Seven Kingdoms – Bringing Back PowerSunday, 19th February 2017
How many times in the metal landscape have we witnessed artists that originally develop an explosive style right out of the gate – only to morph into something more watered down, commercial, or off tangent to explore new horizons? In the case of power metal – for every group that may stay the course like Iced Earth or Rage, there are others who let off the accelerator and felt the need to be progressive or more symphonic in texture. Fortunately, Florida’s Seven Kingdoms align in that heavier, speedier category – especially evident on their latest release Decennium.
You’ll hear a bevy of twin guitar harmonies, expressive lead breaks, double bass and charging low end rhythm section work – beyond the multi-octave vocal prowess of Sabrina Cruz. Successfully running two crowdfunding campaigns over the past year for their fall 2016 In the Walls EP release beyond this new full-length, the quintet prepares to get themselves back on the road in late spring across North America with Evergrey. We caught up with guitarist Camden Cruz shortly before he would begin a tour managing North American run of dates with Pain of Salvation, and in this laugh-filled conversation we were able to explore some of their affinities for Game of Thrones, how they feel about the power metal genre, as well as differences between Europe and America when it comes to touring, beyond expected Seven Kingdoms talk.
Dead Rhetoric: The latest full-length Decennium contains lots of straightforward, heavy power metal with boatloads of guitar harmonies and strong vocal melodies. Did the band go in with a game plan to keep things fairly up tempo and ripping, plus how do you feel about the execution?
Camden Cruz: Yes. It’s funny you say that because some of the reviews actually kind of mention they wish they heard some slower, more dynamic stuff. Specifically, with this record we made the decision to have the whole thing full throttle and wide open, basically. Even in the slower moments, they are big. It’s more of our statement to being really fed up with these bigger power metal bands who are slowing down, because when all of us enjoyed the genre when we discovered it, it was the speed that defined it. We want to do our part to remind people and remember what the classic thing was. That was our favorite thing when we all discovered power metal.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think those transitions with the bigger bands happened out of necessity due to their commercial acceptance?
Cruz: Honestly, as I’m getting older too I find my musical tastes not necessarily changing but being more accepting of things that I normally wouldn’t have when I was 18. I’m certain that our next record won’t be as fast, there will be some material just as fast but we will probably have an epic song on there, or a little more different flavors.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned in a previous interview that you took your time to record this material rather than bang things out in a quick three-week fashion as in the past. Were there particular songs that gained clarity and a better outlook because of this extended pacing?
Cruz: I wouldn’t say it was a specific song, but rather the time is reflected on the whole with how the record sounds. We were able to get fresh ears as they call it, between almost every session. Keith would cut the drums, and then we would have a week or two off, then you could do the guitars, and take some time off. You would listen to material, and then you had time to not listen to it. That way our ears were fresh- and that’s something that we had not really had the time before to do, or the budget for. Luckily we were able to make this work with what we had, that’s really the biggest change on this record.
Dead Rhetoric: Lyrically you tackle material again from A Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy novels from George R.R. Martin with “Kingslayer” and “Castles in the Snow” beyond “Undying” which was on the previous In the Walls EP. What makes sci-fi/ fantasy concepts a perfect marriage in power metal, and do you believe as the band gets deeper into your career, you’ve paid more attention to the importance of good lyrics?
Cruz: It’s interesting. Growing up you hear a Blind Guardian record and you say ‘oh my God- this is so awesome!’. About the ridiculous battles that they talk about- and then you see the footage to Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, these epic scenes are just so cool. It’s fairly easy to get inspired for the lyrics. As we get older, life instances and experience will be reflected in the lyrics. We will branch out, but we always want to keep a bit of our roots in there. I’m sure you will see us branch out into some more personal stories here and there, dramatic things.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you been able to get non-metal fans interested in what Seven Kingdoms does because of the Games of Thrones connections?
Cruz: Yes, I think that’s just in general. It’s not because it’s popular that all of these new people show up. It’s more so in the conversation, if you are talking to somebody that has no idea about metal – if they like Game of Thrones then that’s kind of your in with the person to introduce what we do as a metal band. In that regard, it’s been a little easier to start a conversation, and people take a bit more interest because so many people are into the series.
Dead Rhetoric: There can be a struggle to describe to an average person what power metal is, so that is great that you have another way to get the ball rolling…
Cruz: I would just say that – I tell people if they know who Journey is, imagine a faster Journey with a chick singer. If you can take two or three super, well known type of bands, I take them there first before I scale things down to what it really is.
Dead Rhetoric: How has it been to witness the growth and confidence in your wife Sabrina’s voice and delivery not just in the studio but also on stage for Seven Kingdoms?
Cruz: Man, it’s a blessing. I’m thankful every day that I get to do this with her. It’s something that’s super rare. There are a couple of couples in bands, but more so beyond Sabrina, our entire band is like more of a family. It’s a bit tighter than I would say the general band atmosphere.
Dead Rhetoric: Building the profile of the band through touring in the US and Europe on tours with Stratovarius, Blind Guardian, Manticora, and now Evergrey this coming spring, what have you as Seven Kingdoms been able to take away from a lot of these established bands as far as how they conduct themselves on stage and off and apply to your outlook or presentation?
Cruz: That’s also an interesting question. Since the first tour, I’ve always been a person that has always felt I had to be into the details of everything. When on tour, I wanted to know everything that was happening. I got intrigued by Charlie, Blind Guardian’s tour manager, I thought he had a cool job. Fast forward several years and several tours, among being on stage and learning how to perform, being in front of different crowds, all the experience that only the road will teach you. Watching the people that ran these tours, and finding the strengths and flaws to each of them and applying those to the future- I’m about to head out on the road to be a TM for Pain of Salvation here in the United States. I’ll be Evergrey’s TM in the US as well- I made it a goal to learn it, I figure the only person that’s ever going to care as much for your band and look out for them is someone who is in it and bleeding for it, and that’s me. I’d rather have the skin taken off of my back and make sure that everything is done right, and that’s what it’s taught me. As a result, I’ve been hired to do this for other bands, trying to make everything as orderly and as tight as it can be.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe things are much more organized for touring in Europe than in America?
Cruz: A lot of people, and this is one thing that kind of frustrates me a little bit, think before you go to Europe- the crowds are going to be so much better, everything’s better in Europe. To a degree, it is, but it’s just like the United States- there are certain markets where nobody hits. You can’t be a rock star in every single city, and it’s the same thing in Europe. You will have bad shows and great shows all over the world- it’s my opinion that we have air conditioning here (laughs). We had a really rough tour on that end with Manticora, we had bus issues that didn’t have a/c for a week- and none of the venues had a/c. During one of hottest summers ever in Europe- I mean for us Floridians, we live and breathe in 74 degrees and a/c, just chocking it down. Have a bad tour, and take your air conditioning away from it, and sleep- then come home and tell me how much you hate it! (laughs). It was a good time with the guys, and a bad issue with the bus and a shitty situation that nobody could fix, you just had to deal with it as best as you could. It is what it is at that point. Going through things like that together, that is what experience does. Dealing with that, and not want to go through that again, makes me go forward.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel like you are better prepared for any little mishap that may happen on tour?
Cruz: Oh yeah. As a tour manager I am in charge of the budgets for the most part for most of the tours that I’ve run. It’s super important and I know where to cut costs without having to cut comfort, or cut the right comfort to keep things in line. Depending on the level of the band that comes in- you just have to cater to the band. It all depends on their budgets, what the costs are, and how much money they want to make or lose. Where are they willing to bet on not losing.
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