Seventh Wonder – An Emotional GamutThursday, 2nd June 2022
Veterans of the progressive metal scene, Seventh Wonder continue to enrich the lives of their faithful followers through a discography that resonates for those who love the genre. Releasing their most personal record in The Testament, its evident that the balance between musically exciting passages and memorable hooks, melodies, and grooves remains steadfast for the band. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with bassist Andreas Blomqvist and spend time discussing a host of topics related to Seventh Wonder and beyond. During this fun Zoom conversation we learn more about the emotional lyrical content for The Testament, working with Jacob Hansen on the mix, single choices, the challenges of working with their singer on another continent down the line, plus what he’s been enjoying for music as of late, meeting members of Dream Theater in the past, and a little talk of Kamelot / Zero Hour in the mix.
Dead Rhetoric: The Testament is the sixth studio album for Seventh Wonder. Can you discuss the songwriting and studio sessions for this set of material – and did the pandemic and extended time off live stages allow the band to really dig deeper and home in on more specific details to get the best performances this time around?
Andreas Blomqvist: We were lucky in terms of the timing of the pandemic if you will. We finished off the last show for the Tiara album cycle in September 2019 in the USA, that’s right when it hit. So, we were ready to go into writing mode and not do any shows for a couple of years. We spent that year writing the material, completing the material and going into the studio. We went into the studio about a year ago. (We took) ten months to record it, some post-production to get it done. Right now, they are lifting all the restrictions, so timing-wise for us it’s been easy. And nobody was badgering us for live shows while we were recording (the album), so that was good. (laughs).
Tiara was an intentional concept album, much in the vein of Mercy Falls, where you write every song with a specific purpose, and tell a piece of a story. That means you are writing very much with intent and direction, which is a great challenge but a daunting task, especially being on the producer side of it. This time it was nice to have free reigns and let every song be itself. I had no idea what the album was going to sound like when we were writing it, it’s only when you put it together into a disc that you hear it. It turned out very well. Writing the lyrics, I went over to Canada where Tommy our singer now lives, I stayed with him. We went up to the mountains in Alberta, Canada and we wrote the lyrics in about a week. We decided on a common theme for the lyrics. Every song lyrically, we wrote down all the emotions that are key to being a human being, and then we tried to match the songs instrumentally to what feeling they conveyed. And then we wrote the lyrics for every one of those tracks. Going through joy, fear, anger, despair, all of that stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there a song or two in particular that may have presented more of a challenge this time around?
Blomqvist: There are always the same type of challenges with every album. The song “Warriors”, Stefan our drummer brought us this song. He brought it to the rehearsal room – and we had to work with him to scrap certain parts and stick with other themes that we liked. We took that, he went back to work, Tommy wrote the chorus so that was a bit of a collaboration together. It was fun, that was different than the way we work. The album was a little bit harder to record with Tommy being in Canada. Other than that, it’s about the same as we’ve been doing this for about twenty years so far.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released two singles so far with “Warriors” and “The Light” – one as a lyric video and one as a performance style video. How do you feel the reception and response have been so far to these latest tracks – and do you ever have any worries or fears of meeting (or exceeding) fan expectations based on the track record that the band has established through previous work and albums?
Blomqvist: Yeah (laughs). We were all very happy with the reception. I think that “Warriors” – it’s very much an opening track of an album. And it’s supposed to be perceived that way. It’s not going to be the most complex thing. I remember when we released “Inner Enemy” and people were worried it wasn’t progressive enough. Maybe a few voices for that, but people seem to enjoy the groove and the heaviness. And that’s why I pushed for “The Light” to be the video single, it’s quintessential Seventh Wonder. It’s upbeat, happy, easy going, everyone gets to shine on their instruments. That was the intention. We debated quite heavily within the band what song we should do for the video. I fought for this to be the song as it’s the most us. We are pretty happy, cheerful, and we can get down and heavy at times – but that’s not at the core of who we are. With a song like “The Red River” – vocal melody-wise that took us in a different place.
Being an artist, you put yourself out there and some of the people will chew you up. That’s the name of the game, you can’t beat yourself up too much for it. The level of recognition that we have gotten the last ten years, give or take, it’s humbling man. I’m so grateful for all the love that people are pouring down over us. It makes you feel like you are not worthy of this praise. I’m very humble, thankful, and you can’t please everybody. You want people to like what you are doing as much as the next guy. Our fans are the best.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the cover art concept for The Testament?
Blomqvist: It was the first time we worked with this artist (Giannis Nakos), and I’m very happy with the way he worked. We were badgering him constantly about adding stuff and he was great about it, not a complaint at all. The concept – we decided that every song as I said was going to portray a human emotion. All these emotions make up a human being – there isn’t a person alive that doesn’t harbor all these emotions. It’s also like when we are six feet under and we are pushing up daisies, what we leave behind are these impressions and feelings that we made in other people. What do our next of kin, friends, family, co-workers remember? What is our testament if you will? That’s where I came up with the title for the album. Because we didn’t have a title track per se. It was a nice way to wrap it up. The cover art is a man writing down notes. Maybe his memoirs, leave it up to some interpretation. I’m at the end, the finish line, this is what I did and who I was. Good or bad, this is what it’s all about. It’s who I am, and all of these different aspects are me. It’s the whole kit and caboodle.
Dead Rhetoric: You had seasoned producer Jacob Hansen handle the mix as well this time around. Where do you see the importance of a professional musician like Jacob for the final mix, does a fresh set of ears help when hitting the finish line so to speak?
Blomqvist: I think that for most of our albums, not the first three, but every one after that, has been mixed by a musician that we respect. For me at least, and this is a little bit of a controversial issue in the band, if you ask me, this is the best sound that we have ever had. When we talk to the mixer, we give them kind of a difficult task. You want the guitar playing to be there, we want lots of bass like Mr. Big or Talisman, organic guitars. We don’t want it to sound like six parallel down tuned guitars a la Rammstein. But that’s what modern metal sounds like. So then to say, that’s not what we want – but make it sound modern! (laughs). It’s always a bit of challenge to everybody. Jacob Hansen is the first one to really nail that. It’s the most modern we’ve ever sounded, there are big drums, the crunchiness of the guitar is there, but we have lots of bass and keyboards. It’s still there. His work is great, it was a pleasure to work with him. I couldn’t be happier with the mix.
Dead Rhetoric: You played ProgPower USA in its 20th edition in the fall of 2019 – how do you view this performance and reception you received versus your previous appearances? Do you believe this type of festival expands the horizons not just for power/progressive metal, but also the inherent passion that everyone involved from crew to attendees and vendors and the venue have for these niche styles?
Blomqvist: I think that the whole ProgPower USA family is something unique in the entire world. The people who work there – from Glenn who is the managing director to the ladies who are working with the catering for the bands, everyone in between. The vibe, I could live there 365 days a year. There is no place or time in the world that I’m happier than when I am at ProgPower USA. It’s so cool, that whole thing comes from a bunch of music enthusiasts that need to do something cool and figure out a way to get cool bands over there. It just grew from there. Everyone loves being there. It’s the pinnacle of everything, I would love to start working there myself. It’s such a great place in general – it’s so fun as a musician to play festivals, it’s like a business conference. You meet your peers, you talk about the stage sound, you don’t get the chance to do that playing single shows in a club. And also, they bring bands from all over the world – Myrath from Africa, and a bunch of Scandinavian and European bands. US bands – I think they have had Voyager from Australia.
We’ve been there three times now, and each and every one has surpassed the other. I think the last time we broke the record for the signing line, it was crazy. I love meeting people, and it’s one of my favorite things to do in the world. I have nothing but the best to say about that festival. Love the crew, the stage guys working, the people you run into. I have some of these people on my private Instagram, commenting on pictures of my kids going to the park. That’s the kind of impression these people make on you.
Dead Rhetoric: Now that Tommy has moved to Canada, can you discuss some of the challenges that will occur in regard to touring/festival opportunities? Do you also believe that this could help you make more inroads for Seventh Wonder in North America, especially considering his profile and work with Kamelot?
Blomqvist: Him working with Kamelot has opened a lot of doors for us. But that can be a blessing and a curse, as we are always at the mercy of Kamelot’s schedule. We have had to turn down more shows than I can count on account of Kamelot. Which sucks, to be honest, but we get better treatment, we get a lot of new fans through Kamelot, and for that I am eternally grateful. In terms of opening up the US specifically, I don’t know about that. It makes things for the most part a little difficult. Airline tickets are crazy expensive, I don’t know what’s going on with that. If we are going to do a show in Europe, we have to pay Tommy’s airline fee, and make it worthwhile for him to fly halfway across the world for one show. It doesn’t make sense to go from Canada to Germany and then fly home one day after. We have to get more shows, it’s very difficult to sort this out. We are trying to sort out the shows that we are being offered for this fall, and what dates we can take, how many times Tommy can travel transatlantic and make things work.
It is certainly a challenge. Maybe it will make things easier for us to do some Canadian shows, I don’t know. Go down the Rocky Mountains. I would love to play more in the US than we have before. Whether that happens remains to be seen. It’s a challenge, it’s an eight-hour time difference. He’s a singer, it’s not like he can just go out there, he has to be well-rested too.
Dead Rhetoric: You have had to handle many personal losses over the last few years – including divorce while still raising four children. Have you found working through this with creating new music and pouring the lyrical content on the record a cleansing and cathartic experience – hopefully something that other listeners of Seventh Wonder can channel and relate to themselves?
Blomqvist: Yes. It is by far the most personal lyrics I have ever written. Especially as you said, these past couple of years have been very, very tough for me. I never thought I would find myself being the way that I am normally, with depression, drinking too much, it’s been very rough. Once we decided to write about these emotions, it was so easy to open the faucet and let it out. For me the lyrics in “I Carry the Blame”, are dealing with depression and despair that you feel when you don’t want to live. That’s a shitty place to be, and I don’t wish anybody to be there. When you are twenty years old, you think ‘eh, you goddamn pussy, pull yourself up and go watch a funny movie!’. It’s a disease, and the devilish thing of it, you just want to shut off all sensory perceptions. You don’t want anybody to poke at you, you don’t want to react or respond to any kind of outside stimuli. You just want to be in a black, dark room, shutting out all feelings and being in a cocoon. By a landslide, this is the most personal thing we’ve ever done.
We’ve affected people before. It felt really nice to do this. You visit some really dark places at the same time, so it’s not fun and games. As you get older, you live, you learn, and you experience a bunch of (stuff) and live through it.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any worries coming out of the pandemic regarding touring and live shows – as it seems it will be very active with so many bands trying to get out there at the same time?
Blomqvist: At the end of the day, the amount of shows that people will be exposed to is going to be about the same. As I was getting ready to schedule some live shows for us, turns out the scheduling is wild. Not in terms of public demand, but it’s been backed up for a few years. Everyone is looking to go out and play, now that you can. Especially people who make a living out of this. People have been talking to us about availability with the soonest shows being next year’s April. Everybody needs to go out and support the bands – Spotify doesn’t pay the bills. See the bands, buy the t-shirts. It’s going to be an excitement – a reuniting with your family. I went to a show recently with Sorcerer – with Stefan and being at a live show – the whole vibe made me happy.
A pandemic will not kill rock and roll.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you gain the opportunity to be a part of the new Zero Hour album Agenda 21 – featuring original members Erik Rosvold and Jasun Tipton along with yourself and drummer Roel van Helden? Have you always been a fan of their style, and did you feel like you needed to really up your game chops wise on this material compared to your work with Seventh Wonder?
Blomqvist: Let’s go back even further. When we started the band in 2000-01, we were twenty years old. I remember the internet, it wasn’t the same as it is today, but I remember seeing Zero Hour all over the place. This was before YouTube, I figured out they had a great bass player, Troy Tipton. They were, setting Dream Theater aside, the big boys in town. I never really took a deep dive into their material like that, but I appreciated the musicianship. Twenty years later I get a text from Roel, as I had been on tour with his other band Sun Caged in 2017. We loved them – I still think their guitar player Marcel Coenen is one of the most underrated guitar players ever. I love his style. Roel is a beast himself, and he’s playing with Powerwolf now. He just wrote me and asked me if I wanted to play on the new Zero Hour album. I talked to Jason, turns out Troy can’t play anymore, they had the drums and guitars laid down. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do exactly what Troy does, but I gave it a shot.
I got the stuff, recorded one song, sent it over, he was happy with it. Troy gave it his blessing, which is cool. I challenged myself. When you write something yourself, you write something that’s natural to you. Whenever you play someone else’s music, it’s challenging. It was a great challenge, I especially had to work on my right arm. As a kid I played Iron Maiden – Live After Death, front to back. As I’ve gotten older, I got sloppy, taking the easy way out. I really had to work up my right hand, with durability and stamina to be able to do this. I’m very happy with what I put on tape, Jason and Roel have been so supportive. Jason is such a nice guy, kind and helpful. It was great. There is a second album more or less written that I will be happy to participate on.
Dead Rhetoric: In our last talk, you mentioned that you were in the process of pursuing your PhD in medicine and trying to grow your company CareLigo. Can you bring us up to date regarding the latest activities with your schooling and company, and how the state of health care has been over the last few years in Sweden?
Blomqvist: Dude, I did not expect that question, but sure! (laughs) I’m well under way to getting my PhD, I’m at half-time where you report all the research you’ve done so far to a committee. They scrutinize your work, and I’m done with all that. I have one and half more studies to do, so maybe a year or so from now you’ll be addressing me as Dr. Blomqvist (laughs). We’ll see how that goes.
As far as health care goes, I think COVID-19 pulled the plug on the whole digital health care. When you are at the emergency room, getting a video call with the doctor. We are at the next step working with the chronically diseased, the elderly. They need something to support them every day, and that’s what we are trying to get out there. We are making some progress. We are talking about an industry that still uses fax machines, for God’s sake. Maybe next time when we are doing this interview, I will be swimming in champagne, or unemployed, we’ll see.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you been enjoying personally when it comes to musical enjoyment for bands and albums – do you return to a lot of the classics from youth or are you consistently searching for newer artists and influences to elevate your horizons?
Blomqvist: I suck at finding new stuff. Very often I resort to listening to Iron Maiden or Symphony X, Rainbow or Deep Purple. I’m getting older, there is a lot of Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, old country music thing going on. New stuff, one album I really fell in love with is Eclipse – a Swedish hard rock, melodic AOR band, Wired was the title of the last album. I love that album. I like One Desire, the new Iron Maiden album – I know they don’t qualify as a new band. Maybe it’s more of me turning into a geezer, I like prog rock like Transatlantic. It’s going to be the old stuff I choose rather than actively seeking out the new stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: What was it like for you to meet your heroes in Dream Theater back in 2016? Did you end up speaking to specific members to pick their brains seeking out specific wisdom and advice – or did you find yourself totally in fanboy mode?
Blomqvist: Man, you found a lot of stuff. That was great. I consider myself, to be fair, much more of an Images and Words fan rather than a Dream Theater fan to be honest with you. That’s my go to album. I can listen to Awake once in a while, and Scenes from a Memory. It’s not that the other stuff isn’t good – it just doesn’t grab me. I think it’s fair to say without Images and Words, there wouldn’t be a Seventh Wonder. I was very happy to tell John Petrucci that. I also met Mike Portnoy when he was playing with Transatlantic. It was cool when he pulled out his phone and he had The Great Escape there. That was a big fanboy moment. Give credit – it’s not that they care. That kind of thing, if I hear that, it makes me feel happy – that you made an impact on other people’s lives. I talked to Mike Mangini about one poly-rhythmic thing he did – I can’t even remember what he said.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or so panning out for Seventh Wonder or other musical activities that may be in the pipeline?
Blomqvist: Kamelot will be releasing another album. I was fortunate enough to listen to it when I was up in Canada with Tommy. It’s probably going to be their best album. I love Tommy, he’s my best friend – but it’s crazy good. I will record another Zero Hour album. The main focus with Seventh Wonder once the album comes out is to get out and play as many shows as possible, go meet all the fans and bring The Testament to the people out there.