Trans-Atlantic Power/Thrash outfit Them have returned once more, bringing with them another host of supernaturally inclined songs detailing the continued trials of the warlock K.K Fossor. 2016’s ‘Sweet Hollow’ began this tormented tale and it continues on at the Manor of the Seven Gables which draws parallels to the famous ‘Salem Witch Trials’. If ‘Sweet Hollow’ was any indicator, then expect a detailed story, delivered through a dynamic vocal and musical display which boasts high levels of compositional ability and instrumental proficiency. Having anticipated the release of this album since the initial outline of the story was revealed to me by the mind behind the madness (and finding out a namesake of mine features in this release also!) it is time to prepare to brave those things which live in the shadows and to be wary of the witchfinder.
Like with the previous album from Them, “Manor Of the Se7en Gables” (M7G) is a concept album which is part of a larger planned story and the atmosphere, narrative sections and subtle musical manipulations all give it that theatrical edge which when combined with the dynamic vocals leads to a well delivered story. Add in the role of the synths/samples which go from major melodic components to ambient and background structuring and the traditional guitar/drums/bass which form the spine of the music, you get a well-crafted, power/thrash sound which draws in plenty of melodic and progressive ideas to round out each song. In all, Them are a well-oiled musical entity who know what to do in order to get that desired outcome.
Opening number, “Residuum” is a narrative driven instrumental track which opens up with the sequence of events which ended ‘Sweet Hollow’ and the short instrumental sequence which follows the narrative sample gives a real cinematic/theatrical feel, like the prelude of things to come. “Circuitos” which follows up however brings the ‘actual’ music – a surge of fast paced thrash-minded metal with a vocal wail that the likes of Halford and King Diamond would be proud of, signals the start of the adventures of Fossor. Tight rhythmic execution, piercing and commanding vocals and some pretty intense lead guitar lines set the stage and from here on out, a wide range of thrash and power metal comes your way, all packed full of atmosphere, a chilling story and excellent composition.
“Witchfinder”, the lead single from the release is one of the highlights of this album. The track introduces the ‘antagonist’ of the story and even if you are unfamiliar with the events behind the track, it serves as a great example of power metal. The steady rhythmic chugged riffs and animated vocal delivery have great melodic hooks to them which will have them taking firm hold in your head and the lyrics themselves add elements of suspense and impending darkness in the story… Not that a story which centres around arcane arts like necromancy, supernatural themes and demonic possession isn’t dark. “Witchfinder” isn’t the only example of a hook laden stand out track on this release thankfully. “Ravna” is a dark and moody track which is heavy on the atmospheric impact and narrative aspects of the album and the follow up to it, “As The Sage Burns” is an electrifying slice of pseudo-Melodic Death Metal a la Mercyful Fate- storming vocals, rapidfire music and ripping leads. “The Secret Stairs” is reminiscent of ‘Dead Of Night’ from the previous album in that it is a highly demanding, technically inclined track with intricate composition and huge atmospheric presence. The closing track “Punishment By Fire” however is the real standout song. It takes in all the elements mentioned previously; a theatrical nature, dynamic and commanding vocal presence, intricate composition and highly demanding technical proficiency, combines them with the narrative elements and rounds out the release in a stunning and dramatic fashion. Heavy and intense, fast paced and gripping, it is a thrilling song which has that cinematic feel to it along with keeping you in suspense right until the very end.
I could go into further detail regarding the release but with any concept album, the trouble in talking about it is much like the trouble in the creative process; where do you start and what balance of content to music do you need before it ultimately ends up as an information dump?
In short, the easiest explanation is to just go and listen to the album and take it all in. Musically, this is fairly straight forwards – it is power metal and thrash metal with some melodic death influences and a lot of classic prog behind the scenes. The interplay of vocals, instruments and concepts makes this album come together and the dynamic aspect of K.K Fossor’s vocals really adds character and brings this release to life. Story wise, it’s gripping and easy to follow if you are unfamiliar with the first part of the story (in 2016’s ‘Sweet Hollow’) and it has a simple enough context to feel familiar given how it draws from popular culture and historical settings, merging fact and fiction into something we can all get to grips with easily. With plenty of drama, flair and style, Them continue to impress and given the conclusion to this release, any further chapters in the story that is the life and misfortunes of K.K Fossor is welcomed here!