Hailing from Oregon in the Pacific Northwest, Seven Second Circle are a five-piece prog-rock band. They weld classic rock and neo-prog structures in a double album of guitar based song-craft. Powerful and melodic, the songs on their debut full-length release, Divide, move from the heavy, almost prog-metal, to the delicately acoustic. The songs are nuanced and full of interest. The arrangements drag the listener in, and it more than repays repeat listens. With each listen, new details appear and your appreciation of the overall structure of the album grows.
The album opens with the wake-up thud and heaviness of Fracture: A song that shows how focussed and precise this album will turn out to be. What strikes you, initially, is singer Ben Foster’s vocals and how soulful and commanding they are. He more than copes with the wide emotional range of these 17 tracks.
After the attention grabbing opener, Seven Second Circle move into all kinds of territories, mixing very hummable melodies with subtle acoustic playing, attacking heavy riffs, keyboard washes and layered harmonies. This displays the band’s wealth of experience. Some of its members have played together for 20 years or so, in the band Henry’s Child. Divide has a richness and depth that reveals itself over time. You realise that one song acts as a stepping stone to the next and as a whole it is a modern prog song-cycle.
There are many, many highlights here. Rich Clinton’s slide guitar on Bitter. The driving bass on Softly courtesy of Tommy Tessandori. The longer and wonderful Nothing Less Than Nothing has Doug Cramer’s lovely rolling drum pattern, whilst there is the church organ keys of Jarret Holly on the hymn-like Surface. But Divide is really an ensemble work, which mixes up tempos, rhythms and instrumentation ensuring that it never outstays its long running time.
All kinds of influences are discernible in Seven Second Circle’s music but none of it is imitation in any way. So you get hints of Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree, the acoustic elegance of Pineapple Thief, the muscular melodicism of Riverside, Rush and the melancholy of Pink Floyd. There is much here to get deliciously lost in; detail after detail comes to the fore through Jarret Holly’s superb mix.
There is an innate modesty to Divide. There are few solos and no show boating by these talented musicians. This is somewhat reflected in the cover art. The bold but simple graphic is as intriguing as the music it contains. The prog here is in the arrangements and the emotional precision expressed by the music. Take the time to appreciate this album and discover your favourite new band. Seven Second Circle’s Divide was a privilege to review.
Martin Burns: 9 out of 10
This Review originally appeared here: http://www.dprp.net/reviews/2016-008.php#sevensecondcircle