Formed back in 2007, this is actually Seven Kingdoms’ 4th full length album and their third with the stable line-up fronted by vocalist Sabrina Valentine. This is the band’s first release on Napalm – the band used Kickstarter to raise $23000 to record it – but so impressed were Napalm Records that they are not only releasing this one but also re-releasing the band’s back catalogue…and not before time for this hardworking talented band. High octane, high energy, top quality melodic Power Metal is the unashamed order of the day from these Florida USA residents and on first listen it’s no surprise that the band have had their fair share of high profile guest slots in a live situation.
One of the band’s early breaks was when Blind Guardian hand-picked them as support for their North American tour in 2010. Blind Guardian aren’t daft, this is one major warm up act, but I wonder if they noticed the similarity in style that Seven Kingdoms’ drummer Keith Byrd has to BG’s original drummer Thomen Stauch? That same ability to keep a song’s energy up so high that if you are just following the melody lines, the song never dips or falters in pace, just pounds away at the same level. Yet when you actually listen to the drumming there is all sorts going on – intricate fills, moving snare beats, dipping in and out of double-kick…Keith Byrd is a hell of a Power Metal drummer, and when you have a skinsman this adept, backed up by an intuitive bassist, the band are already a step ahead of the game.
The two guitarists work expertly together, trading riffs, dueling on lead breaks and filling every ounce of space to give the album a grandiose dynamic, then when you add the melodious, note-perfect tones of Sabrina Valentine…well, what’s not to like? The band feel no need to “show off their sensitive side” – there’s no ballads, just Power Metal fury, one track after another – utterly fabulous! It’s no secret that this is how I like to hear my Power Metal, it’s got that early Blind Guardian sharpness (some of lead guitar lines are nicely reminiscent), echos of Sinbreed crossed with Vandroya’s debuts, some Firewind and Lost Horizon in the music and maybe a ballsier Lunatica within the vocal delivery.
Every track is high energy with those wonderfully driving rhythms, so it’s hard to pick a favourite or single individual songs out as the album works great in it’s entirety. Any song from this album is a good representation of the band, but I do keep returning with added excitement to “Castles In The Snow”. The way it varies tempo, sticks in an unexpected vocal hook, keeps you guessing and rounds things off with a bouncy, memorable chorus, it just seems to showcase the band perfectly for me – but hey, that’s just my opinion, check them out for yourselves! And now thanks to Napalm all of us over in Europe should be able to check out Seven Kingdoms’ previous wares just that bit easier – hell yeah, I’ve put my order in, was there ever any doubt?
(9/10 Andy Barker)