Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Seven Kingdoms - The Fire is Mine (2012)

Commonly known for the bludgeoning death metal movement of the nineties, Florida and its power metal newcomers are not exactly synonymous with one another. Seven Kingdoms, a band established late last decade, defy the Floridian stereotype and instead focus on lush, memorable melodies and explosive choruses not too far removed from generic mainstream pop. Ruthless guitar work reminiscent of Iced Earth lies in wait under layer-upon-layer of harmonic ecstasy--making the band somewhat unique--but, by nature, metal and pop are polar opposites. And when a fusion is executed poorly, the final product is nothing more than a stain on that particular band's name. While Seven Kingdoms retain many of those formulaic elements, the end result is an absolutely phenomenal series of addictive choruses and celestial mid-range vocals that by far surpass the majority of the act's existing catalog.

Despite all the good talk, complications tend to set in for female-fronted bands. Similar acts have been accused of being a gimmick--many of them rightly so--but in the case of Seven Kingdoms, the label is undeserved considering the line-up changes the members have endured. Generally, these kinds of groups use their female members only for their sex appeal, drawing in a "listening" crowd but at the cost of future development. Because of the ploy, most fans don't stay interested long enough to see these artists outgrow their infancy stage and loses the drive to complete another album. In other words, the project dissolves.

If only for Sabrina Valentine heading Seven Kingdoms, first listens might be suggestive of the gimmick, but the feeling quickly fades as listeners make their way through the track listing. Compared with previous releases, the songwriting is slightly stronger this time around; tighter and more indicative of the direction the band intends to take their music in. Although the self-titled had better standout tracks, The Fire is Mine is improved as a cohesive product, ironing out the inconsistencies of the prior albums while unfortunately holding one glaring similarity: as if Seven Kingdoms did not learn from their past mistakes, two filler-like intro pieces, "Beyond the Wall" and "A Debt Paid in Steel," mar what is an otherwise excellent roster and interrupt the flow a bit like an interlude placed in the middle of a play.

Nevertheless, having no place in power metal, perhaps the best change The Fire is Mine brings to the table is the omission of harsh vocals. Feeling like an identity crisis, past records tussled back and forth with death metal influence, particularly in the vocal department and stole much of the spotlight from Valentine. Giving her mid-range little room to breathe, Seven Kingdoms continued to trudge the long road toward finding a musical personality, but The Fire is Mine proves the act finally has a concrete plan in hand and the ability to make it happen; unless planning goes completely awry, there is absolutely no reason the band cannot match the level of popularity reached by Kamelot, Epica, and others.

Only time will tell if that popularity is attainable, however. Initial response to The Fire is Mine has been overwhelmingly positive, and anticipation for the record seemed substantially bigger than the last. Regardless of the situation, Seven Kingdoms currently sit at the top of their discography, and the next will have to work much harder to push The Fire is Mine from its pedestal.

-TMA

3 comments:

  1. Hell yes! Love the review and Seven Kingdoms is a great band. We can only hope for more material of similar or higher caliber!

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  2. Nice review! I dig the power metal but my limited exposure (think Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray and little else) has it underrepresented in my library. I need to check these guys out.

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