Artist: Seven Spires
Album Title: Gods Of Debauchery
Label: Frontiers Records
Date of Release: 10 September 2021
Yes, yes, and thrice yes. I always love it when I make a new musical discovery, one that gives me goosebumps, makes me smile, and gives me that feeling that I simply need to carve out time in my day to listen to it. And that’s what I get here with ‘Gods Of Debauchery’, the third album from Seven Spires.
I’m sure I’m one of the very last to cotton on to this band but, just in case you’re new to Seven Spires, allow me to fill you in. Formed in 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts, Seven Spires are a quartet comprised of Adrienne Cowan (vocals, keys), guitarist Jack Kosto, bassist Peter de Reyna, and drummer Chris Dovas. They came together following a meeting at the famed Berklee College Of Music, so you can take it for granted that we have before us a talented bunch of musicians. Since forming, Seven Spires have released an EP, plus two previous full-length records, ‘Solveig’ (2017) and ‘Emerald Seas’ (2020). Faced with the same reality as all of us over the past year or two, the band had to cancel their touring plans. But instead of sulking, they instead decided to write and record another new full-length. The result is ‘Gods Of Debauchery’ and it is absolutely breath taking.
A stickler for consistency, I have to state at the very outset that at nearly 80 minutes, ‘Gods Of Debauchery’ is too long. It feels very mealy-mouthed of me to say such a thing when the music presented on this record is so damn good, but there are a couple of tracks that could have been trimmed or deleted from the running order entirely. The pop-metal, Amaranthe-lite ‘Lightbringer’ is a decent enough track, but it feels a little out of place on the album, adding very little in the process.
In terms of other complaints or criticisms, I have none. Zero. Diddly-squat.
It is incredibly difficult to easily pigeonhole Seven Spires, but that’s only a problem for us reviewers, as it makes us have to work harder for our craft. For the listener in me, it’s a sheer delight. Loosely, and lazily, I guess you could refer to the band as symphonic metal, but really and truly, there is so much more to their sound than that. Throw in some power metal, prog, extreme metal in the shape of both death and black metal influences, classical, and melodic metal, and you’re getting a flavour of what you can expect. But crucially, for a group of talented individuals, they clearly understand the importance of strong songwriting. Yes there is technicality to be head, from insanely complex drumming, to eye-watering lead guitar solos, and from killer vocals both clean and gruff, to inspired, dancing bass work. But the melodies are sublime, and the song structures always come first ahead of showmanship, offering dynamism, energy, and a great flow throughout. And did I mention the melodies?
I could be here until Christmas if I was to try to talk about every one of the sixteen – yes, sixteen – individual compositions that feature on ‘Gods Of Debauchery’. But, having said that the album is too long, it’s fair to say that almost all of the songs are worthy of mention. I’m only thinking about ‘Lightbringer’ and the closing track, ‘Fall With Me’ as compositions that could possibly be cut because they don’t really fit in my opinion. Aside from these, Seven Spires barely put a foot wrong anywhere.
There’s the orchestral bombast and extreme metal opulence of ‘Gods Amongst Men’ for example, which contains echoes of Dimmu Borgir at their height, complete with tinkling keys. There’s ‘Ghost Of Yesterday’ which never stands still, but is dominated by a beautiful chorus that recalls Kamelot in their pomp, around the ‘Epica’ or ‘Karma’ era. Or there’s the blistering speed and effervescence of the power metal-esque ‘Oceans Of Time’, or even the gorgeous classical instrumental ‘Through Lifetimes’ that features some exquisite orchestration as well as some clever melodic reprises from earlier within the album. The highlights are everywhere.
Nevertheless, there are a few tracks that are so good, they deserve a little more of the limelight.
The first of these is the title track, which begins in commanding fashion and then is torn apart by an incredibly mesmerising lead guitar melody from Kosto, that stops me in my tracks every time. From there, we get to hear the wonderfully technical but inventive bass lines of de Reyna in full flow, as well as the hugely impressive gruff vocals from Adrienne Cowan. The similarities with the likes of Angela Gossow or Alissa White-Gluz are inevitable, but there’s something about Cowan’s delivery that I prefer, possibly because the compositions behind her, whilst very different, are just so much better than anything Arch Enemy have written for decades. Dovas’ drumming is thunderous and precise, with flamboyant fills and clinical blasts both present and correct. The orchestration really adds to the composition too, rather than just operating as an afterthought or embellishment; it’s thoroughly integral to the music and well thought-out.
‘The Cursed Muse’ follows and whilst it begins in frenetic and extreme fashion, it suddenly opens up to demonstrate Seven Spires’ melodic sensibilities in all their glory. Cowan dispenses with the growls and releases her glorious clean voice to devastating effect within a gorgeously catchy and memorable chorus. Speaking of wonderful melodies, I have to mention ‘In Sickness In Health’, more of a moody ballad with some subtle electronics lurking in the shadows and a chorus to end them all. It has a killer hook or six, a thoroughly emotional and spellbinding vocal performance from Cowan, as well as another graceful lead guitar solo.
It’s also impossible not to spend a moment basking in the glory that’s ‘The Unforgotten Name’, another quasi ballad, full of emotion, and crafted expertly to balance the light and shade. Double pedal drumming and the odd flash of growling accents the quitter, more poignant sections. The song builds nicely, increasing the orchestration along the way, but it’s Kosto who steals the song with a scintillating lead break, with full-on warp speed sweep-picking just to make those failed guitarists amongst us curse, albeit good-naturedly.
And finally, there’s ‘This God Is Dead’, the longest track on the record, measuring in at over ten hefty minutes. However, it deserves every second. The opening, in a strange way (go with me on this, as I’m a dad to young girls, and so have plenty of first-hand experience), reminds me of the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack, such is the warmth and beauty of the choral vocals. It’s utterly marvellous, as is the ensuing heavier material, which has a touch of black metal within the riffing. And then, having already mentioned Kamelot, who should pop up as a guest vocalist? None other than Khan, who adds an irresistible dimension, particularly when he and Cowan duet so powerfully. Rightly befitting a song of this length, there are plenty of twists and turns to enjoy. But the ending, after a particularly ferocious bout of extreme metal, is the crowning glory, a stunning crescendo that gets better with each passing listen. I have goosebumps everywhere as I type.
I’m not sure there is much left to say. ‘Gods Of Debauchery’ is a very special album indeed. I can even forgive its length, such is its hold over me. I cannot believe I have never experienced Seven Spires before; I think I must have just seen the name and incorrectly thought they were just another power metal band or something – or more AOR/melodic rock given that the band find themselves on the Frontiers label. But how wrong could I have possibly been? This is a stunning record, full of variety, technicality and sophistication, one that grabs you and never lets go. I have, without doubt, found one of the surprises of the year and it warms my heart, a heart that has been desperately in need of warming these last few months. Needless to say that the CD is on order, and I intend to add the first two to my collection soon as well. Do not stall, just buy ‘Gods Of Debauchery’ and prepare to have your jaw hit the floor.
The Score of Much Metal: 95%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: