Using crowdfunding platforms to help fund albums has become increasingly more popular among metal bands in the past few years. One recent example of this is Decennium, the fourth full-length release from American Power Metal band Seven Kingdoms. The band had released three albums previously, but for both the new album and the preceding EP In the Walls (which featured two songs from the album as well as two re-recording tracks from their debut) the band used Kickstarter to allow their fans to help support the making of the music. The result, is an album that diehard fans of the band are sure to enjoy, especially those who loved their previous album, The Fire is Mine, as this one very much feels like a more polished continuation of that sound.
I first discovered Seven Kingdoms with their self-titled second album, which was quite the interesting release because their debut Brothers of the Night felt like some kind of hybrid with a mix of power metal, thrash and melodic death metal elements, where the self-titled release still featured some death growls and thrash elements, but it also saw the band pushing towards more of a classic European power metal sound, and so that made for quite the varied and interesting release. Personally, it ranks as my favorite by the band, with Brothers of the Night following closely behind. With The Fire is Mine, the band removed the most controversial element of their music, that being the death growls, and on the whole it was a much more focused album, leaning much closer to a traditional power metal sound. This trend has continued with Decennium, and if anything I’d say it has even less of the thrash elements found on their older albums and is very much a classic twin guitar power metal release through and through.
Musically, fans can expect some excellent guitar work, as both guitarists do a great job and there’s a ton of great riffs, fun solos and some excellent melodic leads throughout the album, with each track striking the right balance between heavy and melodic. Most tracks are very speedy, with occasional changes in tempo, though this is mostly just alternating between moderately fast and extremely fast. Vocally, Sabrina sounds as good as ever, with her crystal clear voice suiting the more melodic sound very well, and her soaring vocals drive the choruses, though she does get to show a bit more power at times as well, most notably on “Undying” and the verses of “Stargazer”. I think I’m in the minority for liking the growls on their first two albums, but at this point, I don’t miss them too much because Sabrina does a great job of carrying the songs on her own. On a technical level, everything sounds crisp, powerful and very tight, and I’d say the production quality is better than on any of their previous albums, so at least in that regard, it’s easily their best work to date.
Moving on to songwriting, things get a bit more problematic. Don’t get me wrong: There aren’t any bad songs here. In fact, I’d say the songs all range from good to excellent. As I mentioned before, all tracks are up tempo throughout, with some tracks alternating between moderately fast and super fast, and there are great choruses here as well as some excellent instrumental work, but compared to the first two albums, I find the songwriting more limited and lacking surprises. There are no ballads, no epic length tracks like the two previous albums had, and really nothing unique or surprising to change things up even a little bit, which I find disappointing just because of how good the band’s songwriting has been in the past. Obviously, I know the band has changed their sound over the years so I wouldn’t expect them to bring back the growls of thrash elements on their first two albums, but I would like to see them try and be a bit more inventive and more varied even while staying within the more classic power metal sound they’ve gone for here, in the future. Basically, if this album had been a debut I’m sure I would have been blown away and likely raised my score up a notch, but because I know what this band is capable of, I’m left wanting just a bit more.
With that one negative paragraph out of the way, let’s move on to some highlights. Opening track “Stargazer” come out blazing right away, with its super speedy verses delivering some great riffs and Sabrina singing with a bit more power than usual, while the gang vocals that lead into the chorus are cool and the chorus itself is great. Overall, it’s an excellent track that gives a pretty good idea of what to expect from the rest of the album. After that, the two tracks from the EP are up, with “Undying” being another fairly solid track, while “In the Walls” is my favorite, as it feels like the band has dialed it up to 11 in all areas: The riffs are super powerful, the vocals are very melodic and soaring, as usual, the pace is frantic and the chorus is fantastic and super catchy. Likewise, “The Faceless Hero” is fairly straightforward but has a lot of energy to it, while “Neverending” is an excellent single and has probably the best chorus on the album.
Aside from those tracks, everything else is solid, though not as memorable as I’d like. There are some attempts to change things up a bit, but they’re all very brief and don’t lead to much. For example, “Castles in the Snow” has more mid-paced verses and the vocal melodies are fairly unique and different, but once the song gets going it becomes a less remarkable, more straight-forward track. Likewise, “Kingslayer” has a nice soft opening section, but then it speeds up quickly and the rest of the track is solid but doesn’t really stand out. Lastly, where the two previous record had epic length closing tracks that sounded pretty unique and different, “Awakened from Nothing” is a solid track, with a slight thrash edge to its riffs, but it doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the album on the whole.
I’ve been perhaps a bit harder on Seven Kingdoms in this review than I’d like, but that’s partially because I love their music and I think they’re capable of giving a bit more than what they’ve delivered here. At the same time, I would say this is their most polished album to date, and musically it’s still a very well made album, so here’s the bottom line: If you’re looking for an album full of speedy, melodic power metal, with excellent female vocals and a slight edge to the riffs, then Decennium is sure to please you, as that’s exactly what it delivers for about 52 minutes. I think fans of The Fire is Mine should also be pleased, as the album feels like a more polished, though even more narrowly focused version of that album. Fans who prefer either or both of their first two albums may have mixed feelings like I do, but I’d still say it’s worth checking out as it’s still a great release overall, and I’m definitely still looking forward to hearing more from the band in the future.
originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/01/13/seven-kingdoms-decennium-review/