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(67:23, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Song of Darkness 11:47 2. Song of Light 8:48 3. The Seventh Ocean 6:24 4. Song of the First Lake 3:08 5. Song of the Rain 6:42 6. Second Song of Darkness 3:38 7. Diapause 6:39 8. Sometime 3:34 9. Song of the Second Lake 11:01 10. Philosophy of Nests 5:42 LINEUP: Alexander Eletsky keyboards; vocals Oleg Grinevich guitars, bass; vocals Alexander Sophiex drums Sergey Starosotsky vocals Alexander Chugaev guitars Vladimir Stoljarov bass
Prolusion. The Belarussian band 7 OCEAN started out back in 1989, and in the next few years they recorded four albums worth of material until the band went into hiatus following the death of drummer Igor Mihasev. In 2004 the band was revived again however, and since then they have recorded another four full length albums, of which two are available as digital downloads from the bands website only, and two have been officially released. "Diapause" is the most recent of these, initially made available as a free digital download in 2013 and then subsequently released in physical format by the Russian label MALS Records.
Analysis. 7 Ocean belongs to the category of bands that have a passion for the part of the progressive rock universe most commonly described as symphonic progressive rock. As main member and sole composer Alexander Eletsky has keyboards as his chosen instrument that does come naturally I guess, and those fond of keyboards will most certainly enjoy this latest production by this band. If I understand this production correctly, this is another entry into the catalog of theme albums as well, although the story told presumably will have a limited reach due to the Russian lyrics. As far as symphonic progressive rock goes, 7 Ocean's take on it is one that best can be described as accessible. The band are fond of the classic guitar and organ foundation to build their songs upon, with plenty of sequences featuring acoustic or light toned and undistorted guitar motifs supplemented with organ backing as well as the more forceful darker toned guitar riff paired off with a contrasting organ, and as far as the latter goes 7 Ocean tends to use a gritty but firm and compact guitar sound residing somewhere between rock and hard rock in intensity and expression, without any metal oriented details to it whatsoever. As such one might describe the core sound of this band as a 70's oriented one. While this foundation is a core feature, there's also plenty room for passages of a more delicate nature, most commonly with a wandering piano motif that may be combined with vocals, guitars, organ, keyboards, as a standalone feature or combined with two or more such features. The piano will frequently supplement the core organ and guitar foundation too. Much the same can be said for the use of additional keyboards, and besides a liberal use of a smooth, dampened keyboard texture as a backdrop we're also treated to occasional ambient-tinged parts as well as the expected keyboard solo sequences that are given on any production described as symphonic progressive rock. Besides these details it's worth noting that there's a select few movements that sport a more jazz and jazz-rock oriented expression, which isn't all that unexpected by a band of this kind. The element that will make or break most people's possible enjoyment of this production are the vocals however. As the language of choice is Russian this will limit the target audience of this CD somewhat, and while I personally find that lead vocalist Starosotsky's almost talk-like delivery suits the music explored fairly well, he isn't a classic vocalist as such, another detail that may have a negative impact as far as commercial potential is concerned. Personally I found "Diapause" to be a charming example of accessible and melodic symphonic progressive rock however, and apart from a couple of the shorter songs towards the end coming across as slightly clumsy to my ears, with instrument and structural details giving those songs too much of a constant start and stop feeling that had a detrimental effect on the perceived flow and momentum of these compositions, this is a fine and good quality album in my book.
Conclusion. Accessible, melodic progressive rock with plenty of keyboard textures and a distinct emphasis on melodies and harmonies is what 7 Ocean provides on their latest album "Diapause". The conceptual story explored is one that a Russian speaking audience will have to make up their minds about, but if that detail doesn't concern you overly much and you tend to enjoy classic symphonic progressive rock that has at least half a foot well placed inside a 70's context, this is a CD that should be worthwhile to spend some time with.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: August 2, 2014
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