REVIEW: Seven Spires – A Fortress Called Home

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Hailing from Boston, the USA, SEVEN SPIRES are a very interesting band, indeed. Their sound feels more European than American (not unlike KAMELOT’s music) and they are always pushing the boundaries of the symphonic metal genre by incorporating extreme metal elements in their sound with some surprising results. Their newest album, “A Fortress Called Home,” is slated for a June 21st, 2024, release via Frontiers Music, and is about as ambitious as it is complex.

Clocking in at 64 minutes, this album is a lengthy affair with plenty of twists and turns to the eleven proper tracks, not counting the intro. This, in turn, makes the music feel less straightforward than on previous albums but with a greater emphasis on emotions and moods. Nonetheless, without a lyric sheet to follow the story, it’s a bit hard to keep track of everything and properly understand why the music sometimes shifts in mood and tempo. Otherwise, Adrienne Cowan carries the album with a versatile vocal performance of beautiful cleans and a variety of harsh vocals, while her bandmates deliver tight rhythms on their respective instruments. The first single, “Almosttown,” with its orchestrations and gentle melodies that only slightly step into extreme metal territory towards the end is a nice introduction to the album. However, it is the third single released (and closing track), “The Old Hurt of Being Left Behind,” that offers a glimpse into the album’s soundscape as harsh vocals overlap on top of orchestral melodies for most of its runtime before giving way to a smooth, almost jazzy section with angelic cleans and an incredible solo moment.

The particular thing about this album is the way the band manages to walk the tight line between the fragility of the orchestrations and the aggression of the vocals and drums creating a beautiful and surprisingly melodic juxtaposition of sounds. This paradigm shift gave me a bit of trouble with this album as I usually expect a heavier instrumental section to support the growls but somehow SEVEN SPIRES make it work. Songs like “No Place for Us” and “Where Sorrows Bear My Name” make excellent use of this dynamic between cleans, growls, and a delicate backing instrumental section while the layering of the two vocal styles in the latter track is wonderfully executed. By contrast, “Impossible Tower” and the second single, “Architect of Creation,” are decidedly heavier and darker numbers with screamed vocals that contrast with the clean-sung choruses, and more layering to match the ominous ambiance. “Love’s Souvenir” is the track to watch out for as it starts off as a soft, jazzy piece only to twist and turn into a full-blown black metal assault halfway through, thus offering the album’s heaviest and most aggressive moment.

On the other end of the spectrum, proper opener “Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues” offers a beautiful duet between Adrienne Cowan and a male voice (contrasted by some heavier sections) while the orchestrations and drums keep the momentum going for almost 8 minutes. On the album’s second half, upbeat “Portrait of Us” is an interesting jigsaw puzzle with jazzy sections, intense staccato melodies, soaring vocals in the chorus, a solid instrumental backbone, and intriguing lyrics. Delicate ballad “Emerald Necklace” is the album’s most beautiful moment with gentle piano, faint percussions, and crowned by Adrienne Cowan’s soft vocals and Jack Kosto’s excellent guitar solo. Dramatic “House of Lies” combines sweeping orchestrations with a soaring vocal delivery while the guitar riffs keep it grounded in heavy sounds.

As with any album that is complex in scope and loaded with intricate melodies and harmonies, the way “A Fortress Called Home” is put together may present a challenge for some of the listeners as it takes a few spins to get used to the shifts in mood it goes through before it starts to reveal its bounty of hidden beauty, but once you understand the emotions and vulnerability behind it, you’ll be hooked. Speaking of hidden beauty, the orchestrations need praise here as Adrienne Cowan did a wonderful job with them giving the tracks depth, nuance, and texture all the while Jack Kosto’s production keeps the soundscape uncluttered so as to allow everything to have its moment in the limelight. This, in turn, makes “A Fortress Called Home” feel more diverse as it spans the spectrum of orchestral and metal in a stylish fashion while showing maturity in songwriting and composition as well as SEVEN SPIRES’s tight musicianship and affinity for great melodies and intense soundscapes. 

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklisting

  1. A Fortress Called Home
  2. Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues
  3. Almosttown
  4. Impossible Tower
  5. Love’s Souvenir
  6. Architect of Creation
  7. Portrait of Us
  8. Emerald Necklace
  9. Where Sorrows Bear My Name
  10. No Place for Us
  11. House of Lies
  12. The Old Hurt of Being Left Behind

Lineup

  • Adrienne Cowan – vocals, keyboards
  • Jack Kosto – guitars
  • Peter de Reyna – bass

Label

Frontiers Records

Links

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