Seven Spires – A Fortress Called Home Review

One of symphonic metal’s struggles as a genre is that it turns out writing a symphony is hard. Just slapping some string synths on generic metalcore and calling it a day does not Beethoven make. Which was why Seven Spires’ glow-up on Emerald Seas was so striking. Not that debut Solveig hadn’t shown promise, but suddenly their fancy music education and performance skills combined to produce something genuinely worthy of being called “symphonic.” Gods of Debauchery proved it wasn’t a fluke (while also proving they can write out-and-out pop catchiness too with “Lightbringer,” which—fight me—is a great song, but you wouldn’t want the whole album to sound like that). That was a pandemic project, following the year after Emerald Seas. Three years and fewer distractions later, we come to A Fortress Called Home.

It’s immediately clear this is still the Seven Spires we expect. The writing is lush and complex. The emotional impact has always been first and foremost in their writing, and A Fortress Called Home is no different. Songs like “Love’s Souvenir” or “The Old Hurt of Being Left Behind” tug firmly on your heartstrings. They’re great at contrasting soaring highs and crashing lows. Catchiness follows from interesting, creative hooks and twists, not from big cheap choruses. It’s never content to sit around in a single genre, despite the obvious power metal base. In particular, there are some definite death/doom influences here, perhaps more so than on previous records, with lots of harsh vocals and downbeat, downtrodden riffs (“Impossible Tower,” “Where Sorrows Bear My Name”). And the orchestration threaded through all of it is key to its success, and never too busy or too cheesy.

So what’s missing? Well, not much. My most significant gripe is we don’t quite get a category 5 banger on the scale of, say, “Every Crest.” There are some category 4s—”Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues,” “The Old Hurt of Being Left Behind,” “No Place For Us”— they just doesn’t quite hit the heights they’re capable of. And I do miss the editing from the 50-minute Emerald Seas. This isn’t as long as Gods of Debauchery, and cutting it down would require some fairly brutal choices—there’s no bad songs here. But I took a little longer to appreciate penultimate track “House of Lies” than it deserved due to slight listen fatigue creeping in at the one-hour mark. I also wish the orchestration was real, or that they used slightly more natural-sounding samples. I recognize that hiring an orchestra isn’t exactly cheap, but there’s a real violin on “Love’s Souvenir” and it makes such a difference.1

The star of the show is once again Adrienne Cowan on clean and harsh vocals (not to mention the keyboards, songwriting, and orchestration). She’s a brilliant singer with versatile cleans and heavy, enunciated growls, and carries a lot of the album’s emotional weight with panache. I also really like the [(Luca) Turilli(‘s) / Lione] Rhapsody [of Fire] flavored duet with a male vocalist on “Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues.” Guitarist Jack Kosto (who also handles the very complex production work) is impressive, with highlights like the lyrical guitar on “No Place For Us” and regular stylish solos. Bassist Peter de Reyna gets a few spotlight moments, like the end of “Impossible Tower”, and deserves more. Finally, percussion has a lot of work to do to carry music with this much going on, and departing drummer Chris Dovas does a great job matching the ever-changing moods.

A Fortress Called Home doesn’t quite equal the absolute best Seven Spires are capable of, but that’s as far as the negatives go here. Once again they’ve produced an emotional, captivating record filled with unexpected twists. I’ve had half the record stuck in my head at once since I started listening, all of it earned by clever writing and great performances. Existing fans should find a lot to love here. And if you’re a fan of anything even vaguely power/melodeath/prog flavored, or like symphonic metal in theory but not in execution, and have never checked out Seven Spires, now is the time.

Rating: Very Good
DR: ¯_(ツ)_/¯ | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Frontiers Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 21st, 2024

The post Seven Spires – A Fortress Called Home Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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