Author Topic: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"  (Read 7448 times)

Offline PH

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Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« on: Mon, 2011-12-05, 22:49:30 »
Hello all Arena fans!

Finally! It is time to review Arena's new and latest album: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"! *horns*

This review is the last part of the Arena albums review series. If you want to know what this means I forward you to the "Songs From The Lions Cage" reviews thread where it is all explained!

24 October - 30 October: "Songs From The Lions Cage"
31 October - 6 November "Pride"
7 November - 13 November "The Visitor"
14 November - 20 November "Immortal?"
21 November - 27 November "Contagion"
28 November - 4 December "Pepper's Ghost"
5 December - 11 December "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"




"The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"

From today (5 December) till Sunday (11 December) we will review Arena's already much praised latest album! Let's show our love for this band!


Offline PH

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 2011-12-05, 22:50:35 »
I'm sorry... This post was a bit belated. I will explain later. ;)

Offline PH

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 2011-12-13, 20:27:42 »
The Seventh Degree Of Seperation

Is Arena still here? Are they hidden from our sight? Did Arena suddenly expire? Did they walk into the light...?

These were some of the questions that arose when Arena didn't release a new album for six years. Was this the end? Luckily Arena found some time and had one more trick up their sleeve. There is still so much to say. Which leaves one question:

Can anybody hear them?

Can Arena's new album live up to the high expectations and put Arena (back) on the map? Rob and Ian don't participate anymore. A new line-up is formed: Clive, Mick, Paul, John and John. That sounds like the Visitor line-up! We all know and love John Jowitt, but the singer is a new Paul: Paul Manzi. How does this affect Arena? He makes a big difference. How and whether it's a good or bad thing, I'll explain as I go through the individual songs.

The Great Escape
The first song on the album starts with Paul Manzi. It's almost like the band wanted to say: "We have a new singer!". It immediately becomes clear that this singer is in a different league. As much as I love Paul and Rob, this Paul is clearly a much more trained singer and it sounds more professional. I hasten to add that Paul W and Rob's vocal deliveries were always top notch and helped to create an atmosphere for each and every album they did. Lyrically, this song seems to be about a person who knows he is going to die. He remembers stories and secrets from his past and wants to share them, but knows that he has little time left. Musically, the first song is really good! It is full of subtle keyboard work (for example the organ(?) sound at 1:18, or more clearly at 1:39) and nice guitar work. Yes, the first song is certainly a winner!

Rapture
Rapture sounds like a Threshold song to me, especially in the chorus. That's not bad per se, but I just noticed. In good Arena tradition, the song has a calm bit in the middle. I like the "hysterical screeeeaaaaam"! ;) When I listen to the lyrics of this song, I think this is about defiance against dying. But underneath that, I sense a fear of not knowing what is coming. At the end of the song, the person accepts his fate. One thing that leaves me disappointed on this song (or actually most songs on the album) is the lack of guitar solos. John Mitchell is such a crafted guitarist and his solos are the best. There are some guitar parts that sound like it could have been extended to a great solo, but it is always buried beneath Pauls vocals. Anyway, this song is also really good!

One Last Au Revoir
In this song we discover more about the life of the protagonist. It seems that he's suffering from OCD ("Tapping the table fourteen times. Setting the cutlery down in line. Don't leave the house til the gas is checked, and checked and checked and checked and checked."). He wants to be in control, but now he has to let go, so he can die peacefully. This song is the first uplifting song on the album. To me it doesn't sound much like Arena. It's as catchy as it can get and I can almost see the audience waving their lighters. But what I find very positive in this song is the guitar solo and the synth back-up with a rhythm that strongly reminds me of "Cinema Show" by Genesis. I'm sure Clive & Co. did it deliberately since it's so obvious. Not a problem at all, it sounds delicious! So not a dark proggy song, but still very very nice.

The Ghost Walks
The Ghost Walks on the other hand sounds very dark. Manzi's performance can be compared to the "Take a leap of faith" part in Chosen, or the verses in Ghost In The Firewall. I am not really fond of this prayer-like chanting. The instrumental second section is better and sounds more like Arena. With the choirs and epic guitars. I am not sure about this song... I guess the second half of the song can't redeem the song as a whole.

Thief Of Souls
The fifth song starts with a piano and reminds me a bit of Tantalus from the "Pepper's Ghost" album. Arena sure knows how to build up a tension. It took me a few times before I knew how to estimate its value. Now that I wrote it down, I must admit that the comparison with Tantalus holds very well, since it also has a build-up and shifts gear in the song. The chorus is ok, but sounds a bit misplaced somehow. Also, the chorus (and the way Paul delivers it) sounds like it could have been on a Threshold song again.

Close Your Eyes
With Close Your Eyes Arena has another of those songs of which the chorus sticks in your head. The percussion and guitar loop gives the song a 'jungle feel' (for lack of a better description). Again, the guitar parts are nice, but it's always so subtle... I miss a phenomenal guitar solo. I expected one somewhere between 1:40 and 1:55 (right after the silence would have been the best), but it never came...

Echoes Of The Fall
The intro of this song promises excitement! And indeed, this is an uptempo song. Very powerful. Great instrumentation, although I must say most of it is because of John Mitchell's guitar work. Paul Manzi's voice is everywhere. This song is the shortest in the list (only 2:26 minutes), but still has seven verses in the booklet. Arena could have made an awesome instrumental out of this with a guitar solo here and a synth solo there, but instead they opted for as much vocals as possible. I can't say it's bad, but I can't help but think it could have been so much more...

Bed Of Nails
At last a guitar solo, albeit a short one (there were even longer ones on the Kino album). At 3:15 there's a break from the chorus and we hear only Mitchell's guitar, playing a tension building riff. You wonder "what is coming?", but then the chorus re-enters. The last minute or so, there actually is something of a guitar solo, but it is once again buried deep in the mix, and Paul's vocals are at the front, just repeating lines which have already been sung in all the choruses. Yes, the song is catchy and it drags you into singing along. The melodies are nice, but I miss something... I think courage, emotion.

What If?
A very beautiful song! A wonderful chorus! At 3:11 there's a guitar solo, but it just follows the vocal melody and lasts only ten seconds. Disappointing! It really is a decent song, but this could also be... I don't know... Asia or Ten, just to name a melodic AOR band with Prog leanings.

Trebuchet
Well, this starts out really good. And it's a good track, but nothing sticks out in particular. Nothing memorable.

Burning Down
The first track I heard, since it featured on DPRP radio. This is what I said about it almost two months ago:
"It's a very powerful song, not really proggy by Arena standards, but still really nice. I think I heard JM's voice too. And Clive did a nice keyboard solo with a cool sound, that sounded very much like Arena." I also said this: "I am very much looking forward to the other songs as well. And secretly I hope it sounds a bit more proggier than Burning Down." Well... I'm sorry to say that most of the album is not much proggier than this song. Again, it's not bad, but my anticipation was so high.

Catching The Bullet
This is a big step forward. The vocal melodies are really something special this time. It is daring. It sounds very epic and feels like a second Opera Fanatica in so many ways. At 3:22 it sounds so magical. From 4:22 and onwards it is Arena back in instrumental business. And I love that so much! It feels like Solomon and Moviedrome. It sounds big! And finally, at 6:05, there it is: John Mitchell is back with truly an Arena worthy guitar solo! Better late than never, I guess.

The Tinder Box
From the start you just know this is the final song. Its recapitulatory character comes through very well. As the song moves more towards the end, the tempo becomes faster. But to be honest, it just repeats and repeats. And there is no real end... It just suddenly stops and Paul says: "The end". I'm sorry but was there really no other way?

Conclusion
I realise I'm being pretty negative, but I ensure you that I didn't mean to write a negative review. I just listened and wrote down what came to me.

When I look at the credits, I see that Nolan is responsible for most of the writing. Pointer participated in the writing process of seven of the eleven songs. John Mitchell and John Jowitt both only co-wrote three songs... To me, it sounds as if the band had finished most of the album, but were still waiting for John Mitchell to bring in his guitar solos. He never came to it and they decided to release the album anyway.

I also miss Clive's keyboard. It is present on the album, but so subtle... Actually, the only thing that jumps out are Paul's vocals. Paul Manzi is a great singer. But in my opinion he is really too prominently in the mix. After a few songs I get a bit tired of Paul's singing. He's excellent, but there's no need to show off his vocal capabilities ad nauseam.

There's not really a recurring musical theme, which is why it's hard for me to recognise this as a concept album.

The production is superb. Probably the best production Arena has ever had. Every sound is crystal clear.

Arena has made a drastic change in the line up, and seems to have chosen to play safe. Perhaps this was actually the right move. They mentioned a new album next year, let's hope for something better!

I'm sure this album is a grower, but a very very slow grower. It's already better than most things released in 2011, but I admit to have expected a bit more from Arena.

Offline PH

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 2011-12-13, 20:41:37 »
Hmmm... perhaps I should note the highlight songs for me:

The Great Escape
Rapture
One Last Au Revoir
Thief Of Souls
What If?
Catching The Bullet

;)

Offline Bupie

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 2011-12-14, 10:53:39 »
Great review, PH. I like your honesty.

I am in the middle of my first listen so it's far too soon to give an opinion. I really liked Close Your Eyes though. And I also noticed the lack of soli, the prominent vocal lines and some sing-along choruses. More to come.

Offline PH

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 2011-12-14, 17:01:51 »
Great review, PH. I like your honesty.

Thanks. Yes, I really wanted to like this album, and I do like it (I play it almost everyday now), but I just feel that it could have been soooooo much better.

I am in the middle of my first listen so it's far too soon to give an opinion. I really liked Close Your Eyes though. And I also noticed the lack of soli, the prominent vocal lines and some sing-along choruses. More to come.

I look forward to your review! ;)

Offline erik

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 2011-12-15, 10:57:40 »
Quote
...and seems to have chosen to play safe.

Thanks for the extensive review Paco! Just a short comment for now: while the merits of the more song based approach are open to debate, I don't think it's fair to say Arena have chosen to play safe. Playing it safe would have been releasing Peppers Ghost Part II, or Leftovers From The Lions Cage. Arena decidedly opted for a fresh new approach (which works for me btw) and I think they should be applauded for reinventing themselves, instead of giving us tired old solutions and predictable suggestions ;)
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Offline Draco chimera

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 2011-12-15, 11:10:48 »
Don't have time to review. Thanks PH! I have a more positive view on the album I guess, I'll write about it when I get some time (soon I hope!)
Let your conscience decide !

Offline Nicky007

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 2011-12-15, 12:18:48 »
I don't think it's fair to say Arena have chosen to play safe.

I agree with Erik. Just the way they treat death, the circumstances around it, and the time just after, is a bomb in progworld, brings theosophy completely upfront in prog - much more than Scenes From A Memory. Kudos to Clive for being so daring. Often when I listen to Arena, I wonder whether Clive is more of a philosopher than musician, that he primarily uses music to confront people with reality ... and maybe that's why so few people take up Arena, in spite of their wonderful melodies, great atmospheres and solos  ???

OK, the music is at first listen recognisable as vintage Arena ... but careful listening will reveal many details that dramatise the lyrics  8)

My impression is that the guys have put a lotta effort into making this album, and the result is another Arena masterpiece  *horns*

I'l return later with more track-specific comments - but maybe I'l start with reviewing Lion's Cage - let's see .....  ;)

Nicky.
« Last Edit: Thu, 2011-12-15, 12:20:37 by Nicky007 »
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Offline johninblack

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 2011-12-15, 13:12:19 »
Paco, I really hope your opinion of this album changes and you get to enjoy it in the way I do, however I totally respect the opinion you have posted. If that's how you hear it it doesn't matter what any of us say you can only respond to what you hear. Reading your review it seems most of the aspects that cause you to question how things were done are the very things that I love about this album. To my mind to have a guitarist of JM's talents and then to be so subtle as to how his parts are used shows incredible bravery and quite frankly for me borders on genius. It's obvious that when you have one of the best guitarists in your band you write songs with room for massive solo spots so to be as subtle as they have on this album is to me an absolute revelation.
I don't see this album as a safe option at all, for the reason stated above (that you could also apply to Clive's keyboard skills) I feel it's a very brave direction the band has taken. Bring on the next album!!
I still think it's Arena's best album and one of the best albums ever made :) Still having trouble playing much other than this.......

Offline Crazy Diamond

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 2011-12-15, 13:38:41 »
Paco, ........I totally respect the opinion you have posted. If that's how you hear it it doesn't matter what any of us say you can only respond to what you hear.

I don't see this album as a safe option at all, for the reason stated above (that you could also apply to Clive's keyboard skills) I feel it's a very brave direction the band has taken. Bring on the next album!!
I still think it's Arena's best album and one of the best albums ever made :) Still having trouble playing much other than this.......

Totally agree,

I also like the prominence of Paul's vocal, not only is he a great singer but I think this album has the most superb lyrics - so it makes sense (to me) to express them strongly.

Offline PH

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 2011-12-15, 16:26:09 »
Thanks for the extensive review Paco! Just a short comment for now: while the merits of the more song based approach are open to debate, I don't think it's fair to say Arena have chosen to play safe. Playing it safe would have been releasing Peppers Ghost Part II, or Leftovers From The Lions Cage. Arena decidedly opted for a fresh new approach (which works for me btw) and I think they should be applauded for reinventing themselves, instead of giving us tired old solutions and predictable suggestions ;)

I agree with your last sentence. ;) By playing it safe, I meant that it feels like Arena on the one hand wants to please their fans and on a broader scale the progressive rock fanbase and on the other hand wants to build a bridge to the AOR fans. I don't mind catchy choruses, Arena did the catchy chorus better on this album than any album. But the cutting on the solos and instrumental passages, that's my main problem.

Don't have time to review. Thanks PH! I have a more positive view on the album I guess, I'll write about it when I get some time (soon I hope!)

Yes... I didn't want to be harsh. I DO like the album! But thought it could have been better. I've listened a lot to this album already and plan to listen to it even more. I am just not overly enthousiastic about it. Perhaps it just needs more time to sink in. Actually I hope so! For some reason, I keep coming back to this album. So it still has *something* and it certainly is among the top albums of 2011. Just not at the top of Arena's abums. For me.

I agree with Erik. Just the way they treat death, the circumstances around it, and the time just after, is a bomb in progworld, brings theosophy completely upfront in prog - much more than Scenes From A Memory. Kudos to Clive for being so daring. Often when I listen to Arena, I wonder whether Clive is more of a philosopher than musician, that he primarily uses music to confront people with reality ... and maybe that's why so few people take up Arena, in spite of their wonderful melodies, great atmospheres and solos  ???

OK, the music is at first listen recognisable as vintage Arena ... but careful listening will reveal many details that dramatise the lyrics  8)

My impression is that the guys have put a lotta effort into making this album, and the result is another Arena masterpiece  *horns*

I'l return later with more track-specific comments - but maybe I'l start with reviewing Lion's Cage - let's see .....  ;)

Nicky.

I like lyrics, and the lyrics on this album are good. :) But I mainly listen to the music for the music. There might be a great atmosphere in the lyrics, but in the music not much so this time. And Arena sure knows how to do it! I listened to "Immortal?" today and it has a lot of atmosphere! This album has it occasionally, but not as much on their other albums. And Nicky, which solos are you talking about? ;)

Paco, I really hope your opinion of this album changes and you get to enjoy it in the way I do, however I totally respect the opinion you have posted. If that's how you hear it it doesn't matter what any of us say you can only respond to what you hear. Reading your review it seems most of the aspects that cause you to question how things were done are the very things that I love about this album. To my mind to have a guitarist of JM's talents and then to be so subtle as to how his parts are used shows incredible bravery and quite frankly for me borders on genius. It's obvious that when you have one of the best guitarists in your band you write songs with room for massive solo spots so to be as subtle as they have on this album is to me an absolute revelation.
I don't see this album as a safe option at all, for the reason stated above (that you could also apply to Clive's keyboard skills) I feel it's a very brave direction the band has taken. Bring on the next album!!
I still think it's Arena's best album and one of the best albums ever made :) Still having trouble playing much other than this.......

On all Arena's albums John Mitchell shines in his solos. Clive too. This time, they are more like a backing band for Paul Manzi to shine. I really like his voice, but sometimes this is too much. Especially when guitars and keyboards have to pay the price...

Totally agree,

I also like the prominence of Paul's vocal, not only is he a great singer but I think this album has the most superb lyrics - so it makes sense (to me) to express them strongly.

Yes. I think this is the breakpoint. Some like this change, some don't. I don't like the prominence of Paul's voice. I like his voice! I LOVE his voice, but I also love Clive's keys and JM's guitars...

Offline dacook

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #12 on: Fri, 2011-12-16, 09:27:06 »
Perhaps the band were bored of putting in a solo into a song for the sake of having a solo? Some songs sort of demand a solo, and others they don't. A good musician will write for the song, not for himself, if that sort of makes sense! A band that has to widdle for the sake of widdling (Dream Theatre, anybody?) is going through the same old cliched motions and not approaching song writing with a fresh mind. 12 bar blues is so boring if you hear more than one song of the genre strung together because it is so formulaic: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo verse, chorus, solo ..... and all in the same 12 bar progression (yawn).  :o

So, you can perhaps tell that whilst I love a cracking solo as much as the next person, I don't feel they are essential if the song doesn't need it.

So does the new album suffer for having less solos? As ever, opinions are individual and subjective, and I'd ask the rhetorical question: "does the album sound cohesive as it has been written?" My answer to that question after playing it quite a lot since receiving it is in my opinion "yes". In the Pepper's Ghost review thread my criticism of that album, which seemed a bit controversial, was that it was very formulaic and, dare I say it, "Arena By Numbers". The new album is anything but that, and in my opinion all the better for it. 

Each to his own of course! :)
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Offline The Butterfly Man

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 2011-12-16, 11:49:01 »
A band that has to widdle for the sake of widdling (Dream Theatre, anybody?) is going through the same old cliched motions and not approaching song writing with a fresh mind.

Come on..... I mean, really? ::)

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Offline Nicky007

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 2011-12-16, 15:52:06 »
A band that has to widdle for the sake of widdling (Dream Theatre, anybody?) is going through the same old cliched motions and not approaching song writing with a fresh mind.

Mr. Cook, you just stepped into a wasp's nest  :o

We're quite a number of Dream Theater fans in the Room, at least two Roomies having DT as their absolute nb 1 group - and you got an immediate reaction from one of'm  ;)

And if you want to be redeemed, you can start spelling Dream Theater correctly :D

Yeah, I hear those sorta statements about DT and other prog groups quite often from the uninitiated (most of whom by no means want to be initiated into such stuff). In fact, one could use the "widdling" thingy about Arena too. Nothing like a straightforward Robbie Williams song, without superfluous garnishing, soloing and stuff  :P

It's like accusing Shakespeare for being widdling. He could'v instead used a more straightforward Rambo-like talk. Instead he challenges us with some pretty recondite dialogue  ;)

The thing is that DT, just like Arena, require some work on the part of the listener. In fact, that's what prog is about  8)

DT are regarded by many, and imo rightfully, as the flagship of prog. There may be several other groups that are just as excellent, but DT have managed to combine melody, lyrics, rhythm, atmosphere, soloing, and cutting edge in a way that appeals to relatively many proggies, and thus their albums are seen as indications of where prog is at the given time, and other prog musicians listen attentively to the DT-albums and gain inspiration from'm  :)

Now, to be constructive, I can recommend Falling Into Infinity as a good starter for DT, as melody and lyrics really shine here, and soloing is restrained ("thanx to" demands from their record company, which they left immediately after)  ;)

Btw, Dacook, don't fret too much about this criticism from me; you have enuff good taste to escape unscathed from your faux pas - and I wouldn't have made such an effort if I had considered it in vain  :)


And Nicky, which solos are you talking about?  ;)

Well, I'm still rather new to Seventh Degree, but I sure do remember that towards the end, there's a scintillating, intricate, quite lengthy solo by John Mitchell  *horns*

But else, I'm not missing the soloing on this album, as there's enuff goin on in the music and lyrics to keep my attention riveted  8)

Nicky.
« Last Edit: Sat, 2011-12-17, 13:28:52 by Nicky007 »
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Offline dacook

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 2011-12-16, 20:48:10 »
Opinions are subjective, which is why discussions are not boring! :)

But I am probably beyond redemption in this respect, and we'll have to agree to differ, and I'll make no more comment on them apart from the following. :)

I expected Dream Theater  to be a band I had to live with for a while to form an opinion, so it's not an opinion formed after five minutes of listening, but no joy I'm afraid.

I've tried very hard to like Dream Theater and just can't get them. I have "Images and Words", "Scenes from a Memory" and "Black Clouds and Silver Linings". They are awesome musicians without a doubt, but apart from the odd track on each album that I like, the music on the whole just leaves me cold. The funny thing is I like the musicians in their extra curricular activities, like Transatlantic, Ayreon's "The Human Equation", and (some of) the Liquid Tension Experiment. I know of course that Portney is no longer with them, but I'll cite him in my top five drummer list, but more for his work in Transatlantic and with Neil Morse.

Each to his own of course. :)

To get back on topic, the Seventh Degree of Separation doesn't suffer by not having too many prominent solos. :)
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Offline Nicky007

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #16 on: Sat, 2011-12-17, 13:14:51 »
Yeah, Dacook, tastes do differ, and you'r by no means alone in the Room with your experience of DT  :)

For my part, I was introduced to DT by Ms 007 and her sons. The sons on their part had been turned on by classmates. One of the sons had gone so far in his cult as to buy a Petrucci guitar.

As I had been outta the prog loop for many years - one of the last prog albums I'd been into before my hiatus was Dark Side, then it was religion, New Age, and theosophy for some twenty years - I was stunned by the intensity and complexity of DT music. I then had a period of some months in which I was gripped by their music, but probably mainly their intensity, as DT then left me cold, and a couple of years passed, until my joy was reenlivened by Roomies. Since then they'v been one of my fave groups  8)

Well, enuff of offtopic DT for my part now  :-X

I played Seventh Degree for Ms 007 today. One of the good things about Arena in my life is that Ms likes them too, and as we both are theosophist, we get inspired to discuss the Arena lyrics  8)

I could imagine that you guys also can share Arena more or less with your Ms  :)

Ms 007 was surprised to see such a vivid representation of theosophy in rock, and she liked the music and lyrics, but had an aversion to some of the pictures, particularly the one where the woman is pierced by some strange chainlike thingy. I remember Bupie also mentioning some aversion to the graphics. For my part, I'v now seen so much of the like in metalworld that it doesnt disturb me any longer. However, I have wondered why Arena chose such grim graphics  ???

Re the singing, one of the things that have struck me is that while Paul is an excellent singer, Rob was a more "dangerous" singer, and his voice would have fit much of the stark lyrics. But this is a minor issue; I'm very satisfied with Paul's singing  8)

Still, I think the guys could'v said something in the Room about why Rob and Ian no longer are in Arena  ;)

Nicky.
« Last Edit: Mon, 2011-12-19, 12:19:10 by Nicky007 »
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Offline Teunis

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #17 on: Sat, 2011-12-17, 19:47:14 »
My two cents about 'The Seventh Degree Of Seperation'. Well, I really love the album and can't stop listening to it. First music of the album I heard more than a year ago at the gig in Zoetermeer. I remember I was overwhelmed by hearing 'Burning Down'. It still is one of my favourite tracks on the album together with 'The Great Escape', 'Rapture', 'Catching The Bullet' and 'The Tinder Box'. The latter one could have been a Shadowland song in my opinion, reminds me a lot of their music. Like PH, I would have loved to hear more solos from John Mitchell and Clive Nolan, but Paul Manzi really shines on this album. It's a different approach and it works fine for me  *horns*. Catchy choruses in 'One Last Au Revoir' (also a 8) JM solo!!) and 'Close Your Eyes' keep stuck in my head every time. I can't find a weak song, 'TSDOS' is not my favourite Arena album, but I'm sure it will enter my top-3!
'I will surrender my heart to the sky
Oh, our love doesn't end here, it lives forever on the wings of time'
-------------------------------------------------------
Toto - Wings of time (Kingdom of Desire)

Offline Draco chimera

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #18 on: Wed, 2011-12-21, 15:19:06 »
Soooo, I finally have time to review the album!
I bought it at the gig,and I was kinda surprised by the Parental Advisory sticker - not shocked, this is not my first disc with such a sticker  ;D
So, let's get started!

The Seventh Degree of Separation...

... begins with The Great Escape. The a capella intro introduces our new singer, and then comes some heavy guitar with a very nice bass riff. The bass strings are abolutely awesome in my opinion. Then comes the first verse: the guitar is really nice, I loved it very much, the vocals part are addictive and Paul's voice fit just perfectly. Also, John (Jowitt  ;D) integrates very well with a rythm bass that is powerful but is not too present.  I really liked the lyrics: This is not a coma, I am resting my eyes... When Paul sings I could fly, so high and free, the song changes, and it just gets better and better. The drums set a great rythm, Clive plays along with John (Mitchell)'s guitar, everything fits. We get some nice choir during the instrumental bridge, and the energy takes over for the final chorus, and the lyrics connect the beginning with the end of the song. What a great way to start an album!! One of Arena's best in my opinion.

Then comes Rapture. A very good song, dark and powerful. We get an (almost-)solo before the final chorus! This song really pleased me when I listened to it for the first time.

On Last Au Revoir sounds more optimistic than the previous songs. It is very catchy, both in the verses and the chorus. It seems like everything has to be in place for the departure: Don't leave the house 'til the gas is checked, and checked and checked and checked, and checked! It's also time to look back, and maybe set free from all these "details". Here comes a nice solo - how could we ask for more? A very good song/anthem.

With The Ghost Walks, we get some rather experimental music. Paul's voice is low, like a whisper, Clive's synth sound apocalyptic, with some kind of bell that evokes doom... The second part of the song is powerful and uses the exact same scheme as the first one. I really enjoyed it. So far, the album has proved perfect: in my opinion, there is a big change with...

... Thief of Souls, which begins with a nice piano intro.  At first I didn't really like the Sometimes life is not fair, as I found it too simplistic, but I got used to it and it now feels better. The pre-chorus sounds really great, but thechorus, to me, is a bit... I don't know, too much maybe. It doesn't fit with what came before in the album, and I don't find it catchy enough. It's okay, but it feels a bit out of place.

Then comes Close Your Eyes. We start to understand that we may not get as much instrumental music as we expected: it's no problem to me as long as the music is good. This song certainly fits this criterion. The chorus is addictive and anthemic, and the verses are also well-written. A good song!  *horns*

Echoes of the Fall makes us dive back into the dark atmosphere of the two first songs, though it is much more opressing this time. The lyrics are great. The only reproach I could make is that it's too short! Though I understand it would be out of place to make it longer. Tricky.

I really had a trouble when listening to Bed of Nails for the first time, and it is still the case with the intro. I don't really like the sound of the synth, nor the chords. But the verse comes in, and everything feels much better suddenly. The chorus is also very good, and here, the synth sound doesn't bother me as it is not overdominant. After a few listentings, I enjoyed it more. Though I still can't get the intro.

I first heard What If? at the gig. The song is very efficient, catchy, with some nice guitar and singing. It's very good, but not adventurous enough to me. I still like it a lot though.

Then here comes Trebuchet, with a dark and heavy intro... which I find ok, but really not essential. To me it sounds more like a drum ryth with random chords played over it. Maybe I'm not metal enough? The rest of the song is really good, especially the bridge and the final chorus, wich sound like Arena (I mean, their previous works).  *horns*

Burning Down has a great guitar riff, a dark atmosphere and a nice keyboard solo, with a great sound. I agree to say it is not very prog, but it is very catchy. Not fantastic or innovative, but very good.

I must have some problem with big, heavy intro, as I am quite not enthusiastic about the beginning of Cathcing the Bullet. Once again, the intro does not tell everything: the rest is really awesome! Great chorus, very melodic verses... and finally, some instrumental part!! Very proggy. We even have a guitar solo! To me, this really evokes this "journey" from life to death, maybe more than songs do. All this is very good, but we wonder why we had to wait the whole album to get this!

And the journey ends with The Tinder Box. The piano sound, heavy and dark, makes you understand that this is it. Very melancholic, I like it a lot. We were used to lighter finales, that brought a glimmer of hope, like Ascencion, or The Visitor. Here, we can feel bitterness: I was a child, then - I never understood. The bridge, with just synth and vocals, is really powerful and makes you feel like suddenly, everything that was under you has collapsed, and you are free-falling. The final part keeps accelerating, like we were running out of time. Is it quite anthemic; We're part of this Arena, we are part of this band! Yay! *horns* Until suddenly...
The End.


So, what's my general opinion?
It is obvious that he band has spent lots of time working on the album to create something new. The result is not the best album of their discography, but a very fine one. Some things sound a bit unnatural, or kinda forced, but very good moments make us able to forgive these imprefections. John (the bassist of course!) and Paul fit very well, both in the album and the band. The latter's voice is great, and we're glad to hear him, but maybe we would have ejoyed more instrumental stuff?
Very good work Arena, keep working on these points and we'll get some masterpiece !  *horns*

Hoping all this made sense ;)
« Last Edit: Wed, 2011-12-21, 17:31:37 by Draco chimera »
Let your conscience decide !

Offline PH

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #19 on: Wed, 2011-12-21, 17:26:08 »
Soooo, I finally have time to review the album!
I bought it at the gig,and I was kinda surprised by the Parental Advisory sticker - not shocked, this is not my first disc with such a sticker  ;D
So, let's get started!

[... nice lenghty review ...]

So, what's my general opinion?
It is obvious that he band has spent lots of time working on the album to create something new. The result is not the best album of their discography, but a very fine one. Some things sound a bit unnatural, or kinda forced, but very good moments make us able to forgive these imprefections. John (the bassist of course!) and Paul fit very well, both in the album and the band. The latter's voice is great, and we're glad to hear him, but maybe we would have ejoyed more instrumental stuff?
Very good work Arena, keep working on these points and we'll get some masterpiece !  *horns*

Hoping all this made sense ;)

It makes perfect sense!
Great review Draco. I agree on a lot you've said. When I look back at my own review, I must admit that I sound perhaps a bit too pessimistic. I like the album. And I have played the album a lot already. And there's not a song that sounds wrong. It is really good, but not their best. (And they promised their best did they not? ;) ;D )

Offline kmorse

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #20 on: Wed, 2012-01-11, 16:51:01 »
Gosh! I just discovered that the new album is out. Apparently it's only available stateside as an import, so I think I will wait until some U.S. company picks it up. Besides, I just shot my wad on the entire Riverside discography. I'll be reading these reviews with great interest as I'm delighted to know that there are some new Arena tunes out there.
I'm falling.....Falling down again!

Offline Nicky007

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #21 on: Wed, 2012-01-11, 17:16:13 »
Keith, good to hear from ya  :)

How about coming more often to the Room ?

There's been a lotta Riverside discussion in the Room, as we are several fans here. Check it up  ;)

Re Sparks, you must know'm too, huh ?

You can see that we're still as crazy as ever here in the Room  :o

Nicky.
So you've come of age
And so you want to meet God
Sure you can
He's right here next to me

Offline PH

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #22 on: Wed, 2012-01-11, 22:11:29 »
Nicky, where are your reviews?

Offline Nicky007

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #23 on: Thu, 2012-01-12, 17:21:14 »
Nicky, where are your reviews?

Comin', comin', Paxi, I'm strugglin with the lyrics of Lions Cage - super album, much much more than "a fine debut" - you know me, I don't bullshit  :o  well, maybe I do now and then, but in this case I wanna be serious - and thorough  :-[

Nicky.
So you've come of age
And so you want to meet God
Sure you can
He's right here next to me

Offline aswas

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Re: Review series: "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"
« Reply #24 on: Fri, 2012-02-03, 17:06:10 »
John was a great addition to the band. In many ways he kinda is many of the highlights of the instrumental  segment. His many bass tricks, gimmicks, and outright awesome playing keep this CD together.  Paul has a great powerful voice, almost too powerful at times. He is way in front of the instrumentation in several places, and sometimes distraction occurs away from the music. Some tracks Paul and the music are perfectly entwined, don't get me wrong. I wish there had been a few more, at least brief solo's from John and Clive. True the music gets stronger, the last third of the CD, and you can hear Clive more. But many tracks you can barely hear him. He has always liked to blend in to the mix, and I know he uses different techniques and sounds on this CD, but many are too soft. It must be by design, but i don't know why. I guess they just wanted to produce a different kind of CD this time that is mostly singing oriented, because there are very few times where there is even a few moments of music without singing. I like it, just not used to this chapter of Arena yet. Very powerful concept, just a little more music needed, with a few more drum and chord pattern changes like we are used to. Thanks
don't fly... too close to the sun