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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Enigma

Seven Lives Many Faces

Review by Gary Hill

It seems pretty likely that anyone reading Music Street Journal has heard Enigma at one time or another. You probably think of them as a new age type act. Well, I can’t speak about their previous albums because although I’ve heard the group plenty of times, this is the first full album of theirs I’ve owned. I’d have to say, though, that with the musical similarities to Alan Parsons Project, I’d put them firmly into progressive rock. And believe it or not, they really rock out at times. This is quite a cool album and has me ready to dig deeper into the Enigma catalog.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Encounters
A dark sounding spoken voice recites some lines. Then it fades into the background and disappears as waves of keyboard textures rise upward. The voice returns later and then a different voice whispers for a time. This takes us to the outro.
Seven Lives
The intro to this might just convince you that you’ve put on some epic metal album. It’s quite symphonic. As the intro continues, though, this becomes closer to techno or even hip hop. They work this out into a chorus that feels a bit like Alan Parsons project. It rocks out a lot more than most people would expect from Enigma. This is quite a cool piece of music that’s very dynamic while still maintaining the symphonic elements as a tie to carry through. They give us an instrumental segment mid-track that’s symphonic at first but then shifts more towards hip hop (as the earlier segment it’s without the rap). Then we move back out into the song proper from there.
Touchness
This is more like what we have come to expect from Enigma. It’s a more consistent piece of music that blends symphonic with new age, techno and prog rock. It might be somewhat trademark, but it’s also quite cool. This segues directly into the next track.
The Same Parents
Acoustic guitar motifs are the basis for the balladic structure here. It feels as if it carries on the musical themes of the last number, but with a different delivery method. Other layers of sound create a gentle prog rock meets symphonic texture. As this carries on we get both a spoken word recitation and a busy percussion track. More layers of voices and sounds are built upon this until it works out into the chorus, a more pure progressive rock motif. They move through a number of changes and alterations on the musical themes.

Fata Morgana
This flows straight out of the previous number. It rises up with a percussion meets ethereal music motif.  The vocals soar quietly over the top. They power this out into a hard rocking jam later that seems quite a bit like Pink Floyd to me. It’s quite crunchy. That doesn’t stay around, though, dropping away and leaving us back where we were when it started. It modulates down to extremely mellow territory and then segues into the next number.

Hell's Heaven
Can you think of a more paradoxical title? An instrumental, this comes out of the last piece. As it begins to rise up it feels a lot like Kraftwerk, but there are also hints of Pink Floyd in the mix. Rather than fully come to fruition this way, though, it drops back and the track is reinvented. A keyboard dominated jam that’s part fusion and part Kraftwerk takes over with a percussively based motif. They work through some variations and then (as they approach the three minute mark) the percussion drops away and we are left with a decidedly symphonic (and quite gentle) element. This moves us into the next piece.

La Puerta Del Cielo
An echoey world music vocal opens things up. As it carries on atmospheric elements serve as the backdrop. A little past the half minute mark percussion and more electronic elements (and other vocals) join and this becomes the top of song most associate with Enigma. It gets both quite pretty and quite powerful. This moves into the next track as it drops down.

Distorted Love
Starting with a distorted, echoey vocal line this eventually resolves out into a more rocking version of itself. This is another that showcases the sound that most would consider “classic Enigma,” but it also turns out into a more hard rocking tune as it moves forward.  There’s a killer retro organ solo later in the number. At points during the later moments of this I can swear it sounds like Duran Duran.

Je T'aime Till My Dying Day
A computerized voice repeatedly asks “do you love me, too” (stuttering at times) as other musical elements bring lush sounds. Percussion enters and the track grows from there. As the main vocal section rises this seems to me like a more progressive rock oriented Duran Duran, but I have to say it’s the vocals that make me think of DD. There are also things here that call to mind Alan Parsons Project. It’s a powerfully emotional track and my favorite piece on show here.

Déjà Vu
Another instrumental, this seems like the resolution of the previous track, from which it emerges. It’s more sedate, but still quite powerful and grows upwards into quite an intriguing piece of music. This eventually takes us straight into the next number.

Between Generations
The first thirty seconds or so of this are atmospheric. Then percussion enters and vocals (world music styled) join. The song is worked up from there in a manner one would think of when you hear the name “Enigma.”

The Language Of Sound
There is a weird loop on the early moments of this that sounds like an instrument, but I believe it is a voice that is processed. It’s sort of like throat singing merged with R & B. This element returns as the song grows into a mid-tempo prog rocker that is quintessential Enigma.  We get a killer R & B vocal line later in the track.

 
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