Let me start by saying that the "7th Degree of Separation" by Yggdrazil is a very difficult album to review, and that is because the album is divided in two broad aspects. The first is the compositional/executional side and the second is the production/structure of the album.
In terms of composition, ideas and execution, this is a very interesting result: a quite dark, psychedelic heavy prog amalgam with influences both from the heavier end of the spectrum (e.g. see 'Conception of Time' where snippets of Psychotic Waltz can be heard) and the more melodic, layered structures of clean-guitar driven passages found predominantly in 'Every Man' but also in 'By my Time' and 'Specular'. It is extremely hard to categorise the music, as at one time it comes out as bombastic progressive metal, other times turns to eclectic avant with odd-time signatures ('Gig'), deceives you by following more standard heavy prog patterns in the vein of Enchant and Rush and finally presents a grandiose epic composition in 'Separazione' that mixes all of the above with Italian lyrics.
The low point that, in my opinion, buries the final result is the quality and mixing of the vocals with the instrumental part. At times out of tune and not really agglomerating with the music, the vocals are executed and mixed in a way that the listener might feel that they should not have been part of the equation. Even during the high-point of this album, 'Separazione', while the heavy rock passages interchange with jazz-influenced, bass-filled interludes and the ideas are flowing one after another, the vocals are there to stop the track from achieving its real potential. Further to this, the production is of low standards and I presume that Psych Up Melodies did not further process the result to establish a more listenable sound experience when this album was re-released in 2012 (e.g. the guitars in 'Specular' are like being recorded in a room studio, as with the sound of the drums during the whole album). Structure-wise the ideas are plenty but not necessarily glued together, as it appears that each song reflects different styles; however, this latter observation is not the determining factor for the end result.
If this album was re-recorded from scratch we might have been talking about a very good and quite intricate release by Yggdrazil, a quite unusual band for the Italian scene. As it stands though, I cannot assign this with more than 2.5 stars (it could have been 3.5 easily!) with my thanks to the label for sending us the promo.
High points: Separazione, Conception of Time
PS. The 30 minutes of outtakes (low-fi material) in the 2012 version don't add anything to the quality of the album.
Originally compiled for www.justincaseradio.com