Classing themselves as “theatrical metal”, Seven Spires play a breathless hybrid of symphonic metal, power metal and melodeath. Approach them with no prior knowledge, and you could be forgiven for thinking that Germany or Norway had produced another band to drool over. however, Seven Spires are, in fact, American. If ever a band sounded European, it would be these guys. The only hint of America would be in the places where Seven Spires produce a sound that suggests a Jim Steinman influence… if Jim Steinman woke up one morning and wanted to add some death growls or banshee screams to ‘Bat Out Of Hell VIII – Yep, I’m Still Alive’, that is.
The running time clocks in at a not insignificant 64 minutes, so ‘Solveig’ is a lengthy affair… a concept album about the neo-Victorian underworld, made up of two “acts”, with the first seven tracks (or “Act One”) having been previously available as an EP in 2014. ‘Solveig’ begins and ends with an instrumental piece. ‘The Siren’ is a short scene setting intro that could easily be featured over the opening titles of Tim Burton’s next movie. The eeriness leads seamlessly into ‘Encounter’, on which the listener encounters the vocals of Adrienne Cowan for the first time. The classically trained graduate (from the prestigious Berklee College of Music) has an incredible range, and goes from a whisper to a scream in a split second. ‘Encounter’ is only a hint of what is to follow. ‘The Cabaret Of Dreams’ has Cowan beginning with an Alice Cooper style intro. Cooper has an uncanny knack of talking/singing like a circus ringmaster or a midway barker beckoning in unsuspecting victims, so when Cowan seductively sings “Welcome to the state of dreams, where everything is as real as you let it be, I will be your host this eve, so sit back, relax…”, I already have my ticket in my hands. The vocals switch between screams to a traditional symphonic clean vocal throughout, and when Cowan uses a demon’s voice midway through, you are expecting her head to spin a full 360 and the green projectile vomit to follow on! The music is gloriously gothic and grandiose. Guitarist Jack Kosto wakens a few demons with his playing, and this continues on ‘Choices’, which also has a speedy, galloping drum sound that encourages some nifty air drumming. ‘Closure’ has a Middle Eastern vibe going on in the background, a swirling Arabic sound threading through it. The mix of clean vocals and death growls is stunning, and the track has “epic” stamped right across it. ‘100 Days’ ends “Act One” with a powerful, melancholic atmosphere that showcases the softer side to Cowan’s vocal range.
“Act Two” begins with ‘Stay’, which is the first time that we really hear Cowan’s extreme vocals. The production throughout ‘Solveig’ is excellent, but really stands out during the second half. It’s clear, crisp and precise. ‘Paradox’ is one of the heavier tracks on the album, the blend of extreme vocals, screams, and luscious clean vocals is seamless. The operatic breakdown in the middle is incredible. It’s not just Cowan who impresses though, as the band propel themselves along at breakneck speed to get the desired effect. Seven Spires have waxed lyrical about the influence of black metal, and ‘Paradox’ is the perfect example. ‘Serenity’ is another example of black metal meshing with symphonic, and to be rather blunt… it is fucking awesome! ‘Depths’ slows things down a notch or two but still packs a hefty punch, as does ‘Distant Lights’. A heady mix of gothic arrangements, thrash metal pounding drums and towering vocals, it’s five minutes of many styles and genres which ultimately rocks like a beast. Cowan’s scream at the end… ooft! The eight minute behemoth that is ‘Burn’ is like a massive, metal opera, all wrapped up in one big ball, and one of the moments where Jim Steinman comes to mind. After all this darkness, there has to be light, and the album finishes on an uplifting note with first ‘Ashes’, and then the cinematic title track, which, like the opening track, is instrumental.
‘Solveig’ is massive, two albums in one, both telling a compelling story that is, at times, creepy, consuming, and at the climax, uplifting. The playing is first rate, and these guys need an opening slot on a substantial tour now! Their audience is waiting.
Review: Dave Stott