I first came across Seven Kingdoms, like more than a few people, when I saw them on the tour posters with Blind Guardian for the latter's US tour. I looked up their albums and did a bit of listening. After a few songs, I concluded that I was pretty interested in seeing them live as well. This didn't properly prepare me for the concert however, which turned me into an avid fan of the band almost overnight.
So I grabbed a copy of the album and sat down for a listen after the concert was over, and I wasn't disappointed in the least. Seven Kingdoms plays a unique blend of female-fronted and fantasy-themed melodic power/death metal that appeals to me pretty strongly. The young band has now released a pair of albums, and this is their first with Sabrina Valentine on vocals. As readers might remember, I expressed my slight misgivings about female-fronted power metal in a previous review. Once again, I am supremely pleased to report that another band and another fine lady have dashed my fears, this time probably once and for all.
Sabrina's voice is clear, strong, and she glides between notes gracefully and with confidence. Not a stratospheric soprano, she keeps her voice in a range that is comfortable and turns out one proficient vocal offering after another. The other vocals on this album are quite harsh, and sound like something straight off of a scathing Scandanavian folk metal album. Mixing this formula with that of highly listenable and catchy power metal, the songs here swing from wonderfully strong accessible tracks like “Somewhere Far Away” and “Into the Darkness” to ferocious battle hymns like “Eyes to the North” and “Thunder of the Hammer”.
From first to last, the dual guitar leads are relentless and obviously extremely talented. This band is not to be undersold in terms of technical skill by anyone. The drummer packs a considerable punch, particularly on the final titular track of the album. The musical lines here have clearly been carefully crafted and composed with passion. More than anything, it is the melody lines (particularly the guitar leads) that carry the sheer energy of this album up the chart and make it a true standout. The fact that they've also got great rhythm and vocal support just puts the icing on the cake. In fact, the only real problem I have personally with this album is the imperfect production.
An album like this makes you wonder why we Americans have to look so far abroad to get our melodic metal fix so much of the time. Here we have an extremely talented and passionate metal band in our own Floridian backyard. If you're a fan of power, folk, or just straight up faithful heavy metal, go look up Seven Kingdoms immediately; they're very competent and enjoyable. This release puts the band on the map, and their next album will be in my hands as soon as possible!
- - -
The Protagonist's Rating: 8.5 out of 10