I haven’t really been as interested in power metal lately as I used to be, but Florida’s SEVEN KINGDOMS has always captivated my attention with their riffy, varied songs and frontwoman Sabrina Valentine’s charismatic delivery and unreal chops. However, the band has always been a package deal for me, with the drums, bass, lead and rhythm work, and backing vocals all getting their time to shine as well. Given my love for their previous full-length, 2012’s The Fire Is Mine, I looked forward to their new album, Decennium, self-releasing January 31 after a pair of successful Kickstarter campaigns.
First track “Stargazer” immediately lights up the stage with blazing fretwork but teases the chorus until almost two minutes in. Forgive my lack of eloquence but it does that thing I love where the instruments all drop out except for the vocals and leads until storming out with a chorus that is sure to drive crowds crazy on their upcoming North American tour.
The next two songs were released as part of the Kickstarter-funded In the Walls EP, and both are incredibly strong cuts worthy of the runaway success of that campaign. “Undying” thrashes out right from the start with a hyperspeed intro before slowing down a little for a melodic chorus…only to speed right the fuck back up again! The dynamics of this song particularly put a lot of bands in this style to shame, never content to keep doing the same thing for too long, but in a way that doesn’t compromise the melody of the track. Again special note has to be given to Sabrina Valentine, who even varies her delivery from chorus to chorus – this is no copy/paste band! Her voice handles the operatic vocals as well as the poppier stuff with equal faculty.
In fact, while writing the previous paragraph I came to a realization. The next song, “In the Walls” is phenomenal, and so is the next one and so is the next one…we’d be here all day if I broke it down song by song but the most important takeaway is that this album is GOOD. There are more and faster riffs than some thrash bands have put out on their latest releases, and world-class hooks that those bands could never dream of writing. My only two gripes are that there could be more lead work and maybe a little more drastic variation in song structure. But even as I write that I think that each song on its own works pretty much perfectly. There’s not a tremendous sense of album flow; but the past few years have seen so many half-assed concept albums that I can’t count that as a flaw either.
Stylistically, Decennium reminds me a lot of BLIND GUARDIAN, with its soaring vocals and searing tempos. However, where the German stalwarts have gotten kind of bloated over endless layers and orchestras and uninspired rhythm playing, I find a sense of excitement in Decennium with its raw speed and satisfying melodies. The fact that the bass is clearly audible in the mix as it weaves through the guitars in its own patterns never ceases to bring a smile to my face.
I’ve recently started collecting vinyl and this is the type of record I would love to add to my collection, although I sadly couldn’t afford to contribute to the album Kickstarter while it was running. Did I mention the album art is cool as hell too? This record is the complete package in every sense. Now I’m off to try and score one for myself.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM