Seven Kingdoms – Decennium
Release Date: January 31, 2017
After teasing fans with the In the Walls EP this fall, Florida’s Seven Kingdoms are finally back with their long overdue and highly-anticipated fourth studio album, Decennium. The new album follows up the critically regarded 2012 release, The Fire is Mine. The power metal quintet, which celebrates its 10th anniversary with this release, features vocalist Sabrina Cruz, guitarist Camden Cruz, bassist Aaron Sluss, and the Byrd brothers, Kevin and Keith, on guitars and drums respectively.
On Decennium, the band once again recorded with Jim Morris (Iced Earth, Savatage, Death) and Phil Pluskota (Abiotic, King Conquer) at North Avenue Studios and Morrisound Recording. Seven Kingdoms also mixed the album at Morrisound Recording and which was mastered by the legendary Jacob Hansen (Avantasia, Evergrey, Volbeat). Dusan Markovic (A Sound of Thunder, Hellhound, Cloven Alter) created the amazing artwork for Decennium.
Seven Kingdoms has historically placed much of its lyrical references and themes on George R.R. Martin’s The Songs of Ice and Fire characters and storylines, better known as The Game of Thrones. Decennium continues this trend.
One of the tracks previewed on the In the Walls EP is “Undying,” a song that celebrates the mother of dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. Sonically it rolls out like a roiling tempest, with pummeling drums and a swarm of fretwork. The tempo then segues to a more cinematic pace as it ebbs and flows on the rise and fall of Sabrina’s crystalline vocal delivery. Dancing guitar work ensues between Kevin and Camden and gruff group chants and ethereal harmonies counterpoint each other. This is easily one of the band’s most memorable songs to date.
This followed by the other new track from the EP, the Lovecraftian “In the Walls.” Here drummer Keith Byrd and bassist Aaron Sluss come flying out the gate with guitarists Camden Cruz and Kevin Byrd delivering razor-sharp riffs and rolling trills at break-neck speeds. Vocalist Sabrina Cruz jumps in next with her soaring vocals. The song is packed with sweeping melodies, haunting harmonies, and fantastic fretwork. The spiraling guitar solo almost leaves you breathless with its pace and twists; almost like the lyrical rats scurrying in the walls.
Preceding the two EP teasers is the album opener, “Stargazer” with its cinematic grandiosity and driving rhythms. It offers the first taste of Sabrina’s soaring and emotive vocals. The song sets up high expectations for what is to come, playing on the many strengths of Seven Kingdoms’ individual performances and collective songwriting skills. Dual fretwork and crunchy riffs combine with glorious vocal harmonies, overlaying Aaron and Keith’s propulsive foundation.
“The Tale of Deathface Ginny” opens in a hail of wailing guitars. There is something of a menacing bent to the undercurrent of this track, though it is counterpointed nicely by Sabrina’s massive vocal swells. Some nice Blind Guardian homage on this one.
The pace slows a bit for “Castles in the Snow,” though not by much. The song features Maidenesque galloping and various tempo changes. Sluss takes the lead on the intro to “Kingslayer,” which wastes no time ramping the momentum back up to full tilt. This moves into the juggernaut assault of “The Faceless Hero,” which follows the trademark signature of the Seven Kingdoms’ sound while adding some new elements and textures. This segues into the more sprawling and majestic feel of “Neverending,” which helps mix up the tone and pace of the record, depending less on speed than melody and nuance.
The speed and furiosity return on “Hollow,” with its mad hatter tempo, lead counterpoints. This sets up the album closer, “Awakened from Nothing.” The final track returns to the promise of the album’s early tracks, with big vocals and melodies, playing off memorable hooks and riffing.
Decennium begins with a huge pay off, with three incredibly strong, energetic, and memorable tracks. The middle of the album continues to play off the technical dexterity, huge vocals, and relentless speed which are hallmarks of the Seven Kingdoms sound. However, these mid-record songs, as good as they are, do not feel as memorable as the album’s infectious openers. That’s less an indictment of them than it is a nod to how addictive and hooky those first songs are. Of course, the more one listens, the more one hears…Time will tell. The last third of the record begins to recapture the early magic, and leaves the listener feeling the need to start it all over again. While Seven Kingdoms does not stray from their strengths on this record, it is clear they continue to grow as songwriters, and they have tried new ideas here that reflect their growth as musicians as well. In all, Decennium is fantastic record packed with all the epic elements one looks for in a power metal album; blazing guitar work, dynamic vocals, intriguing lyrics, and melodies that drill straight into your cranium and refuse to leave.