When I start a review of an album that has the name of Marek Arnold on it I'm confident, because this name makes sure that I get the attention of many progressive rock fans. This excellent musician participates in a number of great bands and projects in the genre like Toxic Smile, Cyril, Flaming Row and United Progressive Fraternity (UPF), all bands that have recorded albums with high ratings on our website. Seven Steps To The Green Door have been initiated by Marek Arnold together with drummer Ulf Reinhardt. Fetish is already their fourth album. Their previous one The?Book (2011, see review) still gets spins in my CD-player on a regular base and got justly great reviews.
Since The?Book some names have changed in the line-up. Guitarist Andreas Gemeinhardt has been replaced by Martin Schnella (Flaming Row), a musician whom I highly respect for his guitar playing and who also plays bass on Fetish. The other alteration is the reduction from three vocalists to only Lars Köhler and Anne Trautmann. Live on stage the band is supported by keyboardist Alex Schultz and bass player Heiko Rehm, who played bass on their previous album as well. The loss of a singer is compensated by the addition of several guest singers like Arno Menses (Subsignal), Melanie Mau, Sören Flechsig and Lars Begerow. Some other guest musicians are Daniel Marsh (UPF, Maschine, The Tangent) with a bass solo, Steve Unruh (Resistor, UPF), who plays the violin solo on the final track, and percussionist Justo Suarez.
The album only contains long prog rock tracks with the typical style of this German band. The only exception is opener Possible Delayed, a short a cappella intro with perfect sounding harmonies that immediately raises the bar for the following songs. PORN! is a strong keyboard orientated composition that highlights the voices of Anne Trautmann and Melanie Mau. During the middle section you'll hear the sound of catchy guitars and a fine saxophone part thus completing a solid and relaxed composition. When the album continues with Still Searching it's clear to me that they're going back in time to a band that can be seen as an inspiration for this album, namely Gentle Giant. This great band also highly influenced a band like Haken and successively Haken have also left their mark on Fetish. But anyway, Still Searching combines the best of the old and new sounds. An amazing part is the one wherein the piano flows into a popular sounding vocal section, backed up with heavy guitar sounds, gently shifting towards a brilliant guitar solo.
Distorted voices and djent riffs can be heard during the intro of Inferior. As the song continues, the atmosphere gets mellow and you're treated to a composition filled with percussion and fine keyboard and piano sounds. Imprisoned contains strong Hammond organ-like sounds, theatrical vocal lines and numerous changes of pace and moods. Towards the end the guitar adds some fusion to the band's overall sound. Bound In Chains is a radio-friendly composition. It's the most accessible song and, compared to the other ones, straight-forward, focussing on strong songwriting instead of technical aspects.
Last Lullaby brings back the voices of several singers, including Marek Arnold's daughter. This song contains smooth keyboard parts and flute as basic instruments. As a contrast, Martin Schnella's djent-like guitar riffs make this perfect song sound a bit heavier. This also applies to Set In Motion. Heavy guitars are the icing on the cake for this piece containing keyboards, piano and incredible vocal lines. The fine bass playing even adds a jazzy touch to this song. The final composition Ordinary Maniac is the 'pièce de résistance', the absolute highlight of the album. All elements that were ever presented on an album by Seven Steps To The Green Door fall into place on this brilliant prog rock piece: intense vocals, numerous smooth keyboard parts, danceable percussive passages, and the increasing power that finally leads to the ultimate guitar solo!
Seven Steps To The Green Door succeeded again in surprising me with an amazing album, using all impressive elements of progressive music. A highlight is the last part of the album which forced me to push the repeat button again and again.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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