Artist: Seventh Wonder
Album Title: The Testament
Label: Frontiers Music
Date of Release: 10 June 2022
Just when 2022 was beginning to feel disappointing when it came to progressive metal, the balance has begun to be redressed. In the last month or so, we’ve had new albums from Zero Hour and Spheric Universe Experience, whilst others have been announced and will see the light of day over the coming months. And there’s this, the latest release from one of the very best still plying their trade. I am, of course, referring to Seventh Wonder, the Swedish powerhouse of technical and melodic progressive metal. We had to wait eight long years for their sixth album, ‘Tiara’, but mercifully, the wait for ‘The Testament’, the seventh full-length album, has been a comparatively short four years. Hurrah to that, I say.
Ever since vocalist Tommy Karevik joined the Kamelot ranks, I have lived in some fear that it would spell the end for Seventh Wonder. And, if truth be told, the thought upset me more than I thought it would, especially given that Kamelot only seems to let this sensational vocalist unleash about 60% of his full potential, preferring he become something of a Khan clone rather than truly himself. But Seventh Wonder are far more than just a vehicle for Karevik; the quintet are supremely talented musicians across the board, with jaw-dropping technical ability, and a songwriting prowess that ensures their compositions are not just exercises in impressive complexity. No, Seventh Wonder write songs, songs that contain hooks, melodies, storylines, thus possessing a longevity that makes us fans want to come back for repeated listens. ‘The Testament’ is no different on that score, meaning that it is yet another incredibly strong addition to their catalogue.
At this juncture, I will be the first to admit that I perhaps got a little carried away with my review of ‘Tiara’. I still maintain that it is a great record, but over the last few years, I’ve not returned to it as much as I thought I would back then. With this in mind, I have tried to be a little more cautious and circumspect this time around when reviewing ‘The Testament’. The only problem is, it is seriously ticking all of my favourite boxes at the moment, and I cannot conceive of a future reality where this ceases to be the case.
The magic begins right off the bat with the opening track, ‘Warriors’, which begins with some serious crunch thanks to a cracking opening riff. The guitar tone of Johan Liefvendahl is heavy and authoritative, eventually joined by the rumbling bass of Andreas Blomqvist, Stefan Norgren’s energetic drumming, and swathes of synths courtesy of Andreas Söderin. As the song hits its straps, the progressive riff is engulfed by a groovy swagger, where the keys become a little more dominant increasing both the atmosphere and the melodic strength of the track. And from the moment that Karevik opens his mouth, you can hear that he is a different singer with Seventh Wonder; his delivery is full of emotion, and his performance just feels more dynamic and engaging as a result. It also helps that ‘Warriors’ is blessed with an immediate chorus that soars, pleasing my battered ears immensely. Solos, chops, and instrumental dexterity are all present, but they fit within the context of the song rather than the other way around, meaning that it never feels too pretentious or complex.
In many ways the scene for ‘The Testament’ has been set, in that this album is one that will please those who enjoy Seventh Wonder at their most melodic. There is only one song that reaches the eight-minute mark, as the focus here seems to be on creating a collection of songs that have immediacy as well as allowing the musicians to flex their creative muscles just enough. And, after all, compositions don’t have to be long to be progressive as the Swedes ably demonstrate here.
‘The Light’ is a brilliant composition with a delightfully catchy, almost AOR or pop-like chorus at its heart, but the verses are brisk affairs with plenty of clever dexterity present if you care to listen out for it. As good as all of the performances are within this song, my ears are drawn to the bass of Andreas Blomqvist, especially when the track quietens to allow him to deliver a dancing solo, followed up by one from keyboardist Andreas Söderin for good measure. The song drips with emotion too, especially in the latter stages, recalling the perfect ‘Mercy Falls’ output.
If it’s possible by this stage, ‘I Carry The Blame’ goes one further than the opening duo in my estimations. It has more of a ballad feel to it and so is not as ‘blood and thunder’ as the previous songs, but Karevik is utterly magnetic with his performance, whilst the chorus sends a shiver down my spine. By contrast, ‘Reflections’ is an instrumental piece that allows the technicality to come much more to the fore. As a result, you get solos and flamboyance aplenty throughout from all corners, but still within a song framework with melody and structure. I’ll be honest though and admit to it not being my favourite track overall, as it doesn’t wow me in the way others do.
Things return to their brilliant best though quickly with ‘The Red River’, a slightly darker, more dramatic composition that nevertheless features plenty of light and shade, as well as another sprawling but arresting chorus. I also love the pinched harmonics that Johan Liefvendahl delivers in true Seventh Wonder style.
Both ‘Mindkiller’ and ‘Under A Clear Blue Sky’ dazzle as the album nears its twilight. The former is a vibrant composition, albeit in a crunchy, heavy way, with more of a muscular intent. The melodies are definite growers, but they are no less impactful, whilst the guitar and keys trade solos in a way that only prog bands can get away with. The latter is the longest piece on ‘The Testament’ and it opens quietly, tentatively, but with greater assertiveness as it gradually flowers into a driving composition that plays around with plenty of ideas, all of which come together to create a fully satisfying end product. If anything, this is the track where the keys of Andreas Söderin come into their own with bold sounds and extended virtuosic solos making quite an impact at various stages.
However, the album’s finale, ‘Elegy’, takes us back to the days of ‘Mercy Falls’ at its most poignant and emotional. It is a richly orchestrated song that sees Tommy Karevik take the spotlight, alongside acoustic guitars and beautiful symphonics, to test our resolve fully. The lyrics tell a melancholy tale, brought to life by the talented vocalist who leaves nothing behind to create maximum impact. It is enhanced by the bittersweet folk-tinged melodies that can’t fail to touch me every time I listen, bringing me close to tears once or twice.
Ultimately, I’m just delighted that Seventh Wonder continue to write new music. The fact that they have created another excellent body of music is the icing on the cake. I wish no ill towards Kamelot because they are a great band in their own right, but it is so refreshing to hear Tommy Karevik once again unshackled and able to put his own unique talent to full use. When he is in full flow, there are few better vocalists out there in the progressive metal sphere, as ‘The Testament’ underlines time and time again. But alongside him are four more supremely talented individuals who have come together one more time to write and perform some superb melodic progressive metal as only they can. As a result, ‘The Testament’ is, quite simply, a joy to listen to from start to finish.
The Score of Much Metal: 93%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: