Melancholic depths - A review of Seventh Dimension's ''Recognition''
I'm not a fan of Seventh Dimension's fluffy progressive power metal debut Circle of Life but since a good friend of mine asked me to give the Swedish quintet a second chance, I decided to give the group's second release a spin. As it turns out, Recognition is completely different from Circle of Life and a massive step in the right direction for the band. My friend was right when he told me that this band deserved a second chance.
Gone are the airy vocals, floating keyboard passages and saccharine guitar melodies. The vocals sound much darker, lower and quite grounded overall but manage to remain melodic and hit some higher notes in a few select songs. The vocalist sounds much more skilled than before and has also found a more unique style. The keyboard passages have become sadder, more melancholic and slightly numbing which is a surprising change compared to the debut effort. While the keyboard is still a dominant instrument within the band sound, it's less dominant than two years earlier. The keyboard sounds aren't annoying and offensive this time around but add an epic, mysterious and progressive background atmosphere throughout the release. The guitar play has become much heavier and also more technical without sounding too straight and complicated. The guitar player offers everything from chugging riffs over technical passages to extended melodic guitar solos. The rhythm section has also improved. Especially the drum play is much more creative and diversified than before. Concerning the production, the drumming sounds a little bit too dry and tinny overall and doesn't do the improved efforts of the musician justice. The bass guitar play isn't audible enough in most songs. While the production is overall acceptable because the vocals, keyboards and guitars sound great and since it underlines the gloomy and dystopian mood of the album, it wastes some potential by burying the improved soundscapes of the surprising rhythm section.
Concerning the song material, the three least interesting tracks actually start the album which isn't a clever decision. The first three songs make me think of a light version of Dream Theater during the Black Clouds & Silver Linings era without coming close to the quality of said release. The opener for instance tries to be too diversified and ends up being all over the place and especially the different vocal techniques sound odd and incoherent to me. The album really starts to shine when ''The Raven'' appears. Seventh Dimension really takes its time to develop a gloomy, gothic and mysterious atmosphere with elegant vocal parts, haunting piano melodies, longing guitar sounds and occasional weather sound samples. This song changes the momentum of the record and is also its magnum opus. Another stand-out track is the melancholic and timeless ballad ''Paradolia'' that never sounds cheesy and convinces with genuine emotions carried by enchanting piano sounds and soulful vocals. This is the way a truly inspired progressive ballad must be done. A last highlight in my book is the surprisingly vivid instrumental track ''Metanoia'' that evokes mysterious futuristic soundscapes that should be used as soundtrack for science-fiction television series or video game. Usually, I'm not a fan of long instrumental songs but in this particular case, Seventh Dimension reaches the elevated standards of Ayreon, Dream Theater and Unbeing. The song might not sound completely unique but it blends in perfectly with the rest of the record.
In the end, Seventh Dimension's second release is a massive improvement over the average debut record. While the band's first release reminded me of Epiclore, its second output rather makes me think of Katatonia in terms of atmosphere. Fans of melancholic progressive metal can't get around this inspired release. Apart from the average opening trio, the album only includes creative, skilled and soulful pearls. Despite an extensive running time close to eighty minutes including three tracks cracking the ten-minute mark, the album has a natural flow and never decreases in intensity between the fourth and the final tune. Seventh Dimension is back on my radar and after two completely different releases in terms of quality and style, I'm curious to see what the future holds for the Swedish quintet.
Final rating: 85%« Hit and miss on all levels - A review of Nokturnal Mortum's ''22 Years Among the Sheep''The Happening (2008) - A movie that takes its audience seriously and offers a lot of food for thought - 8/10 (13/03/17) »
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