Seventh Wonder - The Testament review
|Release date:||June 2022|
02. The Light
03. I Carry The Blame
05. The Red River
08. Under A Clear Blue Sky
Considering there was an 8-year wait between the last two Seventh Wonder records, that it’s only taken an additional 4 years for The Testament to be released makes its arrival almost feel sudden; let’s hope the trend continues and it’s only 2 years until the next one.
Prog/power cult heroes Seventh Wonder were rather productive in their early days, releasing four albums between 2005 and 2010 and making waves with ambitious records such as Mercy Falls. However, the following year, frontman Tommy Karevik replaced Roy Khan in Kamelot (that’s a lot of names beginning with ‘K’), and much like happened with Conception when Khan himself moved to Kamelot, that productivity was halted; still, unlike Khan, Karevik remained a member of Seventh Wonder, and in 2018 (the same year as the most recent Kamelot album), Seventh Wonder returned with Tiara. Having discovered Seventh Wonder as a result of Karevik’s move to Kamelot, Tiara was my first ‘new’ Seventh Wonder album, and I thought it was one of the best power metal albums of last decade, topping anything Kamelot had accomplished since Karevik’s arrival, so I’ve had high hopes for The Testament.
As a big fan of Khan-era Kamelot, and subsequently having come to really enjoy Karevik’s work with Seventh Wonder, I never quite clicked with the combination of Kamelot and Karevik; I think it was partially how much Karevik seemed to be trying to imitate Khan, which took away some of his own vocal character, but the songs themselves also were, more often than not, lacking in memorability. Well, with Tiara and now The Testament, neither of those problems carry over to Seventh Wonder; both records serve as perfect vehicles to exhibit his talents and versatility, and memorability is a key feature of most of the songs on each album.
That versatility does include his Kamelot vocal inflections, as both opener “Warriors” and “The Red River” feature ‘Khan-isms’, and these two songs in general sound like the closest Seventh Wonder have gotten to Karevik’s other band, but the similarities are confined to those two tracks. In terms of memorability, on The Testament that comes first and foremost from what is unsurprisingly the key element of each song: the choruses. It’s nice when melodic metal songs excite throughout their runtimes, but I feel like the most crucial part of writing a power metal track is having a memorable chorus, and Seventh Wonder absolutely deliver on that front across this album. Whether it’s those Kamelot-style songs, the arena-rock flamboyance of “The Light”, the emotionality of “I Carry The Blame” or the fast intensity in “Under A Clear Blue Sky”, the band delivers instant earworm after earworm across the album, with Karevik shining in every instance.
However, Seventh Wonder are a progressive power metal band, and prog-metal often sees the instruments taking center stage; with “Reflections”, the group show that they don’t rely entirely on Karevik’s talents, as this instrumental-only track serves as a good vehicle for everyone in the band to show off their respective talents. This technicality and proclivity to extended soloing carries over into the other songs, even those where it might not be expected; “The Light” is such a hypermelodic, AOR- and pop-influenced cut (to the extent that it could very well divide some listeners, although personally I find its insane hookiness hard to resist), that it’s perhaps surprising that it features enough bass, guitar and keyboard solos that it ultimately runs for over 6 minutes.
Seventh Wonder are well known for their concept albums; however, there’s no coma-induced imaginary towns or apocalypse-inspired celestial voyages to be found here. From what I can tell, this is a ‘conventional’ album; perhaps fans will discover one when reading the lyrics, but from the promo notes and my experiences listening to it, I’m not hearing a story concept. This has pros and cons; Seventh Wonder are certainly prone to corniness, and skipping the concept takes away a lot of the opportunity to ramp up the cheese factor, but at the same time, as a complete listening experience, The Testament doesn’t quite have the same feeling of being taken on a journey that makes Mercy Falls and Tiara so exciting. Having the longest song on the album, “Under A Clear Blue Sky”, close to the end does lend a sense of building to a finale, although the actual final song on the album is “Elegy”, a synth ballad that is pretty much in line with the band’s other ballads, for better or worse.
Outside of the concept, how does The Testament stack up to their previous albums? I certainly enjoy it a lot; outside of how great the choruses are, most songs in general are very solid, with “The Light”, “I Carry The Blame” (the way that the chorus of this track comes in with renewed vigour for the final repetition is glorious), “The Red River” and “Under A Clear Blue Sky” in particular standing out. However, I feel it perhaps doesn’t have the same level of impact as those albums I’ve already mentioned; I’m not sure there’s songs here that rival the likes of “Breaking The Silence” and “Hide And Seek” (Mercy Falls) or “The Everones” and “By The Light Of The Funeral Pyres” (Tiara). In terms of actual ‘weaknesses’ to The Testament that aren’t dependent on comparisons with their existing material, I do feel that a couple of songs here are comprised of great ideas that don’t necessary go naturally with one another. The verses, the chorus and the solo section of “Mindkiller” are all great, but I get a bit of a feeling that each belongs to a slightly different song and have been spliced together to make this one track, and I also get the same feeling with parts of “Under A Clear Blue Sky” and "I Carry The Blame", amongst others.
However, this is a relatively minor complaint; it’s not quite whiplash-inducing when sections that inspire these thoughts arise, and the quality of each individual moment is exciting enough that it’s easy to overlook quibbles about how they’re assembled. Ultimately, I imagine there won’t be too many Seventh Wonder fans who come to hold The Testament as their favourite record from the band, but it’s a more than worthy addition to their catalogue, one that will quickly get embedded in listeners’ memories with its dynamite hooks.
||Written on 09.06.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not|
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