Released By: Frontiers Records
Release Date: February 14th, 2020
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Adrienne Cowan – Vocals, Keyboards
Jack Kosto – Guitars
Peter de Reyna – Bass
Chris Dovas – Drums
1. Igne Defendit
2. Ghost of a Dream
3. No Words Exchanged
4. Every Crest
5. Unmapped Darkness
7. Drowner of Worlds
8. Silvery Moon
9. Bury You
11. With Love from the Other Side
12. The Trouble with Eternal Life
13. Emerald Seas
It seems almost every year, within the first couple of months I’ll encounter an album from a band I’ve either never heard of or not thought much about before, sneak up out of nowhere and leave me speechless. With perfect timing, comes Emerald Seas, the second full-length release from American symphonic metal band Seven Spires… I vaguely remember hearing their debut, Solveig, back in 2017, and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it, though it never really stuck with me over time. Needless to say, I now have the urge to suddenly dig much deeper into that one, because after giving Emerald Seas several listens, it has left me floored, in ways no other symphonic metal album has managed to do since at least the last two full-length Epica releases!
Solveig was an epic concept album, centered around a lost soul who’s fallen prey to a demon, and while Emerald Seas builds on this concept, it’s not a sequel but a prequel, instead of telling the story of what happened to the main character in the past. On this album, the main character is a sea captain, seeking eternal life. The tracks go into pretty heavy territory, (including the details of their eventual demise,) though there’s also some happier tracks, with a more adventurous and romantic feel to them, as well as some more sorrowful tracks, and some filled with hope. Basically, the album deals with many different moods, and as such, there’s a lot of variety to both the music and vocal approach, with each track standing out in its way. At the same time, the band uses the lyrics and atmosphere to great effect, ensuring that everything comes together perfectly, as the album flows seamlessly from track to track. As a result, this is an album full of highlight after highlight, while also being as cohesively tied together as an album can be.
While the lyrics are a major highlight of the album (both in terms of the overarching concept, as well as some amazing isolated lines on each track) the overall sound is also very impressive. A lot is going on musically, with the use of symphonic arrangements and Adrienne Cowan’s beautiful, yet fierce voice, being the two constant presences throughout. Some tracks fall into more traditional symphonic metal far, except with a slightly darker atmosphere and more intense riffs than usual, while others are on the softer side, some go into full speedy power metal territory, with some incredible melodies, and some fall into gothic or even symphonic black metal territory, with some very intense drumming, hard-hitting guitars and the use of harsh vocals. The musicians are all excellent, with guitarist Jack Kosto and keyboardist/vocalist Adrienne Cowan standing out the most, along with the epic symphonic arrangements, of course. Everything sounds perfect, though, with all aspects of the album sounding amazing, and the production is very crisp and powerful, as expected.
As great as the music is, the star of the album is Cowan, who’s delivered by far the best vocal performance I’ve heard from her to date. Aside from Seven Spires, I’ve also heard her with Light & Shade, as well as on a couple of isolated tracks with other bands, and in general, I’ve had a mixed reaction to her, finding her vocal range quite impressive, with her mid register being especially strong, but I’ve always found her more piercing, high pitched screams to be a bit irritating. However, on this album she has stepped her game up to a whole new level, delivering both some of the softest, most beautiful vocals I’ve heard on a metal album in recent memory, as well as some of the most intense, powerful vocals, with some tracks doing an excellent of showing how aggressive her voice can be. However, for the first time so far, I find all her vocals here to be brilliant, with the more animated vocals fitting the tracks perfectly, while the softer vocals showcased on ballads are perfect, and the light, smooth yet oh so subtly powerful vocals she uses on the more power metal-infused tracks are fantastic, and probably my favorite style from her. She also performs some very deep, extremely intense harsh vocals, which again fit the tracks perfectly, and are performed flawlessly In fact, they have a very theatrical feel to them which fits well with the storytelling style of the album. Her high pitched screams are indeed here, as well, though they’re limited to fairly short bursts, and are used quite effectively.
The album is already quite impressive, just based on the overall sound, performances, and concept, but it also excels in the songwriting department, with each track building onto the overarching concept effectively, while also each being very engaging on their own. Following a brief but very nice intro track, the first full song is “Ghost of a Dream”, a fairly mid-paced track, with very nice melodic guitar leads. It moves along at a nice pace, and immediately gives the feel of an epic adventure, with a slight folk feel to it, as well as some epic symphonic arrangements, of course. The verses are nice, while the chorus is very melodic, and serves as a great showcase for Cowan’s vocals, along with a very slight hint at her harsh vocals, while the lyrics are excellent, and serve as an overview for the concept. Next is “No Words Exchanged”, a slightly more upbeat track, which alternates nicely between some beautiful melodic guitar leads, as well as some pretty heavy riffs. It slows down early on, for some soft vocal passages, but it speeds up nicely as it goes along, with some wonderful guitar work, epic symphonic arrangements and some excellent vocals.
The first power metal-infused track is “Every Crest”, which has a strong adventurous feel to it, with furious drums, some wonderful guitar leads, and some of Cowan’s smoothest singing on the album, as well an incredibly upbeat, very fun and catchy chorus. The verses have a nice atmosphere to them, which is unique, being fairly relaxed but also epic, while the rest of the track is a much faster pace, and while it has some heavier sections, it’s mostly a very melodic track, with some excellent melodies throughout. The first extensive use of harsh vocals comes on “Unmapped Darkness”, another track which alternates nicely between some very heavy guitar work at times, as well as some gorgeous, upbeat melodies, with the chorus, in particular, being amazing and having some more very light, beautiful vocals from Cowan. The track serves an awesome showcase for her, overall, with the chorus being rather upbeat and epic, while some other sections are a bit faster and more intense, but the highlight is the occasional more aggressive sections, where her harsh vocals come to the front of the sound, and they sure are quite intense and wild, in the best way possible!
I’ll admit, even though I hadn’t remembered much about the band’s debut, I did have high hopes for the album going in, just based on the quality of lead single “Succumb”, which may be my favorite track of 2020 so far. It’s a blazingly fast, cheerful, upbeat power metal track with more wonderful leads, some especially memorable and epic symphonic arrangements, and a stunning chorus. While the track has a lot going on musically, with everything sounding perfect, the vocals and lyrics are the highlight, as the track has a romantic feel to it, which Cowan pulls off perfectly, both with some of her most beautiful, yet fierce vocals, as well as with some extremely beautiful lyrics, especially during the chorus, which has a very poetic feel to it.
In complete contrast to that masterpiece is the second single “Drowner of Worlds”, which showcases the band at their absolute darkest, heaviest and most atmospheric. It’s a very moody track, with an overwhelmingly dark feel to the symphonic elements, while the choirs add an extra level of creepiness to the track. Musically, the track has a very theatrical feel to it, very much falling into symphonic black metal territory along with the likes of Dimmu Borgir, with a slightly gothic feel. The highlight, of course, is Cowan, who delivers some vicious growls, and they suit the tone of the track perfectly. While she mostly uses her deeper growls, there’s an especially furious section around halfway through, where the drums turn to blast beats and the track explodes, and at that point, she switches to some of her higher-pitched screams, though here they fit perfectly, and sound awesome.
Once again shifting gears, the band delivers two ballads next. First is “Silvery Moon”, a wonderful track, with a slight folk feel to it. It represents the gentler side of the concept, with the main character looking back to happier times, following his physical death on the following track. It has some beautiful guitar work, including a stunning solo in the second half, and the symphonic arrangements are perfect, but once again, the highlight is Cowan, who delivers some of her softest, most tender vocals throughout most of the track, slowly building up to a brief outburst of some of her most powerful, emotional vocals, and she sounds incredible. The other ballad is “Bury You”, a slightly heavier track, which falls more into power ballad territory. It alternates nicely between some very softer sections, with nice use of soft keys and light guitars, as well as some slightly heavier sections, with the chorus being very nice and melodic, while having a slight hint of heaviness. The music is very beautiful, but unsurprisingly, the vocals are the best part, especially during the middle where they get very intense, once again.
Coming towards the end of the album, “Fearless” is another darker track, with a strong gothic metal feel. It has a very sinister atmosphere to it, with some fairly heavy but subtle guitar work, which gives way to more intense growls from Cowan, though unlike “Drowner of Worlds”, this song does have some softer sections, with the chorus, in particular, having some very soft, very theatrical sounding vocals, with a slight operatic quality to them. The track is awesome, overall, and does a nice job of alternating between soft and heavy sections. Next is a very brief, yet beautiful interlude track, with very nice use of piano, as well as more great vocals and lyrics, which gives way to “The Trouble With Eternal Life”, the last full song on the album, and yet another instant classic. This track opens up with soft piano for a while, before slowly bringing in the symphonic elements and then the full band, with more wonderful guitar leads, as well as a slight heaviness to the riffs. It’s another very upbeat, fast-paced power metal track, though it has a slightly more sorrowful tone compared to earlier power metal tracks on the album, while still retaining some hopefulness, especially during the very melodic, catchy and fun chorus, with some more very light and beautiful vocals. The album closes with the title track, a very nice orchestral track, full of reprises from throughout the album, The way it recreates melodies in a softer, more beautiful way helps to demonstrate just how amazing these tunes are, and it’s a great way to end the album.
At this point, it seems inevitable that one band or another will come almost completely out of nowhere to leave me stunned and blown away early on in the year, and in 2020, that band is Seven Spires! I was somewhat interested in hearing Emerald Seas, based on the little I remembered of their debut, and I’ll admit “Succumb” sure made me curious to hear the overall album, but I could have never expected the full release to be such a beautiful, yet intense, dark yet at times upbeat and hopeful, concept album, which goes in many different directions, yet manages to come together perfectly. Fans of the band’s debut need to hear this, and I’d also recommend it to any symphonic metal fan looking for the potential next big thing, as after hearing this album, I certainly believe Seven Spires have the talent and songwriting capabilities to become one of the very best in their genre!
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.