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Seven Spires - Solveig

Seven Spires
by James Peterson at 18 October 2017, 9:28 AM

SEVEN SPIRES is a band that, despite only having recently put out their first full length, are starting to gather some notoriety for themselves in the scene. I actually even heard and acquainted myself with them before being asked to write this review, because they played ProgPower XVIII in my hometown of Atlanta this year as a fill-in band for TERAMAZE, who unfortunately couldn’t make it. The Boston natives have also done shows in Europe, and even have over 50k views on one of their music videos for this debut record on a song that’s the biggest highlight of the entire record, I find.

But before we can discuss that song and other highlights in particular, it’s important that I make it clear that this band primarily plays its own musically darker variant of symphonic metal, with harsh and clean vocals present. The album presents a more prominent focus on clean vocals, and a good chunk of the harsh vocals are a little farther back in the mix. Comparing their whole sound directly to other bands in the more traditional symphonic or progressive metal style wouldn’t be as effective in this instance of trying to convey to you how they sound, in general, throughout “Solveig.” Oddly enough, despite this, 0:21 into “Encounter” there’s a lick that sounds strikingly similar to, but not exactly like, 2:51 in “Suncatcher” by modern symphonic prog death masters WILDERUN… and that band is also comprised of Boston Berklee College of Music Graduates. Berklee Metal. It’s a thing. In any case, “Encounter” has an absolutely infectious chorus that you may have memorized from just a couple listens.

These folks still utilize many things that are common conventions of the style, despite their own path they’re carving in it. These include a typical palette of orchestrations for the style including the piano, strings, and brass (and at least “Reflections” seems to take advantage of most if not all the possible timbres in an orchestra for a brilliant “Los Endos” by GENESIS-style recap of motifs on the record), as well as a soprano front-woman with great range in Adrienne Cowan. Adrienne’s voice reaches almost piercingly high notes, and when she gets higher up in her register, her voice dons something of a raspier grit comparable to Spencer Sotelo’s vocal timbre change as he goes into his higher notes on the debut PERIPHERY disc. Guitarist Jack Kosto also plays a seven string for this band, but make no mistake, you’ll find no “djenty” riffing on here. The riffing as well is pretty par for the course, but most of the time this isn’t a negative thing.

Most everything honestly comes together effectively here to execute this band’s vision. The songwriting throughout is dynamic and sincerely emotive with little cheese to be found, save for the almost annoyingly bouncy “Cabaret of Dreams” and an inoffensive upbeat section here and there in “Serenity,” but there are other great moments in that song like the bridge section in which Adrienne’s absolutely soar over her orchestrations with brilliance, and the guitar solo here is one of the most impressive on the album. Those more “fun” moments aren’t without purpose as well, as “Solveig” is a concept record about a lost soul wandering a demonic plane of near-perfect darkness, but there are still a few glimmers of hope in the story, and I personally found the musical strength of these more musically uplifting moments to be much stronger towards the end of the record.

This album has a pretty impressive structure and consistency thematically throughout its tracks. All the different sections weave into one another and seamlessly flow like butter on the entire album, and almost nothing feels out of place, even though there exists some diversity between the songs. The instrumental tracks perfectly complement the metal songs they’re paired with, and a vibe or emotion at the end of one song often carries into the beginning of its following song. This is clearly evident with “Choices” and “Closure.” Songs such as the awesome ballad “100 Days” and penultimate track “Ashes” have very beautiful themes that will ingrain into the mind with enough listens, and besides the aforementioned “Cabaret of Dreams” that didn’t do as much for me, the rest of the album is primarily very good.

Saving the best for last, I have to single out a few more songs as the biggest winners on here. “The Paradox” is the aforementioned song with the video views over 50k, and this is so incredibly deserved. It’s one of only two songs that are in a more progressive death metal vein than the rest of the record, going all out with aggressive riffs, harsh vocals galore and blast beats. What I really find great about this song isn’t that it’s extreme metal, but rather the composition of the parts and how they’re able to mirror a band like DIMMU BORGIR here but make it sound wholly original, and with just as much influence if not more seeming to stem from their love of Romantic period music and their Berklee education. Adrienne’s high screams here totally remind of Shagrath and the clean vocal section reminds of the one in the classic “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse,” but compositionally what the guitars and orchestrations are doing with the layered complexity of emotion is doing something I can only describe as sounding like SEVEN SPIRES. This song musically fits with the dark and sojourning lyrical concept of the record like a glove.

The other definite favorites here are the amazing one-two punch of tracks 12 and 13: “Distant Lights” and “Burn,” but I’ll refrain from describing to quite the same extent. I will say “Distant Lights” has the sickest chorus on the whole album which almost singlehandedly ranks it among these stronger tracks, and “Burn” is the other more prog/melodeath song here clocking in at over 8 minutes. I’ve decided to include it in particular at the bottom here because is unquestionably the best summarization of all the different dynamics of this album, with it’s own unique moment of an incredible fretless bass solo from Peter de Reyna that’s sure to make any fretless player or OBSCURA fan-boy like I am delighted. Speaking of that band, their previous drummer Hannes Grossmann played on the debut of the another technically demanding band UNFLESH on drums, until now SEVEN SPIRES drummer Chris Dovas joined them, so… clearly for performing “Solveig,” the band has a noticeably high standard for musicianship! But again, “Burn” sums up everything the band is about the best as it stands right now… so go enjoy it and the rest of this great debut!

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. The Siren
2. Encounter
3. The Siren (Reprise)
4. The Cabaret of Dreams
5. Choices
6. Closure
7. 100 Days
8. Stay
9. The Paradox
10. Serenity
11. Depths
12. Distant Lights
13. Burn
14. Ashes
15. Reflections
Adrienne Cowan – Vocals/Orchestrations
Jack Kosto – Guitar
Peter de Reyna – Bass
Chris Dovas – Drums (Live)
Record Label: SAOL Music


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Edited 15 October 2018

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