Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review: Seven Kingdoms - Brothers of the Night (2007)

Seven Kingdoms [ Website | MySpace ]
Brothers of the Night

Daytona, Florida's Seven Kingdoms immediately caught my attention because of the emphasis they place on the works of George R.R. Martin as a source of their lyrical inspiration. Aside from Winterfell, Seven Kingdoms is the only metal outfit I know of that draws so heavily from one of my favorite authors. Formed by lead guitarist Camden Cruz and frontman Bryan Edwards after their previous band, This Solemn Vow, dissolved, Seven Kingdoms eventually grew to a six-piece before entering Morrisound Studios in 2007 to record their debut album Brothers of the Night.

Musically, Seven Kingdoms is carving out a niche through the accomplished blending of elements from varied styles of metal - primarily power, death, and thrash. There is an overall Blind Guardian meets Dark Tranquility feel to the album, but never does the music sound rehashed or copied. The strengths of the album are, by far, the remarkable talent of Cruz and Bryan's distinctive vocals. Cruz is a master of the six-string, evidenced by his intricate solos and razor-sharp licks. Flashy but not overbearing, Cruz knows not only when to unleash his creativity but also when to maintain a restrained groove. Partnered with rhythm guitarist Kevin Byrd, the twin-guitar onslaught is irresistible.

While Cruz lends a majestic air to Brothers of the Night, Edwards delivers a vocal performance that sets the album apart. The band opens the disc with "Eyes of Summer", a fairly straightforward power metal track that features cleanly-sung vocals. Bryan gives a decent performance, though he seems a bit restrained and could afford to reach a little deeper to give a really forceful performance. The next track, however, displays an entirely different vocal approach and demonstrates how it is that the members of Seven Kingdoms set themselves apart from the power metal pack. To open the song, Bryan compliments drummer Keith Byrd's inhuman blastbeats with a hellish growl that portends the strength of what is to come. Melodic choruses, an element that Seven Kingdoms has clearly gained mastery of, contrast sharply with Bryan's shredded growls. This Deathish approach may turn off some power metal purists, but I believe it's what makes this band such an intriguing entity and worthy of keeping an eye on. The remaining tracks continue to blend clean and harsh vocals, with Bryan even venturing into falsetto range - which he does admirably on "We Do Not Sow..." but not so well on "The Bloody Meadow".

In spite of a couple of vocal stumbles, the magnum opus of Brothers of the Night is the epic "The Bloody Meadow". Atmospheric guitar and keyboard passages lead to a whirlwind keyboard solo from John Zambrotto before Bryan takes up the lead. Clean, confident vocals lead to soaring anthemic choruses, backed all the while by excellent riffing from Cruz and Byrd. Deep into the track Cruz finally unleashes a powerful, emotive and lengthy solo that shows exactly why he has caught the attention of many in the industry. As good as "The Bloody Meadow" is, it is not alone. The album is bursting with nearly an hour of molten metal highlights. The memorable chorus of "Blackwater Rush", the uplifting brothers-in-arms feel to "Watchers on the Wall", and Cruz's ever-present ferocity are just a few examples of why Brothers of the Night is such a solid debut album.

Seven Kingdoms is, even for all the outstanding work on this album, a young band with some areas that can be improved. Bryan's clean vocals come to mind, as does "Winter Comes" - the final track of the album. Cruz is clearly off on this song, which might have been a good candidate to re-record for another release. Such improvements are perhaps already in the minds of Cruz and Edwards as they approach their next release. Zambrotto has been released, and a female vocalist - Sabrina Valentine - has been added. As good as Brothers of the Night is, I am eager to hear what direction the band will now take. As a debut, this is highly recommended for fans who like some real power in their power metal.

Track Listing
1Eyes of Summer4:27
3We Do Not Sow (The Legacy of Black Harren, Part I)5:21
4Blackwater Rush7:10
5The Bloody Meadow7:49
7The Long Night4:05
8Watchers on the Wall6:08
9Towers of Hubris (The Legacy of Black Harren, Part II)6:08
10Winter Comes7:07
Total Runtime57:30

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