Dutch Progressive Rock Page
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.
The Progressive Aspect Review
You don’t have to be “a creative” to be creative.
Divide is a fascinating musical journey which is powerfully melodic and enjoyably addictive. There is a direct and refreshing honesty at work throughout the album creating vivid musical landscapes which are captivating, exciting and intense. The progressive voyage on which we are taken is impressive in its diversity, fluctuating from gently subtle and reflective acoustic melodies (Care Less, Track 6), through moments of soft and carefully constructed multi-layered harmonies (Center of Nothing, Track 13) to driving heavy rock with plenty of bite, focus and attack (All My Life, Track 12).
Having roots in ’90s band Henry’s Child and with three of the members having played together for well over twenty years, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a close-knit dynamism at the heart of the band which is forged from years of touring and the joy of performing live on stage. With the addition of vocalist Brian Forster and a return to studio-based recording, the emergence of Seven Second Circle marks the evolution of a more refined style and distinctive sound which is fresh, lively and passionately energetic.
Indeed, one of the immediate and striking qualities of Divide is that it cleverly harnesses the natural power and exuberance of the band and channels it through revolving combinations of instruments and vocals, each blend capturing and emphasising an aspect of the instrument which gives each track its distinctive tone and feel. Recorded and produced at the band’s own studio and lasting just over eighty minutes, the soundscape has been perfectly captured thanks to the wonderful mix by keyboardist and guitarist Jarrett Holly (a graduate of the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences). The recording is wonderfully crisp and crystal clear, each instrument being allowed to find its own voice and occupy its own space. From the outset, the band make it easy to create music in which you can easily become absorbed and carried away.
Yet repeated listens slowly open your eyes to the fact that in and through the music we are being confronted with something which is both challenging as well as alluring: there is a richness and a depth here which is only gradually discovered once you begin to notice, understand, unpack and then actively listen for the snippets, fragments and threads of a story which appears to be woven into the very fabric of the music itself.
The story is not obvious and its telling needs to be carefully discerned through the captivating prisms of styles, techniques, rhythms, tempos, instruments and sounds which playfully obscure as much as they reveal. But story and song are certainly there, intertwined and mutually embedded, the mood of the one affecting the style of the other, the combination of the two inviting you to take up the challenge and engage with the narrative being played out. Great Depression (Track 4) and the twisting Nothing Less than Nothing (Track 10) beautifully illustrate the fluctuating balances and shifting relationships in the weaving of the tale.
Careful attention should be paid not only to the track titles but also the order in which they are arranged. They are signposts, markers, hints to the journey which slowly and teasingly suggests itself as you are carried along on the musical tide. Forster’s voice is the perfect foil for the musical sceneries within which he performs. Rich Clinton brings a rich and varied palette of guitar textures, delicate and light one moment, forceful and demanding the next. This is mirrored by the deft precision and vigorous timings of Doug Cramer on drums, supplemented and enhanced by the undulating, restless bass of Tommy Teesandori and the soothing, playful keyboards of Jarrett Holly.
Divide is a thoroughly enjoyable work of art, the subtle working out of a concept which is gently embedded in all elements and aspects of the recording, the musicianship and the narrative. By the time you reach the charming and delightful cello, acoustic guitar and vocals of final track The End (Track 15), you find yourself lured in, happily entangled and carried along on a journey which is curiously contemplative, at times emotional, and from start to finish poignant and quite demanding. It really is worth spending some time with this album and gently wrestling with what is going on: you will be repaid with repeated revelations, fresh insights and music which is both fascinating and temptingly moreish.
This Review originally appeared here.
The New Prog Sound
I have listened to it quite a number of times and it’s definitely the New Prog sound and deserves its right in the annals of the Halls of Prog Rock.
From the deep, poignant and psychological facets in the lyrics. The accentuating drums, solid, driving yet speaking out in spots where you want a strike in the song. Bass that careens throughout each song but carries a melancholy of sweet refrain that glides you through the journey.
Guitar that glistens, strikes, attacks, sings and pulls back at all the right stops and checkpoints.
Vocals that tell; a story, croon, command, demand, soulful but not saturated by processes of technological innovations (Thank you!). Not every song had to contain every element of what “Prog” entails and details which was a joy to hear that the recipe for Prog was interpreted as it was seen fit by the band.
Careful consideration was taken in arranging each song as to carry the listener throughout the album and not a slap together mess of long songs that make no sense.
Tight chord progressions, fills and blending of instruments and voice bring forth an attack of your auditory canals to your brain to absorb it entirely as if you were locked in a door without a room. It makes you think.
A multitude of influences can be heard from a wide range of bands spanning several decades including but not limited to; King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Tool, David Rhodes, Porcupine Tree, Pineapple Thief, Riverside, Rush, et al.
The album Divide contains all the components you want in a Prog album and more and Seven Second Circle has all the facets of a Prog band that will definitely deliver time and time again throughout their tenures and tours of duty as Prog ambassadors to a new generation of Prog fans and the Old Guard that holds fast to their copies of Darkside of the Moon and Larks Tongues in Aspic dearly that they will put those down to listen to Seven Second Circle and remember that this is the new sound that is Progressive Rock.
Well done Seven Second Circle, Well Done Indeed!
–Duke from Scarborough, Canada-
Baby Blaue Prog Review
Seven Second Circle sind ein Quintett aus Oregon. Wohl schon seit einigen Jahren aktiv, legen sie jetzt mit „Divide“ ihr Debütalbum vor. Groß geworden sind die Musiker in der Post-Grunge-Szene in Seattle und Oregon der 90er Jahre. Und in dieser Tradition sehen sie auch ihre Art des Progressive Rock.
Und zu Beginn von „Divide“ möchte man das gerne glauben. Immer durchbrechen heftige Gitarreneinschübe das Klangbild, die wird heftig gerockt, getrieben von einem kraftvollen Bass und einem donnernden Schlagzeug. Seven Second Circle wechseln geschickt zwischen drückenden, aggressiven Passagen und eingestreuten ruhigen Momenten. Diese Spiel zwischen hart und zart macht die Spannung der Musik aus. Schon gleich der Opener ist ein Songmonster der besonderen Art. Da konnte man noch auf einen Kracher a la King of Kings oder Naked Sun hoffen.
Leider flacht das Album dann aber der Mitte deutlich ab. Seven Second Circle agieren nicht mehr so direkt auf den Punkt. Die Musik wird ein bisschen beliebig und auch wenn dazwischen immer wieder rockige Passagen auftauchen, beginnt das Album so ein bisschen dahin zu plätschern. Auch klappt das Wechselspiel zwischen Härte und Ruhe (es herrscht auch ein bisschen zuviel 'Ruhe') nicht mehr so organisch. Die Songs wirken teils etwas unfertig. Das Musik packt nicht mehr so zu und folgerichtig geht der Hörer irgendwie verloren.
Vielleicht ist das Album auch einfach etwas zu lang geraten und Seven Second Circle sind ein bisschen die guten Ideen ausgegangen. So bis „Softly“ gerät der Post-Grunge-Progressive-Hardrock der Amerikaner ziemlich überzeugend und packend. Danach ist dann leider deutlich die Luft raus und es gelingen nur noch gelegentlich ein paar Aufhorcher (der Atmo-Rock'n'Roller "Ladder" ist zum Beispiel so einer). So ist „Divide“ ein eher solides Debüt, welches über die ganze Länge dann nicht ganz überzeugen kann. Aber die Band scheint Potential für mehr anzudeuten, feine Musiker sind das allemal. Mal im Auge behalten, was da noch so kommt.