Seven Kingdoms Zenith (Album Review)

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A lot of things changed after the world shut down, the music industry not withstanding. Many people in the industry had to call it a day because there was no work in the foreseeable future, inspiration was being lost from a lot of musicians, and no one really knew what was next. Somehow though, four rockers from Florida believed the sun would rise another day, and the COVID shut down didn’t even stand a chance. Floridian power metallers Seven Kingdoms are back and they are better than ever with their newest release ”Zenith”. Recorded at Morrisound Recording between June and November 2021, ‘Zenith’ has 11 tracks of epic power metal glory. You still have time to get a plastic sword and if you plan on getting through all 44 minutes, you’re gonna need at least one. Let us go ever onward into this shred-tastic journey.

Their first song ”Diamond Handed” wastes no time and takes off with some classic power metal riffage right before you are sonically kicked in the face by a wall of sound that is the first verse. We are lead through out the song by some sinister harmonic guitar riffing between Kevin Byrd and Camden Cruz, while Keith Byrd is keeping the energy high drumming like a mad man. All this is going on while Sabrina Cruz is belting about holding the line and being Diamond Handed. I feel like this could become a Cryptocurrency/Investor anthem. The guitar solo section comes in and Kevin Byrd takes us right into shredville before handing it off to Camden who melodically brings us into a half-timed breakdown to a chorus-outro. Starting an album off like this feels like when you ride a roller coaster that starts off at a million miles an hour, the intensity is front loaded, your adrenaline kicks in and you know you’re gonna be on a wild ride.

Up next we have ”A Silent Remedy”; a song that starts off with some tight harmonic guitar chugging that makes it’s way into a galloping verse then onwards onto a relatively uniquely structured tune in that the chorus doesn’t come until the second verse, kind of like how Sonata Arctica does in their hit ”Black Sheep”. Keith really opens up the song by introducing a half time groove in the chorus and the way it contrasts the verse really makes the song feel huge. The song ends with Sabrina really leaving us off on some high notes.

From there we go straight into a glam rocker called ”Love Dagger”. If this song drops in intensity, it picks up in melodic content, as the song seems to be more tailored around the vocalist, in that you will hear her melodies being cited on synthesizers and it seems the band is generally more complimentary towards what is happening on the vocal part of the song. The song is a nice driving mid tempo rocker that sets us up for a huge chorus where Sabrina really gets a chance to belt. The guitar solo section reminds us that we are still listening to a glorious piece of power metal and for a minute it feels like we are somewhere between the solo section of a Gamma Ray and Edguy song. From there we have a killer build up back into a chorus-outro.

The fourth song ‘Chasing The Mirage‘ starts off with a soaring harmonic guitar lead that really leans into a huge pre-bend right before a nice melodic harmony sets us up for an atmospheric verse. Just when the guitars start to breathe, they pick themselves right back up and one of the catchiest choruses of the album is laid in front of us, followed up with a much heavier instrumental section than we have heard so far. Going into the second verse I am reminded of Kamelot‘s ‘Forever‘; the drums are galloping over a clean atmospheric sonic background. The song continues on with a little more adrenaline as the guitars kick back in, and we hear one of the heavier breakdowns ”Zenith” has to offer. The guitar solo features some soaring harmonies, a bit of tremelo picking, an epic slide and then a harmonic line out to the last chorus into a blisteringly fast 16th note double bass drum line out while Sabrina finishes the song off belting out the final line of the song.

At around the half way mark we have the songs ”Valonqar” and ”Empty Eyes”. Valonqar being the breathe of fresh air; Sabrina Cruz reveals her true versatility as a vocalist. Starting off in a very ominous footing, her melodies remind me of something I would hear in a Celtic folk song. ‘Empty Eyes‘ brings us back into a heavier setting, but starts off a little bit slower than the others. Vocally I am reminded of Amy Lee, while musically we are somewhere between thrash and power metal. The guitar solo has some great guitar work, including killer legato lines, harmonies, soaring notes, and of course some great all out shredding.

Heading deeper into the second half of the record we receive a sudden jolt of energy in the song ”Magic In The Mist” and we are back into the world of high gain, high speed melodic metal. This song is brooding both lyrically and musically but by the time the pre-chorus hits the tension is released and reapplied largely in part by both the vocal melody and the guitar chords being held out.

Moving still a little faster, the eighth track of the record ”Universal Terrestrial” seems to be some sort of love song veiled in science-fiction metaphor, with a lyrical break to indulge in lead guitar harmonies. The Chorus seems to cut the groove in half, cutting the double-time feel for a more straight forward rocking chorus. Sabrina sends us off into the solo section with something tonally phrygian-minded. After a harmonic romp up and down the fretboard, the song finishes off with a double chorus that leaves us with some heavily reverberated lead guitars.

The Water Dance” sends us mixed messages. On one hand, the song feels like it could start to get very thrash heavy until just at the climax of it’s thrashy riffy-ness, a melodic guitar line recalibrates the ears and until the vocals appear. This is generally the theme of the song, with the exception of an epic section of the song before the breakdown and guitar solo. The guitar solo has many soaring lead lines that follow some neoclassical progressions before having our fate sowed in the chorus one last time before the song ends.

The 10th song on ”Zenith” and the last of the originals on this record is called ‘Life Signs‘. Starting off in full syncopation, the song takes off and it reminds us that we’re almost at the end of our power metal journey. At times throughout the song the groove shifts and it almost feels like we’re experiencing an odd time signature, but everything is cleverly crafted so even as we are in a more grounded time signature we still feel that fun but odd groove sensation. We are then brought into a bend-heavy guitar solo and the song finally finds it’s way to the end after a final chorus with a syncopated ending that references the same syncopation at the beginning of the song.

The last song on the record is a cover of the Joan Jett & The Blackhearts‘ classic ‘I Hate Myself For Loving You‘. This cover is very faithful to the original with a few minor enhancements. There are some vocal liberties taken by Sabrina and the guitar solo has been modernized, big time. This song does come in a little shorter than them original, but this is a great way to modernize an old favorite.

For anyone part of their massively successful Kickstarter, this was money well spent; as the production here is top notch. The guitar playing by both Byrd and Cruz make for a perfect duo in a power metal outfit, I found their playing to be very complimentary of each other and there were so many great riffs it was very clear that these guys know what they are doing. Once in a while though I find them  wearing their inspiration on their sleeves a little too hard, and it can take away from the personality the individual band has. Sabrina has a great vocal tone and even some of her melodic phrasing is a little different than what you would expect in a power metal record, which sets them apart from the pack. Lyrically though, sometimes it seems like the lyrics were taken out of the power metal playbook and I think a little more creativity would take the album from awesome to over the top. The vocals are balanced well on top of the mix, but are too reverb and delay heavy and it does end up muddying up the vocals making the lines  hard to understand at parts.

Overall, this album deserves a spot on your shelf or playlist collection, it would make for a great listen on longer car ride, and there are way too many great parts on this record than whatever minor nitpicking I had. Make sure to pre-order/buy the album here & check their Spotify or Apple Music page June 17th!

Released By:  Distortion Music Group
Release Date:  June 17th, 2022 
Genre:  Power Metal

Musicians:

  • Sabrina Cruz / Vocals
  • Camden Cruz / Guitar
  • Kevin Byrd / Guitar
  • Keith Byrd / Drums

“Zenith” Track-list:

  1. Diamond Handed
  2. A Silent Remedy
  3. Love Dagger
  4. Chasing The Mirage
  5. Valonqar
  6. Empty Eyes
  7. Magic In the Mist
  8. Universal Terrestrial
  9. The Water Dance
  10. Life Signs
  11. I Hate Myself for Loving You (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts cover)

8.1 Great

This is an excellent record for those that enjoy classic and extreme power metal, but like the sound of modern albums. The overall mix is great; I am a huge fan of the guitar tone selection, and both the drums and bass sound sport-on, none of the instruments overpower each other. I am totally now a Seven Kingdoms fan

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 7.5
  • Production 9
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