Release: October 12, 2018
Swedish progressive metal masters Seventh Wonder have made a strong come-back this year with the release of the concept album “Tiara”, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2010’s “The Great Escape”. In the meantime, that band was not at all idle, as they released the DVD “Welcome to Atlanta, live 2014” in September 2016, which sees them performing their 2008 classic album “Mercy Falls” front-to-back (plus a second concert) at ProgPower USA, as well as 2 new songs – “Inner Enemy” and “The Promise”. With “Tiara”, the band – consisting of Andreas Blomqvist (bass), Tommy Karevik (vocals), Andreas Söderin (keys), Johan Liefvendahl (guitar), and Stefan Norgren (drums) – is in top shape and have proven once again that they still are a force to be reckoned with on the progressive metal scene.
Epic as it is beautiful and diverse, but with an underlying beauty flowing from the vocal melodies and intricate rhythms, “Tiara” is a multi-layered, complex, and masterfully written story about the corruption and indifference of mankind, and the innocence and purity of a child. There is also a neat balance between darkness and light as this could have been a very dark and tragic story of mankind’s degradation, but the way the music and the concept are constructed show there is a glimmer of hope in even the most hopeless of situations. Case in point: “Beyond Today (Farewell pt. 3)”.
Against the grain
Tiara's song (farewell pt. 1)
Goodnight (farewell pt. 2)
Beyond today (farewell pt. 3)
By the light of the funeral pyres
There are so many different moods that run through this album, and little details that make “Tiara” a fine-tuned progressive masterpiece, from the ominous intro on “Arrivals”, to the folky and uplifting melody of “The Truth”, to the optimistic feel of “Victorious”, to the funeral tune of “Procession”, it’s virtually impossible to catalogue everything, but each note and each key change contribute to the development of the storyline and the overall tone of the album. As with “Mercy Falls” (2008), the story is told from three different perspectives, and each one has its own feel and sound. “The Everones” and “Dream Machine” are both dark and somber, with fierce guitars, commanding drums, and aggressive almost robotic vocals, and talk about humanity as seen from a God’s (immortal being’s) perspective. On the other hand, “Victorious” depicts humanity’s point of view, and “Goodnight (Farewell pt. 2)” showcases Tiara’s parent’s feelings, both with melodic guitar lines, groovy drums, catchy choruses, and emotional vocal delivery. Last but not least, there is Tiara’s own perspective, present on such songs as “Against the Grain”, “Beyond Today (Farewell pt. 3)” or “The Truth”, where the atmosphere is lighter, with folky melodies, some acoustic guitar lines, soulful piano lines, and very touching vocal deliveries.
And speaking of “The Truth”, I love hearing Jenny Karevik’s voice again, as she harmonizes extremely well with Tommy – just listen carefully to “Beyond Today (Farewell pt. 3)” – and her vocals give a layer of extra beauty to both songs. And Tommy Karevik, he’s such an amazingly talented singer, it’s so good to hear him sing without any constraints; I am again in awe of his vocal prowess. Not only does he possess a tremendous voice, he can also switch from deeply emotional, to aggressive without losing a beat, and, as pointed out in several interviews with Andreas Blomqvist throughout the years, he can successfully deliver anything, no matter how crazy, the band and/or the music asks of him, from key changes to tempo changes to portraying different moods, sometimes in the same song (just listen to “Exhale”). Also, the bass sound is so predominant throughout the album, giving a certain amount of darkness to key songs, and Andreas Blomqvist really knows how to use his instrument so as to get the best out of every note he plays, as for instance the bass solo in “Exhale”. It’s such an integral part of the Seventh Wonder sound, and his playing coupled with Tommy’s singing make the band stand apart from the rest. A shout-out to guitar master Johan Liefvendahl, keyboard wizard Andreas Söderin, and drum virtuoso Stefan Norgren, whose excellent show of musicianship throughout the record is simply splendid, from the guitar lines in such heavy tracks as “Damnation Below” and “Dream Machine” or the simple acoustic lines on “The truth” and “Against the Grain”, to the electronic elements on the backdrop of “By the light of the funeral pyres” and “The Everones” or the gentle piano lines in “Goodnight (Farewell pt. 2)”, to the pounding drum patterns on “Exhale” or groovy rhythms in “Tiara’s Song”, all these details make this album varied, melodic, and thoroughly entertaining.
Bottom line: this is Seventh Wonder at their absolute best. At times incredibly complex, at others quite simple, each of the 12 songs (not counting “Arrival”) is a statement to the band’s artistic vision and craft, attention to detail, and songwriting expertise. All the trademark elements, all the moods and feelings they are known for are on full display, the melodic sensibilities and progressive intricacies are very much present and woven together beautifully, making “Tiara” an epic masterstroke.
Check out the interview with Stefan Norgren here.
Rating: 10 / 10
Tommy Karevik – vocals
Johan Liefvendahl – guitar
Andreas Blomqvist – bass
Andreas Söderin – keys
Stefan Norgren – drums