I admit that whenever Frontiers presents a new Metal signing, I usually have a hard time keeping the interest up. What we usually get then is some kind of Power Metal band or a female fronted gothic sounding Metal act with symphonic undertones – I am not a fan of neither of those. But the new album by Seven Spires did sport an interest in me, something that can be explained in two words: Adrienne Cowan. My first encounter with the singer was at an Avantasia gig where she totally blew my mind with an enormous set of pipes and one helluva stage presence. That made me very intrigued to hear what she had accomplished as the singer in Sascha Paeth’s Masters Of Ceremony. That project’s album Sign Of Wings (2019) was clearly in the realms of Power Metal but it really spoke to me anyway. Good songs and a stellar production did that for me but without Cowan’s splendid vocal-performances, it would probably not had gone to the heights it did.
When it comes to Cowan’s different occupations – Avantasia, Masters Of Ceremony and Winds Of Plague where she’s the keyboard player/ backing vocalist – it seems like Seven Spires is her main focus. This is the band where she’s not only handles the lead vocals and keyboards but is also the main song writer. The band was formed in 2013 when Cowan met the other members Jack Kosto (guitar), Peter de Reyna (bass) and Chris Dovas (drums) at the Berklee School Of Music in Boston and they released their debut E.P. The Cabaret Of Dreams the following year. Their debut album Solveig came out in 2017 and now it’s time for the release of their debut album at a major label. Sascha Paeth collaborated with the band as the mixing engineer as well.
The album opens with the dark, gothic and atmospheric intro “Igne Defendit” – finally a band that named their intro something else than “Intro”… – that does its job well and takes us right into the real opening track “Ghost Of A Dream”. The tune brings on a more laid-back verse with a Spanish touch and a melody-line somewhat reminiscent of Within Temptation. The song heavies up towards the big chorus with a slight folky touch and even some Eastern touches here and there. A bit symphonic with a nice orchestration, heavy yet melodic and a seductive main-melody that has Cowan’s amazing voice shining all over it. Very good.
The slightly theatrical “No Words Exchanged” is an upbeat, heavy and dark Metal track with some crafty Hard Rock riffing. The verses reminds me of a heavier and Metal-fueled The Murder Of My Sweet with smooth and clean vocals that brings Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night) to mind. The song slows down early on and brings on softer passages but speeds up as the song goes along with some symphonic elements thrown in. It’s an ok track but it fails to make a lasting impression on me. “Every Crest” is a fast tracked powerhouse of a song that leans more towards Power Metal than classic dito. It’s an orchestrated piece with more laid-back verses and arrangements that goes into musical-theatre territory but gets hard and aggressive and Cowan gets to show her demonic sound with roaring growls without losing any sense of melody. Again, it’s ok but it feels a bit rushed and unstructured.
“Unmapped Darkness” starts out soft and laid-back only for it to burst out heavy and rough with more growly vocals on a thunderous rhythm that kicks like a hit in the gut. The chorus takes yet another turn when the song goes very melodic, pop-laden even, with hooky melodies that makes it the catchiest moment so far. The whole tune alternates between beautiful and delicate, aggressive and intense with both slow and fast tempos involved. I dig this. Leading single “Succumb” also takes the faster route tempo wise with smattering drums, pounding rhythms and a heavy and robust outlook all over but with very melodic vocal and guitar lines. It’s a Power Metal number that holds some smooth and inviting chorus hooks but even though it takes a go at being catchy I still can’t get it to grab a hold on me. It just won’t lift which makes it fade a bit too fast from my memory.
Second outing “Drowner Of Worlds” is heavy and stompy with darkened depths. It holds an evil atmosphere where Cowan’s Death Metal meets Black Metal growls brings on an eerie soundscape which almost makes my skin crawl. But since Cowan also lets her clean vocal-melodies out – still very horror-flick flirtatious – a load of huge dynamics are created. On top we get a symphonic arrangement, some ferocious blast-beats and even though it’s a moody track there’s a big amount of something both catchy and memorable all over. It might not be your most obvious single candidate but it’s a damn good song. “Silvery Moon” is a slow yet heavy ballad with a hard punch and a some rough edges – beautiful yet raunchy. The folky influences brings my thoughts towards Blackmore’s Night, especially in the convincing and seductive chorus. Cowan owns this tune completely with some amazingly tender vocals only for her to go bananas with an emotional and striking crescendo towards the end – very intense and intriguing. Great stuff.
Latest single “Bury You”, also a ballad, comes with a softer, held-back verse where more medieval inspiration sets and again my mind wanders towards The Man In Black and his wife’s band. The tune really goes into power ballad territory which is mostly proved by the pompous and bombastic refrain that sends a million hooks our way with a massive grandeur and catchiness. Very, very good. “Fearless” takes another turn as it brings out more venomous evil that makes the song heavy, gloomy and darker than black. The major symphonic arrangements also sends a nod towards Norwegian Black Metal kings Dimmu Borgir’s later releases. It’s aggressive yet very melodic with a clear and obvious main-melody and some contagious vocal-melodies creepy enough to get under my skin. Despite the sinister outlook and Cowan’s harsh vocals, she also throws in a lot of her clean voice which makes the song quite easy to get into. This is really, really good.
The short and soft “With Love From The Other Side” is more of an interlude, but considering the contagious melodies and gorgeous vocal arrangements, maybe it should have been a full song? Well, it takes us into the upbeat and fast-tracked “The Trouble With Eternal Life”. It’s a distinct, heavy and punchy Metal-stomper that goes all in for the attack. The soft piano intro fools us and so does the symphonic touches that comes after because the song is an all guns blazing Power Metal kicker albeit with a saddening touch on the arrangements. It’s ok but again it fades too fast. The closing title track is a big, bombastic and orchestrated instrumental piece thats grand, majestic and cinematic – the whole soundscape feels like I’m living in a musical-theatre or a huge movie-score. The song brings back elements of the previous songs on the album, recreating all those melodies in a softer and orchestrated way. Very good indeed.
As a whole, this album suffers from the same thing a lot of new Metal releases does – the lack of memorable songs. I have no objections towards the musical performances – Seven Spires consists of a some damn good players and the production is sharp, clear but still heavy and ballsy. No one can complain about the diversity either, there’s a whole lot of everything waved into their music, music that is always grounded on Heavy Metal in different forms and shapes. Too many times the material is unstructured and the filler quota is a bit too high as well. There are some damn good songs that made an impression – ironically enough it’s the ballads that hits home the most for me. This is not a bad album by any means but at the end of the day, too many songs are forgettable, something that also includes some the songs I really liked while listening. Last but not least, it’s Cowan that saves the day here – a phenomenal vocalist with a huge range, passion, energy and diversity. I will keep spinning this record only because of that.
1. Igne Defendit
2. Ghost Of A Dream
3. No Words Exchanged
4. Every Crest
5. Unmapped Darkness
7. Drowner Of Worlds
8. Silvery Moon
9. Bury You
11. With Love From The Other Side
12. The Trouble With Eternal Life
13. Emerald Seas