Seventh Wonder - The Testament - (7.5/10)

Published on July 22, 2022

Tracklist:

  1. Warriors
  2. The Light
  3. I Carry the Blame
  4. Reflections
  5. The Red River
  6. Invincible
  7. Mindkiller
  8. Under a Clear Blue Sky
  9. Elegy

Genre:

Melodic Progressive Metal

Label:

Frontiers Records

Playing Time:

53:07

Country:

Sweden

Year:

2022

Website:

Visit page

After Tommy Karevik joined Kamelot in 2012, many feared that Seventh Wonder’s days would be numbered. However, the Swedes showed remarkable resilience and, following a long eight-year gap, came back in 2018 with their fifth full-length, the acclaimed Tiara, with Karevik still behind the mic. This time it took Seventh Wonder only four years to record their new album The Testament, which once again finds the melodic prog metal band with an unchanged line-up and in fine form.

 

Delving into an intriguing concept about human emotions, the new record takes inspiration from the complex technical musicianship of band like Dream Theater, the instant catchiness of melodic hard rock and AOR, as well as the rhythmic immediacy of modern metal, weaving together this wide range of influences into a distinctive and personal sound that has characterized Seventh Wonder’s discography since the very beginning. Compared to previous albums, the new record packs perhaps more immediate and uplifting tunes, although there is always a dark vein of melancholy running through the music, making this LP a must-listen for fans of brooding modern progressive metal such as Evergrey, Kamelot, and Darkwater.

 

The album’s main strength lies in the ability to combine contagious melodies with cleverly articulated arrangements, striking a great balance between immediacy and depth. The songs have instant impact on the listener thanks to their formidable hooks, but at the same time it takes several listens to fully unpack their complexity. Take, for instance, the songs’ form. Despite structures that rarely depart from the regular repetition of verse, pre-chorus and chorus, the ever-changing arrangements ensure there is a constant sense of moving forward in the compositions, thus avoiding the chief pitfall of many chorus-centred tunes that often come across as over-simplistic and repetitive. Johan Liefvendahl’s guitar plays a remarkable role in keeping the arrangements fresh and varied, constantly shifting between simple rhythmical accompaniment and more intricate countermelodies. His guitarwork is often doubled up by Andreas Blomqvist’s extraordinary bass lines, which have always been a distinctive aspect of Seventh Wonder’s sound. The songs’ texture is further enhanced by Andreas Söderin’s tasteful keyboard interjections, well-balanced between futuristic and retro sounds, while drummer Stefan Norgren provides a solid backbone to the music, with good grooves that never grow too busy or overbearing. With a singer of the calibre of Tommy Karevik, it’s inevitable that the spotlight is constantly shown on the vocal melodies. And Karevik of course never fails to deliver. Songs like “Warriors”, “I Carry the Blame” and “The Red River” contain great vocal hooks that are guaranteed to remain seared into your mind after the first time you hear them.

 

These songs, together with the instrumental, vaguely neoclassical metal-sounding “Reflections”, are hands down the record’s best tunes. The album’s second half is instead more subdued and unyielding. “Invincible”, “Mindkiller” and “Under a Clear Blue Sky” thread similar paths as the tracks from the album’s first half, but are dogged by less inspired melodies and, in the case of “Under a Clear Blue Sky”, an overstretched structure that does little beyond adding to the record’s minutage. Even the pleasant ballad “Elegy” that closes the album does not manage to make a very strong last impression, despite the Karevik’s passionate performance.

 

 

Alas, the unbalanced tracklist is not the only problem of The Testament. I was also taken aback by the overall lack of variation across its nine songs, which seem to have all been cut from a similar cloth. This is particularly unsettling given that, conceptually, the album set out to explore a diverse range of human emotions, from joy to anger to despair. This diversity does not really come across in the music which instead seems to explore the same mood – halfway between upbeat hopefulness and plaintive yearning – throughout the album’s 53 minutes. The fairly limited dynamic range of many tracks and the strongly chorus-driven song structures add to the feeling of sameness, to the point that one may compare The Testament to one of those mono-ingredient foods that are only digestible if taken in small doses and at the right intervals.

 

Overall, The Testament leaves me with mixed feelings. It is undoubtedly a high-quality release by one of the best bands in the melodic prog metal genre. It is full of hooks and subtle, technical passages that will appeal to both casual and in-depth listening. It is slickly produced and contains a handful of great tunes that I have been humming to myself countless times in the past week. At the same time, the album does not quite match up with Seventh Wonder’s best output (Mercy Falls, The Great Escape) as it lacks the breadth, vision and variation of those records. It is also heavily front-loaded, with a second half that drags and veers dangerously close to the filler zone. On balance, despite its positive qualities, I doubt that The Testament will stand the test of time as one of Seventh Wonder’s landmark releases, but will instead go down in the history books as a pleasant, but average production by the Swedish combo.

 

 

Author: Daniele Nosenzo

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