Is “country-prog” an approved sub-genre? Is it even a thing? In the hands of singer, musician and poet Arthur Offen, it’s a very potent and affecting thing indeed.
Musically, Seven Wonders veers from the country-tinged big rock of something akin to Willie Nelson fronting the Neal Morse Testimony band, on Into The Great Beyond, Twas Meant To Be and the pomptastic title track, through the fuzz-toned down’n’dirty urgency of Temple Giant and The Last Invasion to the epic 13 minutes of Grail Cycle, which combines the American prog stylings of Kansas with something far more English and pastoral. The gruff, gravelly tones, southern drawl and surprisingly wide range of Offen’s voice provide consistent textural glue. Appearing hitherto with the bands Air Raid and Flag, Offen is no prog neophyte, but this album is the first bearing his name. It’s an album that has been in gestation for the best part of 30 years. Those years, and Offen’s journey to this point can be discerned in the final result – while not the most technical or challenging release of the year perhaps, Seven Wonders mines themes of history, myth and belief with warmth, charm, and sagacity. Heartily recommended.