October brings big news for the progressive power metal world, in the form of the fifth album from Seventh Wonder, dubbed “Tiara.” Even better news can be found in the fact that seemingly-permanent (and practically founding) member Tommy Karevik returns to once again front the band. In 2012, there was much speculation about whether Tommy’s new gig replacing Roy Khan in Kamelot would mean the end of things with Seventh Wonder. However, to our collective benefit, Tommy continues to dance with the one that brought him.
Likewise, fans of the band can rest easy knowing the core of the band remains intact, with Johan Liefvendahl handling guitars, Andreas Blomqvist on bass, and Andreas “Kyrt” Söderin manning the keyboards. “Tiara” will also be the first studio album to feature Stefan Norgren on drums as part of the writing and recording process, although he has been a mainstay of the band for eight years now. As this is the first new Seventh Wonder studio album since Tommy became the voice of Kamelot, it is a strong possibility that Kamelot fans may consider picking it up as a related project. With that in mind, Kamelot fans and Seventh Wonder fans are both certain to enjoy “Tiara.” The band is tight and polished. Not only are they firing on all eight cylinders, they are more like a Porsche 918 Spyder with twin electric motors to propel whiplash-inducing performance into a new era.
The two-minute instrumental prelude may give the listener Symphony X déjà vu, as though we are about to embark upon the Divine Wings of Tragedy, or follow Odysseus on his journey home to Ithaca. Not only is this a good thing, but it is apropos. Most of the album, especially early on, has a compositional and textural resemblance to Symphony X, somewhere in the zone of Twilight in Olympus and the New Mythology Suite. The first vocal track, “The Everones,” comes at the listener with tightly focused drumming, Euro power metal keys, and brutal riffs. Not only is Karevik delivering his best, but as a bonus, the track features some surprisingly not-lame synthetically enhanced mechanical vocals. It is a bit like the omnipotent being from Planet Y making himself known at the end of Ayreon’s Electric Castle, except this one is Rapmaster Roboto doing one very funky breakdown, and somehow it works like LaBrie asking us to Just Let Him Breathe. The track also features some lovely interplay between the well-executed keyboards, complete with vibrato wheel/ribbon, and some very tasteful guitar leads. As icebreaker tracks go, this one does a respectable job of laying the groundwork for the album.
The album delivers another very solid track right after the first, in the form of “The Dream Machines,” which not only manages to paint a scene of dark sci-fi fantasy and machines, but even manages incorporate an unusually poppy chorus, describing how we are “boom boom boom, pump pump pumping like machines.” It is surprisingly cool in its execution, especially interacting with some vicious riffing and elaborate clean keyboard work. It is easy to imagine this song as a crowd-pleaser in future tours. Just when it seems like the song has run its course, it breaks for some very cool scale progression between guitars, keyboards, and some very well-mixed bass guitar. Just a great song, all the way around.
Just when it seems like the band might take a little break with the next track, “Against the Grain,” they deliver yet again. If these tracks were punches, the average listener would be reeling from three solid haymakers in a row. This track not only delivers an accessible major key chorus, but it is rife with blatant displays of musicianship. Guitar solos, keyboard solos, and tasteful application of The Heavy where appropriate. “Against the Grain” just seems too unassuming, but by the second or third listen to the album, it becomes a track one looks forward to.
The rest of the album continues to deliver this momentum and caliber of excellence to some varying degree right to the very end. The song “Victorious” is instrumentally satisfying while still delivering a powerful chorus. The semi-titular track, “Tiara’s Song,” which kicks off a satisfying prog-worthy trilogy, is well-written, and although it may not be as jam-packed with pyrotechnics as the rest of the album, it lays the groundwork for the subsequent two tracks completing the trilogy. The second part, “Goodnight,” is an interesting series of rising and falling action, strongly featuring some top-notch keyboard composition and execution. The trilogy is brought to a close by “Beyond Today,” which feels like a snapshot of one of the more moving moments of “The Astonishing,” which is high praise for those of us who embrace that album as an underrated epic.
“The Truth” deserves special mention for launching directly into some bass-guitar chord work worthy of Tony Levin, and segueing into toms and then some percussive almost Latin grooves. As a whole, the song’s beginning was very inventive for Scandinavian power metal act. The song also features huge choruses, and some magnificent soaring female vocals. It is a striking amount of variety, and it works quite well.
With that being said, the album almost fumbles on the tenth track, “By the Light of the Funeral Pyres.” Through some weird combination of keyboard sound models, and the notes being played, it sounds like 1987 8-bit Nintendo, which feels out of place on an album like this. It is challenging to conjure a scene of funeral pyres with the boss music from the Powermetal Man level of Mega Man 3. Thankfully Capcom Synthesizer takes a break after about 20 seconds, so it’s a tiny blemish in an otherwise incredible album. The next song, “Damnation Below,” is another dose of solid gold power metal, offering a compelling blend of energy, riffs, vocals, and instrumental showcase. The final cut, “Exhale,” builds ominously with keyboards and tubular bells before going big in a major way, and dominating for another nine minutes of crushing prog-power of Atlanta proportions. Much like the rest of the album, the song is a completionist when it comes to well-crafted melodies, gritty riffs, great walking bass lines, thundering drums, and solos of both keyboard and guitar variety.
If you check out this album (and you should), buckle up. It is a thrilling ride from the instrumental introduction all the way to the last thundering chord of “Exhale.” This album is one of the best things to happen to progressive and power metal in the last decade. Karevik still very much has it, and he pulls no punches. The composition is top-shelf, and the musicianship is world-class without ever really becoming over-indulgent. The lyrics and atmosphere of the album are up there with the very best of Symphony X and Kamelot. Normally, this is where we say something like “if you want to check out this album, here is where you can go to get it.” However, “Tiara” by Seventh Wonder is so damned good that you can consider this a direct order. Go to their site at this location and order it. Seriously, do it now.
Released By: Frontiers Records
Release Date: October 12th, 2018
Genre: Progressive Metal
- Tommy Karevik / Vocals
- Johan Liefvendahl / Guitars
- Andreas Blomqvist / Bass
- Andreas “Kyrt” Söderin / Keyboards
- Stefan Norgren / Drums
- The Everones
- Dream Machines
- Against The Grain
- Tiara’s Song (Farewell Pt. 1)
- Goodnight (Farewell Pt. 2)
- Beyond Today (Farewell Pt. 3)
- The Truth
- By The Light Of The Funeral Pyres
- Damnation Below
When we checked out Michael Romeo’s 2018 solo offering, we started thinking album of the year, at least as far as prog and power metal. We still love the album, but watch out Romeo, you have some formidable competition in the form of “Tiara” by Seventh Wonder. This literal masterpiece came out of nowhere and blew away all expectations. Great songwriting, exceptional singing and instrumental musicianship, enough variety and innovation to keep it interesting, and an absolutely phenomenal job of mixing and production. This album really does it all. Between this incredible album release, and Seventh Wonder headlining and Progpower USA XX next year, it seems that the constellations may finally be in alignment for this criminally underrated band. This may be a new pinnacle for the band, and judging by “Tiara,” they have more than rightfully earned it