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(63:15, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Prolog: A Man and the Book 4:19 2. The Empty Room / The Realization 6:04 3. The Crying Child 3:47 4. The Healing Wonder 5:55 5. The Dividing Water 8:20 6. The Last Supper 4:26 7. The Eternal Abstinence 8:06 8. The Deadly Crucifixion 6:46 9. The Green Door 9:52 10. Epilog: A Bird and the Book 5:40 LINEUP: Lars Kohler – vocals Marek Arnold – keyboards; saxophone Andreas Gemeinhardt – guitars Heiko Rehm – bass Ulf Reinhardt – drums Anne Trautmann – vocals With: Several additional guitarists and singers
Prolusion. SEVEN STEPS TO THE GREEN DOOR is a German act that was formed in 2006, with the sophomore production appearing two years later, both albums harvesting their fair share of plaudits one might add. "The ? Book" from 2011 is their third full-length production, and the first of their albums to be released by the German label Progressive Promotion Records.
Analysis. The cover art of an album can be a good selling point, and a reference to the contents within. A high quality drawing with scantily dressed women in a sci-fi or fantasy setting will attract the interest of one particular crowd, abstract cover art a rather different one. To name a few not too farfetched examples art rock fans will have encountered at some time. In the case of this CD, an old, worn book cover with a cross in the middle has been chosen. And, indeed, it is a symbolic reference for the contents within: the lyrical topic explored is of a religious nature, up to and including the use of The Lord's Prayer in one of the songs. But rather than covering topics revolving around worship, praise and similar topics of a missionary nature, as is customary by US artists in particular, this band has a typical European, protestant theme going. The loss of faith, or potential loss of faith, is the topic chosen for this concept album. As far as the music goes, this is a band that has a reputation for being eclectic and unpredictable, but in an accessible manner, a tradition followed up quite nicely on this production too. They have a foundation of sorts in the symphonic parts of the art rock universe, with keyboard textures and organ catering for the symphonic legacy quite nicely, sometimes in a flamboyant manner referencing back to the golden greats of this tradition, but more often in a dampened expression closer to the so called neo progressive movement. There's also room for gentler themes, sporting vocals and piano only however, funk and jazz-oriented sequences pop up now and then too, and at the other end of the scale surging guitar and organ passages closer to the likes of Deep Purple stand side by side with compact, energetic sequences bordering on progressive metal in expression, occasionally crossing that borderline too. The compositions tend to be on the adventurous side, at least to some extent, with fluctuating levels of intensity and unexpected developments being the rule rather than the exception, but always melodic, always accessible, even when utilizing darker-toned instrumental motifs exploring moods of a brooding and ominous nature. Intelligent use of fragile piano motifs is a central feature throughout, and an effective one I might add, and the vocals have a general high quality throughout as well.
Conclusion. While perhaps not as mesmerizing as their previous album to my ears, " The ? Book" is an intriguing conceptual production, covering multiple stylistic expressions and exploring a religious theme in a rather innovative manner. Adventurous but accessible is a description that defines this disc for me, and as far as recommendations go I'd hazard a guess that most people who enjoy acts like Magic Pie should find themselves intrigued by this album.
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