ARENA – The Seventh Degree Of Separation (2011)
British neo progsters Arena are back with a new album after six years, “The Seventh Degree Of Separation”.
A quasi-supergroup, Arena was one of the dominant neo-prog groups of the ’90s, featuring former members of Marillion, Pendragon, IQ and Shadowland.
Sustaining many line-up changes through the years, the band now consists of founding members drummer Mick Pointer (ex Marillion) and keyboardist Clive Nolan (Pendragon), guitarist John Mitchell, original bass player John Jowitt (who returns to the band here) and new singer Paul Manzi.
Arena is one of those Neo-Prog groups that get better and better with each album, accomplishing what all bands in the genre would like to do, ever improving, never peaking.
They add to their music – clearly influenced by Marillion and I.Q. – a commercial and melodic approach into rather short songs, prog based but with many melodic rock touches.
However, “The Seventh Degree Of Separation” (a concept album which explores the last hour of life and the first hour beyond) it’s truly dark lyrically and much more atmospheric than their previous releases, with some powerful guitars into the mix. But the band’s trademark melodies are present all over.
It’s hard to identify the best tracks as such with the album flowing so well, but the Euro Melodic Rock tingled “Catching The Bullet” and almost catchy “One Last Au Revoir” do stand up as excellent individual pieces.
“The Seventh Degree Of Separation” is Arena’s seventh studio outing, and represents the band’s most fulfilling music yet.
Although this album is truly straight forward than any previous Arena, all the progressive elements we’ve come to expect from the band are here: rising crescendos, heart-wrenching melodies and wonderful key changes. Don’t be fooled by the cover artwork, the material on offer is extremely melodic, not heavy at all.
In the land of neo-prog is very very hard to find a tighter band than Arena. Everything sounds perfect, cleverly placed, with intriguing arrangements and twists.
The musicianship is outstanding, based on the incredibly solid rhythm section (the drum sound is just marvelous), where the orchestrated keyboards and the melodic guitars fly with inspiration. New singer Paul Manzi is a revelation with a wonderfully vast array of vocal harmonies.
The strong point of this album is that almost all tracks have the same quality of music, all superbly produced, recorded and mixed.
“The Seventh Degree Of Separation” is a highly recommended disc not only for progsters, melodic rock and Euro hard rock fans will equally enjoy these exquisitely crafted songs.
01 – The Great Escape
02 – Rapture
03 – One Last Au Revoir
04 – The Ghost Walks
05 – Thief of Souls
06 – Close your Eyes
07 – Echoes of the Fall
08 – Bed of Nails
09 – What If ?
10 – Trebuchet
11 – Burning Down
12 – Catching the Bullet
13 – The Tinder Box
Paul Manzi – vocals
John Mitchell – guitars
John Jowitt – bass
Clive Nolan – keyboards
Mick Pointer – drums
BUY IT !