Label: Nightmare Records
Release date: October 9, 2012
One almost expects a band like Florida’s Seven Kingdoms to hail from Europe. The quintet is a female fronted-power metal outfit: Ubiquitous and easily forgettable most of the time. This is fortunately not one of those times as the band makes abundantly clear on its new album, The Fire Is Mine.
While the band has been around for a few years, it was not until the addition of vocalist Sabrina Valentine that Seven Kingdoms really locked in on its signature, and The Fire Is Mine is a strong indication that they will rise above their peers in short order. The unit was founded in 2007 by guitarist Camden Cruz, and after a few minor personnel changes, the unit has locked in with fellow guitarist Kevin Byrd, drummer Keith Byrd and bassist, Aaron Sluss.
The band has previously recorded a self-titled debut in 2010, but The Fire Is Mine is really the band’s true statement. At more than 50 minutes, the unit offers fans their money’s worth. The album opens with the seemingly requisite tone setting intro. This segues into the powerful driving rhythms of “After the Fall”. Speeding riffs and thundering drums propel the song along. When Valentine’s vocals come in, the listener immediately perks up. She manages to manhandle the song with her throat, at once capturing the power and renaissance feel of her male counterparts, while also tapping into a touch of the symphonic metal vibe made so popular in Europe.
The band keeps the album hurtling forward on “Forever Brave”. The riffs and instrumental performances are top-notch and exactly what one would expect from a power metal merchant; proficiency and aggression. Still it’s Valentine that pushes the band above the fray. Yet, it’s not simply her voice that make the songs come to life, but Seven Kingdoms‘ ability to combine excellent riffage and rhythms with strong melodies and huge memorable hooks. Too many power metal outfits lack the hook, and that ability favors Cruz and company.
The high energy performances continue on “Flames of Olympus” which showcases some of the album’s excellent fretwork. “Symphony of Stars” slows the pace just a bit, and here we find the only semi-weak song on the album. While the tempo change is welcomed, the chorus is rather common and forgettable (lyrically and sonically), which steals some of the thunder on a track rich with dynamic instrumental performances and big choir backing vocals.
Seven Kingdoms waste no time regaining the momentum with the groove and melody laden title track. The rolling rhythm and thick bass really bring this song alive, and offer a striking counterpoint to Valentine’s lilting ethereal vocals, and the impressive guitar tapestries that wind throughout. Another hooky chorus on this track.
Acoustic guitar adds a moody atmospheric nuance to the ballad, “Kardia”. Valentine’s vocals are simply beautiful here, and the male counterpart backing vocal works splendidly. The lyrics almost seem to float from Sabrina’s lips. A stunning performance.
The crunchy guitar opening of “Fragile Minds Collapse” return the album to propulsive galloping guitars and a mammoth melody line. This trend continues on “In The Twisted Twilight”.
The album closes out with the minute long spoken-word interlude “A Debt Paid in Steel”. This sets up the album’s longest track, “The King in the North”. The big choral backing vocals return here encouraging the band as it races headlong into battle. This track offers the most variance in style. A strong close to one of 2012’s best power metal albums.
Seven Kingdoms has raised its game with this album. The Fire is Mine is a commanding and compelling slab of power metal crafted with a wall of instrumental virtuosity, forceful and charismatic vocals, anchored by a celebration of melodic grandiloquence.