The wait is finally over. For fans of Swedish prog-metal juggernaut Seventh Wonder, the first new material since 2018’s “Tiara” has arrived in the form of “The Testament.” On the bright side, at least it isn’t another eight-year hiatus like the one prior to “Tiara.” Now, caveat emptor: It would be a gross understatement to say we were fans of the previous record. “Tiara” took us by storm and forced us to reconsider what a power/prog metal album could sound like. So yes, we are fans of Seventh Wonder, but remember, this just means they have set a very high bar, in this case an overall 9.5, probably the highest rating we have ever awarded. The question is whether they can top their previous magic trick with “The Testament.”
Before one even sticks the CD into the player, the signs are promising; the band lineup remains intact since the previous album. We’ve been missing the talented voice of Tommy Karevik. At least we got some love from Tommy during the hiatus, where he was arguably the single greatest saving grace of Ayreon’s otherwise-lackluster 2020 “Transitus” album. Instrumentally, we remain in good hands with Johan, Stefan, and both Andreases, who collectively function as one of the tightest metal European metal acts this side of DGM.
While “Tiara” was most definitely a concept album, the new album appears to be a traditional format. We’ll have a better sense of that once we have a physical copy with liner notes, but so far there seem to be no stories of astronaut heroines here. The new album opens hard and heavy, while using a fun old blues and jazz trick we don’t get much anymore; the instruments jump into the mix one at a time. At first, it’s just chunky electric guitar chugging away at a riff. Then kick drum on the whole notes, and a hint of synth floating in the reverb-o-sphere. Snare joins the party, slamming us into a series of keyboard arpeggios. Finally, although bass has been doing its humble best in the pocket for a while at this point, the bridge pickup on the bass guitar gets some loving when the bass jumps out and gets all Billy Sheehan in a throwdown with the keyboard part. Finally, Tommy comes in with “welcome my friends” vocals, and all this madness has occurred before the first track even hits 58 seconds.
The track, “Warriors,” continues as a mid-tempo metal anthem, guided by Tommy’s great vocals, and very active keyboards before a lush guitar solo guides us into a tasteful two-part guitar-and-keyboard harmonized duet. The vocals are layered, not just into quasi-gang vocals, but reverberating echoes of Tommy’s various parts. While not the most flashy Seventh Wonder track, it does an acceptable job welcoming new fans with a very accessible track. The second track, “The Light” fuses high energy with melodic and almost-AOR elements to give an adventurous road-tripping sort of wanderlust to the track. The legato-fueled guitar solo, while very cool, gets quickly overshadowed by a very cool bass guitar solo. If a band has a good bassist, that needs to get flexed, and we’re happy to see it done well here. Of course, this gets rounded out with a well-executed keyboard solo with almost Sherinian sort of tones, making it a nice DT-style multi-instrumental showdown without actually being Dream Theater.
The album dials down the energy slightly for “I Carry The Blame,” a metal track in minor key on a slower tempo, but still maintaining modest heaviness other than a section reserved for clean guitars, soft synth, and lead vocals. The guitar solo toward the end of the track is respectably reserved, making this a song that while not especially noteworthy, allows the overall album to breathe like a glass of wine. The listener needs rising and falling action or fatigue becomes a possibility. A 90 minute movie of nonstop Marvel hero fights would be exhausting, not to mention light on substantive plot. The same can be said for an hour-long album of music. Dancing with Eternity is fine and all, but sometimes the Spirit needs to Carry On.
With that in mind, the next track, “Reflections,” opens up with a technical salvo before dipping into a majestic pause with soaring guitar leads, before launching straight back into technical exercises that would make Shadow Gallery stop in the middle of a sandwich. The track continues as an instrumental masterpiece for five more minutes, using aforementioned rising and falling action to great effect.
Returning to vocal tracks, “The Red River” opens with either a Steinway grand piano, or else a very good keyboard emulation, before high-gain guitars, drums and bass join in for some dark and technical riffing. The verses and respective instrumentation are mean and thrashy, but the chorus parts are melodic and triumphant. The guitar and keyboard solos demonstrate some of the most capable musicianship of the record. “Invincible” starts with one hell of a two-part guitar and bass harmony right out of a Japanese Mr. Big concert. The track is essentially trade-offs between traditional vocal sections, and very busy instrumental jams. “Mindkiller,” must be about the fear the toms have for Stefan’s drumming, because the song opens with him pounding the hell out of them, while Johan either does some highly technical two-hand tapping, or some very impressive left hand work, while Andreas 1 mirrors every note on bass, and Andreas 2 gets keys primed for Tommy to step back up to the microphone. Anytime vocals take a break on this track, the instruments most definitely do not, instead ramping up and shredding away with some impressive pyrotechnics. The tapping/arpeggiated section from the track beginning reprises again halfway into the track, before just “going for it” with a tight solo before keys take over to bring us back to the chorus one last time.
The longest song of the album, “Under a Clear Blue Sky” opens with clean guitar picking out the individual notes of chords, before bass comes in to add some crisp meandering notes over top, before the whole band joins in to set some riffs in place for Tommy’s vocals. There is some very cool palm-muted single note riffing during parts of the vocals, before some faux-Hammond organ tones add some attitude. When the vocals dip out, the band trades off with fireworks, from Gilbert-esque turbo guitar riffs and scales, to world-class keyboard lead parts. This is just as well, really, as this is the big finale for razzle-dazzle on the record. Halfway into this heavyweight, the band takes a little breather while Andreas does some really cool clean chord work on the bass, while Johan plucks out a few natural harmonics. This paves the way for the band to thrash their way to the explosive conclusion. The album ends with the aptly-titled “Elegy.” Synth marries with viola (or cello) as steel-string acoustic guitar strums softly, while Tommy’s versatile vocal range delivers a lovely ballad. Upon the conclusion, choir vocals and theatrical percussion guide the listener to the end.
At this point, if your question is whether the album is good, the answer is unequivocally yes. It is hard to imagine how the musicianship could get any better. This kind of playing is entering the realm of superhuman musicianship where we lesser mortals are just gawking from the sidelines and comparing virtuosos who are 98% perfect against those who are merely 97% perfect. The production is great, with all instruments and frequencies balanced nicely, but nothing is really over-produced. At this point, it’s a question of songwriting, which brings us to your other possible question: Is this one better than its predecessor “Tiara?” Well, maybe. Maybe not. You’ll need to decide for yourself. We’re suckers for concept albums with feeling, and “Tiara” definitely did that, but even if it squeaks out a victory over “The Testament,” it would need to be a photo finish for how close it is. The bottom line is this, if you are into prog-metal or power metal, you almost certainly need to check out this album. If you are a Seventh Wonder fan already, then don’t waste any more time thinking about it. This one is one of their best, hands-down. Look for it June 10.
Released By: Frontiers Music SLR
Released on: June 10th, 2022
Genre: Progressive Metal
“The Testament” Track-listing:
- The Light
- I Carry The Blame
- The Red River
- Under A Clear Blue Sky
- Johan Liefvendahl / Guitar
- Andreas Blomqvist / Bass
- Tommy Karevik / Vocals
- Andreas Söderin / Keyboards
- Stefan Norgren / Drums
Pre-order/save “The Testament” HERE.
2022 has been a bountiful year for new releases, and Seventh Wonder did not disappoint. Tommy Karevik and crew have delivered something to rival their previous masterpiece Tiara. This album is a beast, not to be missed by fans of the band, or fans of power/prog metal as a whole