John Mitchell: Chant / Guitares
Mick Pointer: Batterie
Paul Manzi: Chant
   
(0) OPINION(S) FROM OUR READERS    
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(1) COMMENT(S)    
 
 
TONYB
16/12/2020
  1
Finalement, il n'y a que les imbéciles qui ne changent pas d'avis : sans renier ma chronique (secondaire) de l'époque, je dois avouer que de réécouter cet album quelques années plus tard vient de me donner l'occasion de l'apprécier bien plus qu'initialement, même si je n'accroche toujours pas à la voix de Paul Manzi.
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