Let me say one thing up front: I am a fan of Seven Spires. I am a very big fan even! The term ‘mega’ might even apply. So, unless there are gross mistakes or blue notes on this first live album by this progressive dark metal (very dark but not black enough for black) quartet from the United States, expect nothing less than a jubilation from me! The objectivity for this review is bleeding and gagged somewhere in a corner.
I find it quite difficult to write this review. Whlie listening, I get completely sucked into the music, so much so that nothing gets on the metaphorical paper. When I turn off the music, I think of what I want to write down, but then I want to go listen again… In short, I can’t get much done like this…
For those who don’t know Seven Spires yet, a short introduction: the band members met each other during their studies at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston (you know, with Dream Theater as the most famous alumni). The musical qualities of brilliant multi-vocalist and composer Adrienne Cowan, virtuoso guitarist (teacher and sound engineer) Jack Kosto, inimitable Peter ‘bet I can use every fret of every kind of bass in every half of a song’ de Reyna and drum beast (and multi-instrumentalist) Chris Dovas are more than fine. If I may elaborate on the latter for a moment: on every Seven Spires album he lays down a particularly solid and creative basis that the rest can indulge in, but on this live record you can really hear the enormous box of tricks he has at his disposal. That was also what impressed me very much when I finally got to see them live a few months ago when they visited Eindhoven in their European tour with Twilight Force. It was also great to experience, when I had the opportunity to shake hands with this man, that he is also just a very warm and friendly guy! The saying ‘never meet your heroes’ certainly does not apply here! So as far as I’m concerned, the four minutes of drum solo on this album is more than deserved! Really? Gonna have another listen just to be sure…
And another half hour further… Don’t worry, time well spent. Speaking of time, Live At Progpower USA XXI is exactly one hour and fifty-four seconds long. And this hour of playing time is so crammed full of music that the outro Through Lifetimes has to be turned away halfway through and that especially Adrienne’s comments between the songs are thrown out at record speed. But everything so that there is enough time left for the dessert at the end: the more than ten minutes long epic This God is Dead. And there is definitely a big icing on this cake! On the studio version, this is partly a beautiful duet with singer Roy Khan (Conception, ex-Kamelot). And let Conception have been on the line up of this festival! Fortunately, and despite the fact that it is a prog festival, here one and one is also two and this duet will also be performed live, recorded and therefore put on CD for the whole world to enjoy! Am I going to do that again…
Listened to the CD again until I came across Succumb again. There are some wonderful guitar solos in here, after all. They are wordless poems. Such a pity that Jack’s guitar was so far in the background in Eindhoven… a shame and a big middle finger for the sound engineer that evening. Now of course I also want to personally push Peter some feathers in the ‘behind’, but for which song… Because every bass line on every song is perfect. So what could be more perfect than perfect? I’m going to listen… Well, Ghost Of Yesterday might just stand out in that respect. Just double check… No, Oceans Of Time jumps even higher! Phew, I don’t know either. There is simply no such thing as more perfect than perfect. Finished. Point.
It’s that live albums are generally not allowed to count for albums of the year otherwise it would have been decided this year already, as far as I’m concerned. The only thing that could be better would be a new studio album from Seven Spires, but I can’t imagine there will be another one this year, with all the tours they’re doing this year (currently in North America with Eluveitie and Omnium Gatherum). Also, live albums usually don’t get a score rating. Not here at Zware Metalen either, otherwise this would have been my first review that would have received the full whack of points!
Yes Berry, we know now (I think you are thinking now): Live At Progpower USA XXI is awesome! But can’t you let go of the shackles trapping your objectivity and try to listen to it with a critical ear? Come on, I’m going to do another round…
It’s about time to close this paean to Seven Spires in general and Live At Progpower USA XXI in particular. At least then I can listen quietly, undisturbed. Is there really no criticism at all? Really, really not at all? Oh well, come on, just one then: the album is way too short and should have been at least a double or triple album…
Frontier Records, 2023
- Wanderer’s Prayer (intro)
- Gods Of Debauchery
- Ghost Of Yesterday
- Cabaret Of Dreams
- In Sickness, In Health
- Bury You
- Oceans Of Time
- Shadows On An Endless Sea
- Dare To Live
- This God Is Dead (met Roy Khan)
- Through Lifetimes (outtro)
- Adrienne Cowan – Vocals
- Jack Kosto – Guitar
- Peter de Reyna – Bass and vocals
- Chris Dovas – Drums