Can you like and dislike an album at the same time? In theory and even in practicality, I like the new Seventh Wonder album. I mean, they are back once again, despite the odds. But there is another side of me that says otherwise. The new album is called The Testament, and it releases on June 10th through Frontiers Music.
I’ve been a Seventh Wonder fan for many years. I still remember discovering their sophomore record, Waiting in the Wings, and in some ways that is still my favorite from them. But the band has also produced some truly outstanding albums since then, and with Tommy heading off to front Kamelot, they have still been able to make two more albums. I thought the odds were against that happening, but they’ve managed to continue. The lineup still consists of Johan Liefvendahl on guitar, Andreas Blomqvist on bass, Tommy Karevik on vocals, Andreas Söderin on keyboards, and Stefan Norgren on drums.
If you don’t know the band, it can definitely be difficult to invest yourself in their sound. The band plays a crunchy, kinetic progressive metal with heavy 80s influence, specifically in the drama and flair that it brings. The band is like an experiment in balancing sheer musical muscle with cheesy lyrics and theatrical performances. There are moments that make me cringe, certainly, but also moments that blow my mind. It’s a tight wire act, but they always seem to deliver.
I think I need to divide this review into pros and cons. Pros: The Testament is a rock solid album. The musicianship is perhaps the most technical and unbelievable that the band has ever produced. I’m serious about that: their legendary guitar work is absolutely insane, the drive of the bass just doesn’t seem to quit, and I would say their drums are more thunderous than ever. I’ve always loved the keys, too, and they are gorgeous and serene and technical simultaneously. Tommy, too, is able to drop the Roy Khan act and emote like he used to on earlier SW work. It can be overly dramatic, yes, but that’s why I love hearing him like this again. I always thought he had one of the best voices in the business.
The album has some truly great songs. Songs like “Warriors” and “I Carry the Blame” are sprawling, heavy affairs with cheesy lyrics and fantastic instrumental portions. Seriously, listen to the opening riff on “Warriors” and how brilliantly constructed it is. “The Light” is probably my favorite with its story-telling vibes and classic SW sound, and it definitely gets me excited to hear them the most. “Reflections” is a searing instrumental track with righteous power, not nearly as introspective as I assumed it would be, but amazing nonetheless. “Elegy” is the closing ballad, which I love from Seventh Wonder. Tommy really nails this one, too.
There is plenty here to love. “The Red River”, “Invincible”, and “Under a Clear Blue Sky” are all catchy as hell with pleasant vocal harmonies, beefy instrumentals, etc. They might blur together a little bit, but they are all excellent. “Mindhunter” actually feels a little more sinister in tone, and I honestly would like to hear more of that from SW. It is one track that doesn’t let me stay on auto-pilot will listening to this band.
But then there are the cons, and maybe this is just me overthinking things. This is obviously not the band we once knew. Sure, the players are all there, but are they really? The band images are clearly heavily edited and Photoshopped, splicing Tommy into the frame. The music video for “The Light” is also handled this way, as far as I can tell. It feels like the band isn’t really a band, but instead a plastic image of what they once were.
The music confesses some of this, too. This album feels like the band trying to recapture the glory of Mercy Falls, maybe not their best but certainly one of their most ambitious. There are moments strewn throughout The Testament that feel cut and pasted from that album, especially “The Light” and “Elegy”. The problem is that the songs here are pale imitations of the Mercy Falls tracklist. Yes, this album is a bit heavier and more technical than that one, but it doesn’t have as much character or variety, as a result. The band used to balance these things better, such as on The Great Escape, where they wrote with drama and diversity. I feel like that is missing, and I feel like that is because they aren’t actually a band anymore. Tommy left, and even though he is still here with his lush vocals, he’s still gone somehow. And the tension of his lone success with a bigger band bleeds all over this record.
I know, I should keep my mouth shut and just appreciate that Seventh Wonder still exists. The Testament thrills me, but it also depresses me greatly. It is a worthwhile album and I think fans will love it, especially to hear Tommy singing like his old self again, but there is a darker side here that longtime fans will certainly notice. Much like with 2018’s Tiara, the album just doesn’t have the heart or resulting staying power of the band’s earlier work, much as I love that they are still producing. So, I’ll pretend that this is some other band, and I’ll probably enjoy it more.
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