They say all of the best progressive metal bands come from Sweden. It must be something in that Viking ale of theirs that makes them grow manly beards and write ballsy metal songs. Despite how it happens, we are nonetheless thankful for the gifts they bestow upon the music community today. A band like Seventh Wonder confirms this with their latest and greatest studio album, The Great Escape. The group has recently been drawn into the spotlight with the announcement that Tommy Karevik, Seventh Wonder’s frontman, had officially joined symphonic metal band Kamelot as their new lead singer. He has been touring with them extensively in the past couple of months, and is featured on the band’s upcoming studio release, Silverthorn, which will hit the shelves in late October. Karevik has stated that he has no intention of leaving Seventh Wonder, however, which comes as a relief to fans who, like me, are eager to hear anything new that follows in the wake of the magnificence that is The Great Escape.
The Great Escape became my favorite progressive metal album for quite a while this past year. The songwriting on the album is simply extraordinary. Each track is a masterful arrangement of precisely composed progressive mini-odysseys and undeniably catchy chorus sections that hold it all together, and they do it all without the slightest indication that they are willing to compromise a single drop of their creative potential. This album has been stretched out to its full capacity; The Great Escape is the complete package. The first six tracks build the strong foundations of an outstanding prog metal album, which is then completed with its own magnum opus – a thirty-minute epic closing track that embarks on an incredible musical journey and showcases the true extent of the band’s creativity.
From the onset of the first song, “Wiseman,” Seventh Wonder takes no prisoners as they launch into a stream of heavy metal riffs overlaid with epic keyboard pads. If you begin to get the sense that you’re experiencing the soundtrack of every action thriller ever, you’re probably listening to the right album. Seventh Wonder has a remarkable talent for changing time signatures frequently and rapidly, yet making it sound as if the rhythmic pulse is remaining constant. When the listener can’t tell that the meter is changing, it’s safe to say that you’re implementing them extremely well. The transitions seem effortless, even though the band is flying through a maze of complicated riffs. In this way, Seventh Wonder has been able to raise the overall complexity of their music without losing any of their appeal.
“Alley Cat” may be one of the more commercially appealing cuts from the album, though it still maintains its progressive rock identity. Tommy Karevik’s voice is an exceptional standout in today’s metal scene, and it proves itself over and over again as it tears through the intricate vocal melodies that contribute to the band’s signature sound. This brings up another point that sets the band apart; every musician, including the vocalist, has the potential to execute highly demanding parts that seem to have a mind of their own, yet they are all somehow woven together into an incredibly tight knit unit.
Clocking in at eight and a half minutes, “The Angelmaker” is the longest cut off the record so far. With extended instrumental sections interwoven between recurring choruses, it continues to explore the vocal-heavy style of progressive metal that has become characteristic of the band’s sound. This brings up another interesting point that sets Seventh Wonder apart: their judicious use of vocal harmonies. Throughout all of their songs, their implementation of multiple vocal lines helps to fill up the musical spectrum and bring their music to a whole new level.
Although the keyboard parts have usually taken the back burner up until this point in the album, “King of Whitewater” is definitely their time to shine. Andreas Söderin, the man behind the keys, predominantly uses a combination of piano, string, and choir sounds – an aspect which is explored fully in this song. The true genius is in the authentic orchestration of such parts; rather than simply using a stock orchestra patch, Söderin emphasizes specific instrument families for each melody and countermelody. Apart from the keyboard realm, the composition is masterfully put together, even going so far as to feature some vocal growls underneath the lush chorus.
“Long Way Home” is easily the most emotionally moving song on The Great Escape. The rock ballad features some of the greatest vocal interplay yet, particularly between Tommy Karevik and his sister, Jenny Karevik, who makes a guest appearance towards the end of the piece. “Move On Through” gets the ball rolling again with a more uptempo heavy metal jam, and features a fantastic electric bass solo, courtesy of Mr. Andreas Blomqvist. What comes next is the clear masterpiece of the whole album, however.
The title track lasts for just over thirty full minutes, telling the story of the passengers on a spaceship who become lost in an existential crisis after being ejected from the solar system. Deep stuff, I know. The mood of the piece fits the theme to a tee as it starts off with a solemn vocal/acoustic guitar duo section, followed by a brilliantly arranged orchestral section of epic proportions. The twenty-seven minutes that come after that are a continuous progression of musical movements that explore every aspect of modern progressive metal. Everything that you have come to love about Seventh Wonder over the past six songs manifests itself in an even more developed fashion during “The Great Escape.” The track never becomes stale, either, because it is constantly morphing into a whole new creation. Don’t dare to breathe until it’s truly over; it may fool you a couple times. On a few occasions, the music will fade to silence, only to be reborn again in much-evolved form. Let it not be said that nothing is ever repeated in the song, however. Like any respectable progressive epic, the themes that are introduced in the beginning are eventually brought back and developed further. There is simply too much to say about “The Great Escape” for it to all be covered, so I will leave it up to the music itself to tell the full story.
Seventh Wonder has packed an unimaginably huge amount of quality material into the mere 67 minutes of The Great Escape. Each song is outstanding in its own right, and each showcases the tremendous potential of the band, both as performers and as composers. The formula they have developed allows them to create a product that is easily recognizable as an instant classic. A message to any and all progressive rock fans out there: do yourself a favor and listen to this album in its entirety. It will not be an experience that you will forget anytime soon.