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(53:22; Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. A [omega] I 2:56 2. Salvation 3:18 3. A Price to Pray I 2:51 4. A Dream That Strayed I 4:35 5. A Price to Pray II 5:10 6. A Dream That Strayed II 3:00 7. A [omega] II 2:53 8. Heaven 1:30 9. The Word Made Flesh 7:05 10. Hear My Voice Tonight 9:57 11. Come to Your Father 10:07 LINEUP: Ulf Reinhardt - drums Marek Arnold - piano, organ, keyboards, saxophones, clarinet, seaboard, venova Lars Kohler - vocals Anne Trautmann - vocals Stephan Pankow - guitars Jana Poche - vocals with: Peter Jones - vocals Luke Machin - guitars Steve Unruh - violin Michael Schetter - bass Andreas Gemeinhardt - guitars, bass Denis Strassburg - bass Jason Melidonie - guitars Susan Kammler - oboe Gerd Albers - guitars Soren Flechsig - vocals Annemarie Schmid - vocals Amelie Hofmann - vocals
Prolusion. German band SEVEN STEPS TO THE GREEN DOOR was formed 15 years ago, and came to some prominence rather quickly due to a music competition and their debut album "The Puzzle" back in 2006. Since then a further four studio albums have appeared by the band. "The ? Lie" dates back to the spring of 2019, and was released by German label Progressive Promotion Records.
Analysis. Seven Steps... is a band that started out with something of an eclectic and unusual approach to the art of creating progressive rock, but have subsequently oriented themselves steadily closer to a more traditional manner in which to explore this type of music. With a few line-up alterations along the way possibly being at least a part of the reason for this development. As of 2019 they move back and forth with something of a gleeful joy between a number of subsets of the progressive rock genre, with art pop, neo progressive rock and hard prog as the main and dominant ones explored. In addition, they have decided to revisit the rock opera. "The ? Lie" is their second chapter in their ongoing saga about religious fanaticism. The story itself, while a vital one in many ways, is also perhaps a bit too black and white for comfort on some levels. Mainly due to one character in particular striking me as not quite convincing due to being too one-dimensional and lacking in certain characteristics that appears to be more common among religious fanatics than what is described here. Charm being the key word here, and hiding intentions behind a facade of joy and happiness a trait I find missing as well. Still, this is a story after all, and roles often needs to be set up in a certain manner for them to work in the concise setting of a rock opera. I do indulge a bit on the story aspect due to this being such a central aspect of this album. Many songs are just about entirely story driven, and a few suffer ever so slightly from dialogue not quite transformed into a proper song lyrics context. Which ultimately means that you need to invest yourself in the story to get the most out of this album, as the concept has such a dominant position. Or to put it that way: Greater parts of this album will be something of a challenge for those not interested in the lyrics and the story explored. The songs does have a greater function than merely being vehicles for the story of course, but the mood, atmosphere, arrangements and to some extent instrumentation corresponds rather close to the story and the characters at times. Some characters and certain parts of the story given distinct musical identities, and ones that can be interpreted along the lines of good and bad, good and evil, sane and insane. Hence the darker, dramatic sides tends to be explored in more of a hard prog manner, bordering progressive metal, while the more tragic aspects are explored by lighter toned and mournful musical landscapes. The pace and intensity also correlate with the story development to some extent, and the moments of high drama in the story are emphasized by the music. The compositions themselves are just about flawless. Not always engaging on the highest level, but there's never a dull moment here. Wandering elegant piano driven excursions are handled with the same ease as darker toned, twisted and harder creations sporting the classic organ and guitar riff combinations. Tight, melodic, light toned and spirited cuts are explored just as readily as mournful and more tragic escapades. The lyrics and the vocals that provide them will probably be the make or break aspect for many, and while the overall quality is good also among the vocalists this production isn't quite at the same level as, say, an Ayreon album.
Conclusion. Religious fanaticism is an important subject, and the fallout from that is something of a core theme on this rock opera. A certain interest in this topic will probably be needed to get the most out of this production, as the concept does dominate this album through and through, with only the final few compositions providing room for longer instrumental sections. But if this is something that tickles your fancy, and a band that mainly alternates between various aspects of neo-progressive rock and harder edged progressive rock sounds like a good thing, this is an album that merits a check. Die hard fans of concept albums are well advised to revisit this band's earlier album "The ? Book" first though, to explore the initial part of this concept cycle.
Progmessor: October 3rd 2019
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