The German band Seven Steps To The Green Door made a deep impression on me with their previous record Welcome In 2 My World. This album combined different kinds of musical elements like metal guitar play, dark grunts, soft and angelic female vocals, a jazzy saxophone and rap. This seems to be a rather weird combination, but believe me it really worked; just a great album. The new album The?Book has a slightly different approach, because now the band recorded a concept album. However, they threw all the aforementioned musical elements in one big melting pot which resulted in ... right, another highlight!
The core of the band consists of vocalists Lars Köhler and Anne Trautmann, guitarist Andreas Gemeinhardt, keyboard and saxophone player Marek Arnold and the rhythm section featuring drummer Ulf Reinhardt and bassist Heiko Rehm. On their previous album, all those different musical elements were spread over the individual songs. It's more difficult if you want to embed them in a concept. So, the diversity between the songs on The?Book is less, but on the other hand the songs are more coherent which make them easier to listen to. The album combines the dark visions of Franz Kafka with the musical versatility of Frank Zappa, even when the musical scope ranges from progressive rock to melodic metal including pop and jazz. The central theme of the album is about the antagonism of faith and reality. A man deeply involved in his religious beliefs finds himself standing in front of various doors. He trusts the symbolism of the doors he walks through, but only to find out that he was wrong...
Musically everything sounds wonderful; the combination of the voices really works in the soft and accessible progressive rock with AOR influences in The Empty Room / The Realization, but also in the powerhouse The Crying Child (1st Nail). In the latter song grunts and 'normal' voices have to compete with the angelic voice of Anne Trautmann. The voice of Lars Köhler just has the edge to make the album sound German: a brilliant vocalist who's able to perform the whole musical range that passes here. The Eternal Abstinence (5th Nail) is nice and smooth, a sample of great vocals combined with a cool jazzy saxophone. But by all means the music still remains very accessible to the listener despite the fact that it's quite diverse.
The?Book by Seven Steps To The Green Door is an album that needs several spins in your CD-player in order to see through the complexity of the songs and enjoy them. The guitar work is just fantastic, the vocals are superb and the contribution of mastermind Marek Arnold - whom I didn't undeserved mention before - on the keyboards is really stunning. If you listen carefully you can hear his subtle sounds and complex playing all over the album. The keys have not been put in front of the mix, but they're always noticeable; Arnold is a brilliant and yet a discreet player. I enjoyed this album even more than the previous one and I'm afraid to become a true fan of the albums that have been released by the Progressive Promotion Records label.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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