SEVEN SPIRES – A Fortress Called Home (Album Review)

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A new odyssey for the ages is born.

With a seemingly endless supply of imitators looking to either ride the coattails of Nightwish and Epica or otherwise take nearly all their cues from what they’ve already accomplished, a few have opted to take impressive foundations established thereof and erect some highly unique palaces all their own.

Arguably the most auspicious fold to turn convention into innovation is an outfit that hails not from continental Europe where the style was born, but from the opposite side of the Atlantic in the northeastern corner of the United States, Bostonian symphonic metal quartet Seven Spires. They have established themselves as one of the most stylistically multifaceted and virtuosic outfits to come about in the past decade, with a series of highly developed albums under the banner of Frontiers Records, largely by the handiwork of compositional genius, vocal impresario, and Berklee College of Music graduate Adrienne Cowan.

Now, four studio LPs deep into their career, the only question dogging this band as far as their latest opus “A Fortress Called Home” is concerned is how they build upon a legacy that is already impressive enough to rival bands that have been around twice as long; yet it is also a question that this fold had zero difficulty answering.

To the uninitiated, what this flock of mostly East Coast Americans deals in is primarily of a European stylistic pedigree, though also heavily informed by the darker side of the U.S. progressive metal scene. In contrast to the largely ethereal and serene symphonic musings of Nightwish and even the more harrowing quasi-melodeath ones that permeate the seminal work of Epica and After Forever before them, Seven Spires takes a healthy amount of influence from the dark and brooding sonic tapestries of Nevermore and the more neo-classically charged progressive variant thereof put forth by Symphony X.

To be clear, the power metal-based and folksy accessibility and charm of Kamelot is also a key factor in their modus operandi, as is the blackened symphonic musings of Dimmu Borgir when accounting for Cowan’s unique ability to shriek with the ferocity of a 2nd wave Norwegian screamer as well as cover a wide range of feminine vocalizations from the metallic to the operatic. All of this and more is painted over the nearly 65 minutes of music that evolves within the borders of this album, often jumping between differing styles from one song to the next, all serving to tell a highly original and vivid story of trial and tribulation with impressive instrumental performances to boot.

“A Fortress Called Home” Album Artwork

True to the cinematic character that tends to go with a symphonic metal opus, each chapter of this drama-steeped story set to music bobs and weaves through varying degrees of intrigue to set the scene for each pivotal plot point. The harrowing overture and title entry “A Fortress Called Home” just oozes epic imagery at every corner, often resembling the famed “Dragonborn” theme from Skyrim, and setting the stage brilliantly for what is to follow.

The first metallic foray “Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues” wastes no time in putting the pedal to the metal, wheeling through elaborate riffs on top of a mercilessly infectious set of melodic hooks, often seesawing between a power and black metal aesthetic while the feel of a grandiose film score event hangs above it all. Other points of intrigue that showcase this band’s amazing stylistic range include the dark and forbidding mid-paced stomp with an extreme edge “Impossible Tower”, the frenetic and heavily blackened explosion of rage “Architect Of Creation”, and the dark progressive maze of fits and starts with a symphonic overlay “Where Sorrows Bear My Name”.

The flashy skills of guitarist Jack Kosto and bassist Peter Albert de Reyna meld nicely into more streamlined banger entries like “Almosttown” and “No Place For Us”, taking on something akin to what Within Temptation would sound like with Michael Romeo and Mike LePond in the lineup.

Continuing the trend set by their previous releases, Seven Spires“A Fortress Called Home” offers a complex listening experience. This album is likely to push the boundaries for those who typically enjoy a more conventional mix of metal and grandiose orchestration, encouraging them to reconsider their preconceptions about the genre’s limitations. It highlights the work of a highly talented and formally trained ensemble that consistently refines its artistry and broadens its musical scope. This latest offering stands as potentially their most impressive achievement to date, demonstrating genuine growth without a trace of affectation.

The only real flaw in the presentation is that the band opted to put the longest and also greatest song right smack at the beginning of the album, as “Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues” is the sort of riveting classic that is more often found towards the end of an album, functioning as its apex point. That being said, the tech-steeped finale and fanfare-like epic “The Old Hurt Of Being Left Behind” does provide a functional climax and denouement to the album’s question and is also a highlight moment.

Perhaps that is the ultimate problem with this album, just about every song found on here is a grand experience, and it’s the sort of problem that results in an album that is definitely in the Top 10 metal entries of 2024 symphonic metal material.

Released By: Frontiers Music SLR
Release Date: June 21st, 2024
Genre: Symphonic Power / Heavy Metal

Musicians:

  • Adrienne Cowan / Vocals
  • Jack Kosto / Guitars
  • Peter Albert de Reyna / Bass
  • Chris Dovas / Drums

A Fortress Called Home” Track List:

  1. A Fortress Called Home
  2. Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues
  3. Almosttown
  4. Impossible Tower
  5. Love’s Souvenir
  6. Architect of Creation
  7. Portrait of Us
  8. Emerald Necklace
  9. Where Sorrows Bear My Name
  10. No Place for Us
  11. House of Lies
  12. The Old Hurt of Being Left Behind

Order A Fortress Called HomeHERE

9.3 Excellent

Known virtuosos of sonic narrative and symphonic metal, Seven Spires have crafted an auditory journey that traverses the full spectrum of metallic styles under the heavily orchestrated banner, while at the same time, challenging and defying the genre conventions in the process

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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