Angel Air 2016
Magnificent numbers align for English ensemble’s seventh studio album to take them to newer pastures but not to Elysian fields.
“Too many options: we cannot follow one,” goes “The Gathering,” this record’s centerpiece, and that could be RJ’s motto, as they’ve been moving out of prog mold since 2014’s "The Great And Secret Show" with its Clive Barker-inspired gloom. “777” doesn’t come full of light either, yet there’s a lot of hope in it, and the “changing perspective won’t change the past” line of “Dragonfly” is defying the future instead of accepting the beaten path.
The glossy anxiety of “7” introducing a new set of rules, now erstwhile long instrumental passages have left ample room for David Clifford’s vocals that launch the heavy raga of “Blessed With Gold” on a deliciously high note, although sometimes words seem to twist the tunes into slightly repetitive patterns. As a result, the melody which unites “The Gathering” with “Forth Of Fife” could have outstayed its welcome and drowned the “Firth of Forth / Firth Of Fifth” reference if not for the songs’ additional turns and distinctly different arrangements. So where others would indulge in countless time signatures, RJ wrap the verses of “She Waits” in waltz and harden its choruses to rock riffs, while giving the despondency of “Nothing To Believe” an anthemic bounce.
Still, where Lloyd George’s cosmic synthesizers make “Reaching Out” a typical art-rock ballad, “Paradise Folly” gets down to an acoustic, spiritual foundation of it all, something that’s stressed on a bonus cover of THE RASMUS’ “October And April” as DC and his daughter Soheila (whose solo album is long overdue) deliver a dramatic duet. There might always be seven reasons not to see it clear, but with “777” RJ clear this view in spectacular fashion.