Sieges Even - The Art Of Navigating By The Stars
InsideOut Music
Progressive Rock
9 songs (73:32)
Release year: 2005
Sieges Even, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Ian
Album of the year
For all the dozens of albums that I’m listening every month, trying to keep up with everything that’s going on into our world, for the endless hours spent listening to average or unoriginal or just plain bad music, there comes an album that makes all of it worthwhile. That blows you away and mesmerizes and fascinates you to the point that you start actually looking for other people’s reviews of the same album just to check your own sanity…I’ve spent some weeks thinking whether I should review The Art Of Navigating By The Stars but finally the impulse was too strong to resist it. This album has spoken to me in so many ways, has swept me off balance so completely that I had no other chance but flow with it, let it take me into an amazing journey.

I’ve listened for the first time to Sieges Even in the early 90’s, almost fifteen years back. I still recall their first albums, Life Cycle (1988), and Steps (1990) as being an incredible display of technical abilities and complex arrangements (hence the comparison to another ultra-technical band – Watchtower); while I admired the musicians’ skills, I couldn’t help but wonder at the lack of warmth and emotion, the music was like a razor sharp blade of a scalpel but it had nothing of the beauty of a Japanese ritual katana blade. Shortly after I listened to the 1991 release A Sense Of Change and then I lost them from my radar. A decade later I received the latest album from a band I thought it was long time disbanded. I thought I should give it a spin, for old times’ sake. Boy, I really had it coming!

I’m a fairly regular guy, as far as feelings go; meaning, whenever I feel the need of an adrenaline rush, I play In Flames, Children Of Bodom or other energetic band, when I feel blue, there’s always Lake Of Tears music, and so on. The point is that until I listened to The Art… I was playing music related to my feelings, but with this one, it’s the music that spins you and gets you into a terrific mood. Soothing, opened and uplifting, with the strongest undercurrent of energy the music has an unbelievable gripping quality.

I have a real problem labeling the album as a progressive rock album; despite its complexity and arrangements, I consider the rock progressif as lacking in the punch/power department, as opposed to its brother, the progressive metal genre that has the perfect blend off harmony and power; thus, the only progressive rock band that I have come to love is the great Arena. Second, the music has such an intrinsic power, underneath the multiple layers of sound, that is really hard to place it outside the metal genre.

Brothers Oliver (bass) and Alex Holzwarth (drums), together with founding member Markus Steffan (guitars) and newest addition to the group Arno Menses (vocals) have managed to create an outstanding piece of artful music, infusing the compositions with the perfect amount of feeling and complexity. The main difference between the old Sieges Even and the new one, is the fact that the band has stopped trying to add as many notes as possible in a second, this time concentrating most on adding their feeling and emotions to the highly complex compositions. The ability to create such a highly complex music without symphonic elements or instruments, without keyboard or double guitar attack shows the strongest musicianship that these four share. With so much space in the sound range, each instrument is allowed to create and join the overall complexity of the music. Each of them (instruments) is clearly heard and sounds perfect together in unbelievable harmonies. All three musicians are superbly talented, each of them a master on his own right. The rhythm section creates the most complex music phrases I’ve listened to in a long time, while the guitar playing of Markus Steffan is simply brilliant. Not once on the whole duration of the album I could feel an empty space or a filler phrase. Arno Menses is hands down the best vocal that Sieges Even has ever had. Presenting a clear and open voice, in the vein of James LaBrie (without the highest notes) and supported by the baking vocals of the other band members, he manages to create a fourth instrument as the fourth corner of a perfect square. Such a powerful voice, singing effortlessly and catching every trace of emotion and feeling is a great asset to the band’s sound. The incredible vocal harmonies and choruses are similar with the ones used by the powerful Shadow Gallery, masters at this type of music. Composed as a concept album, with an intro and eight sequences that are connected through the main musical phrases, it reminds me of the beautiful Fates Warning opus from 1997 A Pleasant Shade Of Gray. The album main quality (aside from the incredible music, of course) is its ability to flow, the perfectly natural transition between slow dreamy parts and more up-tempo guitar driven parts. Then, the mellow and smooth songs manage to convey a sense of well being and of inner peace doubled by the intricate lyrics. Genius catchy hooks are thrown in at every rhythm change and on each phrase. Each song is a natural progression of the previous, flowing from it and directing the music to the next one. It’s an incredible journey, from the 10-minute powerful opener The Weight, through the incredible uplifting The Lonely Views Of The Condor, passing through the huge Unbreakable, with its incredible array of emotions and guitar solo. Best example is the balladesque (yet so much more that that) Blue Wide Open that practically transports you into the middle of a quiet and wide ocean using only vocal harmonies (best vocal performance of the album) and two acoustic guitars yet managing to create such a spherical sound, rich and meaningful. The album progresses with each song, like climbing towards the top of a pyramid, with each step a new (musical) landscape being presented to you, wider and more beautiful than the previous one. To The Ones Who Have Failed (the sixth sequence of the album) is the most metallic song of the album, with strong resemblance of early Fates Warning instrumental parts. Lighthouse (seventh) is a quiet crystal clear sung tune building up to a stellar guitar (with acoustic leads)/vocal harmonies duet creating an incredible atmosphere and Styx, the last sequence of the album is just the apex of the incredible journey that the listener was taken through.

It’s very difficult for me to put in words the whole specter of emotions that I experience every time I listen to this album. Regardless of the various genres that each of us enjoy, this album should be owned by every person that has the slightest connection to the metal world. It would only enrich him and enhance his character.

This is not a review; this is a message of love.
Killing Songs :
The complete album
Ian quoted 97 / 100
Other albums by Sieges Even that we have reviewed:
Sieges Even - Paramount reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
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