(All Album Reviews by Windhawk)
(originally written for www.progressor.net)
SEVENTH OCEAN (or 7 Oceans: both versions of the name have been used) is a band from Belarus, a former Soviet republic. The group was formed in 1989, released four albums and then disbanded in 1994 after the death of one of its founding members. They reformed in 2004, and The Mysterious Race of Strange Entities is their first album with this new line-up, released on the Russian MALS label in 2008.
When listening to the compositions on this CD, I ask myself "How much do local cultural traditions influence the art of creating music?" The reason for that is the way the style explored on this CD is so familiar and at the same time slightly unfamiliar. Most fans of progressive rock will probably find the general sound on this release to have a distinctly 70's tinge to it; the sound of the instruments used, to some degree the instruments used as well as production and mix all make me think of music from that era. The style explored here, symphonic progressive rock, is also one that had its time in the limelight back then. And the symphonic elements in these compositions, mainly organ and keyboards, are used very much in a manner from this golden age as well, carefully crafted into the background of the soundscape, fleshing out the musical tapestry. Unless there's a need for an organ or a keyboard solo, that is; in these instances the instrument in question takes a central place in that particular segment of the tune. Unlike many western acts from now as well as then, the guitar plays a minor role on this recording. The instrument is used extensively throughout, but more often than not the guitar sound is subdued in the mix, underscoring and adding details to the songs rather than dominating and dictating their development. Seventh Ocean seems to be most fond of using the acoustic guitar, for the most part avoiding the harsher, growling sounds of the traditional fuzz guitar. Replacing the guitar as the leading instrument are piano, organ and some other analog keyboards, which are given dominant roles in addition to providing symphonic elements to the compositions. Bass and drums are used effectively throughout, at times played in a distinctly jazz-influenced manner. The final element to the musical tapestries woven is synthesizers, now and then adding space-influenced sounds to one or more segments of a tune. The end result is a mellow and often lush musical terrain, where the main emphasis is on melodies. Not mood and atmosphere as such, as these follow naturally in this case, not on melodic themes as such either, and certainly not on passages made to show off technical excellence. Long, carefully crafted melodies are what we're provided with here, with dreamlike and at times space-influenced moods carefully explored in long symphonic passages. The segments containing vocals add verve and tension to the melodies, with a slight theatrical approach to the art of singing, adding nuances the instruments don't provide. For me the tunes tend a little to be nice and dreamlike, though. Most of them are interesting, well crafted and performed, but none of them have the qualities to really captivate me. Good songs all, most of them very good, but never to the point of brilliancy throughout an entire tune. It is a strong release though, and as long as Russian vocals aren't a problem this is a release that will please many listeners.
Overall, this is a solid release, which should hit home with fans of mellow and melodic symphonic rock. Their record label suggests that fans of Van Der Graaf Generator in particular may find this album worthwhile checking out, and as the people working for that label to my knowledge know their stuff pretty well, I'll forward that suggestion.
My rating: 76/100