There are bands and records worth waiting for. Swedish progressive metal outfit SEVENTH WONDER are one such band, as they take their time to carefully craft their albums and refine their sound. This is one of the main reasons why SEVENTH WONDER are held in such high regard on the metal scene. The trio of excellent albums – “Waiting in the Wings” (2006), “Mercy Falls” (2008), and “The Great Escape” (2010) – played a huge role in establishing them as a force to be reckoned with on the metal scene. With 2018’s “Tiara,” the band made a strong come-back after an 8-year hiatus. Luckily we didn’t have to wait that long for new music from them as “The Testament” is scheduled for release on June 10th, 2022, via Frontiers Music.
When the band is not doing complex concept albums, they write epic scale songs that showcase their ingenious instrumental skills, intricate songwriting, and boundless creativity. In between the darker feel of “Warriors” and the radiance of “The Light,” the band already presented the soundscape of the record, as some songs feel moody and somber, while others are bright and cheerful. I’ve already gushed over how beautiful, up-tempo, and hopeful “The Light” is. Let’s take a closer look at the remaining eight tracks on this album and figure out where “The Testament” sits in SEVENTH WONDER’s first-rate discography.
On the dark and moody side of things, opener “Warriors” is a rather heavy yet melodic mid-tempo affair with Andreas Söderin’s lush keys overlaid on Johan Liefvendahl’s distorted guitars, while Tommy Karevik’s powerful vocals bring everything together nicely. The singalong chorus is an instant earworm and the guitar/keyboard duet is the proverbial icing on the cake. This is a winning combination for them as the keys oftentimes soften the harshness of the guitars and the ridiculously catchy melodies make the songs instantly memorable. Another moody track is “The Red River” where technical riffing meets understated, but superb piano notes while processed/altered vocals that sound robotic add to the feel of darkness that emanates from the lyrics. There’s something almost magical about the way in which heavy guitars and melodic piano superimpose to elevate a song to a whole new level and this track benefits greatly from this overlap. Once again, the chorus is melodic and catchy contrasting with the hefty instrumentation while the guitar and keyboard solos are blazing and precise.
Instrumental “Reflections” sees the band flexing their muscles and offering towering guitar leads, deep baselines, thunderous drums, and epic keys in a great ebb-and-flow movement that keeps the track moving forward. Unsurprisingly, the instrumentals are so tight that the track doesn’t feel incomplete without vocals. Much like “Warriors,” the wonderfully melodic “Mindkiller” has a dark undertone coming from the vocals and drums, as Stefan Norgren showcases his skills, especially in the opening section, while the chorus is catchy and injects the song with a dose of energy. The instrumental parts almost steal the show from the vocals, ramping up the melodies and keeping the momentum going with ease and incredible dexterity. “Elegy” is a very fitting title for the album’s closing track, as it features synth and strings that beautifully frame Tommy Karevik’s soft and delicate vocal delivery. Some piano and an acoustic guitar can also be heard adding depth and texture to this emotional piece. It is fair to say that “Elegy” is pretty much on the same level of beauty and sensibility as “Pieces.”
Elsewhere on the album, “I Carry the Blame” is not the weeping ballad the title makes it out to be, but another mid-tempo track carried by groovy guitar melodies, rhythmic drumming, and tender vocals that deliver uplifting lyrics about overcoming obstacles, while the chorus is somewhat mellow. Not the splashiest SEVENTH WONDER track, however, it does a great job in transitioning between more lavish tracks (in this case “The Light” and “Reflections”) while still bearing most of the band’s trademark elements so as not to feel like a filler track. Light, bright, and bouncy “Invincible” is the feel-good moment of the album, capped off by lively instrumental sections, joyful-sounding vocals, and a soaring chorus. Tommy Karevik’s signature vocal flurry is a highlight on this album, and it is especially evident on this track, as his layered vocals add so many different nuances to the fold making this into an absolute sonic delight. Clocking in at just shy of 9 minutes and opening on guitar picking and bass notes, “Under a Clear Blue Sky” is a tour-de-force for the band, as it feels more like an instrumental piece with sparing vocals that bookend the track and deliver uplifting verses and another soaring chorus. The mid-section sees the band trading off guitar riffs, synths, and bass work with a sense of artistry that is uniquely their own. Speaking of bass work, Andreas Blomqvist is hands-down one of the best and most talented bassists currently active on the metal scene and his work on this album is as exquisite as ever.
I may overreach a bit by saying this, but “The Testament” feels like the 2022 version of “Waiting in the Wings.” That’s the best way to summarize what this album has to offer musically, delivering superbly in terms of melodies, instrumental passages, vocal prowess, and technical efficiency. I don’t think the band set up to write a continuation of that album, but the complex melodies and layered soundscapes are so ingrained in their way of writing songs that the end result is always a joy to listen to and get sucked into their instrumental and vocal whirlwind. In many ways, this feels like a return to their roots but, obviously, everything is delivered on a higher level of technical proficiency, thus making the music easily accessible, which is a songwriting style that not many can pull off with this degree of panache and gusto. On top of everything, Jacob Hansen’s impeccable mixing and mastering make the sound feel huge and expansive but well balanced.
“The Testament” is a must-have for fans of power/progressive metal, as it showcases SEVENTH WONDER at the very top of their game being a more than worthy addition to their near-perfect discography. This is melodic metal done extremely well.
Written by Andrea Crow
I Carry The Blame
The Red River
Under A Clear Blue Sky
Johan Liefvendahl – guitar
Andreas Blomqvist – bass
Tommy Karevik – vocals
Andreas Söderin – keyboards
Stefan Norgren – drums