Seven Kingdoms – Seven Kingdoms

By Daz Higham 

It’s always been a curiosity to me that there haven’t been more female vocalists in traditional metal bands. After all, the genre was founded on soaring, operatic-style vocals, from Ian Gillan through Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson et. al, which one would have thought perfect for the higher ranges that female vocalists can more naturally (in the main) reach. Yet the sheer aggression and masculine nature of the music seemed to somehow ignore the fairer sex, with the odd exception. Yes, there have been hugely successful female-fronted rock bands over the last few years (Evanescence, Within Temptation, etc.), but few of them have tackled full-on metal with any sense of purpose. Until now that is.

Florida’s Seven Kingdoms are that rarest of beasts: a true, uncompromising metal band with a kick-ass singer who just happens to be a girlie. Musically it’s the natural successor to debut album Brothers of the Night, but whereas that release focused on the death-metal vocal of ex-singer Bryan Edwards, this self-titled sophomore piece throws in Sabrina Valentine’s much-easier-on-the-ear style, and that’s where the band have found their ace in the hole. Suddenly the ferocity and speed of the songs have been given a polish, and the result is stultifying good.

“Prelude” gives you a false sense of calm until “Somewhere Far Away” punches you in the face – and if you haven’t heard Seven Kingdoms before I’m pretty confident there will be a genuine ‘holy shit!’ moment.

The momentum continues through “The Ones Who Breathe The Flame”, Valentine mixing it up vocally with the death metal growl of guitarist/founder Camden Cruz, and it’s interesting to note that this vocal dovetailing keeps things fresh, in the same way that Opeth’s Michael Akerfeldt hit upon when blending his two vocal styles.

“Open The Gates” highlights the consistent guitar work by both Cruz & Kevin Byrd, and as you can probably guess by the title, “Vengeance By The Sons Of A King” doesn’t ease up on the aural battering, itself a force of nature and pretty irresistible.

It reminds you of why you got into metal in the first place.

“Wolf In Sheep’s Clothes” brings things down to 4/4 normality, an obvious single, while the piano-led balled (yes, there is one) “A Murder Never Dead”  provides Valentine’s best moment on the album, dripping with vocal emotion and a reminder  that it’s not just Evanescence’s Amy Lee that has a monopoly on this kind of song.

“Into The Darkness” follows, a Dragonforce-like riff underpinning some lovely interplay between the two axe-slingers, and we get an Iron Maiden-esque mid section for our troubles. If this doesn’t make you smile you must be dead!

“Eyes To The North” is a slab of demonic riffage, and powerful enough to wake you from a coma, and it’s quickly followed with “Thunder Of The Hammer” (gotta love that title), which is actually a string quartet instrumental. Ok, it’s not. I’ll let you guess what type of track it is with its chorus “Thunder of the hammer….metal is forever”. It’s like Manowar has never been away!

“Seven Kingdoms” finishes things off, a signature tune worthy of the name, a full 8 minutes of complex speed metal, with some of the most impressive breakneck drumming you’ll hear this side of Dave Lombardo.

In fact this would have had a 10 mark if not for a slightly underwhelming production , but that is a minor point. If you like ‘true’ metal with a very impressive twist, then Seven Kingdoms is for you. Awesome stuff.