Seven Kingdoms – In the Walls (Self-Released)Thursday, 8th September 2016
Fortunate to watch the steady development of this Florida power metal band from their 2007 Brothers in the Night debut full-length to now, it’s not surprising that followers have been patiently chomping for fresh material. This limited edition physical mini-EP (400 copies on CD and similar numbers for vinyl) sets the stage for the impending fourth-full length next year. The quintet stride confidently into their own style with each recording, stylistically gravitating towards a crunchy, heavier guitar-driven approach that has a US finesse and aggression that differs from most of their contemporaries.
In The Walls gives the listeners a mish-mash of newer material along with re-recordings of debut album material. In many cases fear enters the heart when any band choose to have a second go at previously released material – however, the current lineup of Seven Kingdoms features the majestic grace and multi-octave prowess of Sabrina Valentine, who along with bassist Aaron Sluss were not in the group at that time, so the differences are night and day for the better. The title track and “Undying” are the latest Seven Kingdoms songs, the former featuring a stair stack treasure trove of high power gallop riffs from Camden Cruz and Kevin Byrd, pummeling speed double bass out of Keith Byrd and numerous vocal melodies/ harmonies (including choir backgrounds) that meld together the best of current Riot V, Iced Earth, and possibly a touch of classic Blind Guardian, while the latter also accelerates the heart rate and contains great mid-tempo transitions tailor made for crowd participation.
“The Bloody Meadow” gives Sabrina a chance to really stretch her lower to mid-range delivery during the verses, capable of hitting everything from power and progressive notes to semi-operatic/symphonic strains, making for an aural anticipation rarely heard in the metal scene these days. “Stormborn” still contains the male growls (original singer Bryan Edwards making a re-appearance) that contrast against the clean vocals, but benefit from a stronger punch in the drum department than the original nine years previous. Continuing their recording/mixing activities at North Avenue and Morrisound Studios ensures a full and rich outcome, along with breathtaking artwork that proves bands today can still go the extra mile to deliver outstanding packaging. Taking on a number of fantasy/mystical reference points for the lyrics (Games of Thrones fans will know this through “Undying”), In the Walls from Seven Kingdoms continues to push forward as one of the preeminent US metal bands, giving power metal a strong shot in the arm and worthy of all the accolades/attention they receive.