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    After two singles – 2014’s poppy “inner Enemy” and the somewhat more straight-laced “The Promise” in 2016 – Swedish progressive metal maestros Seventh Wonder have recently announced their new album “Tiara”. The release is being mixed by Oyvind Larsen, the man responsible for mixing on the already-mentioned singles. The album has undergone mastering by Jens Bogren at Fascination Studios. Bogren has previously worked with other progressive metal stalwarts such as James Labrie, Katatonia, Opeth and Symphony X. ( Frontiers Records will oversee the worldwide release of the 13-track concept album, including as a double LP.

    The band used the following lyrics in their promotion:

    “’We've watched you since the dawn of time,
    with every moment gone by.
    A million suns fade and die,
    this is the end?’
    Beware, for they're coming..!”

    These are presumably an allusion to alien forces, given the cosmic imagery. The precedent for a concept album about exists in the band’s widely-lauded “Mercy Falls”, and more within melodic progressive metal more generally, perhaps most notably in Evergrey’s “In Search of Truth”, which also concerned aliens and isolation. Musically it’s very much in keeping with the band’s tradition. From the promo, the work sounds rather more like “Mercy Falls” than the preceding “The Great Escape”. It’s less melodic (of course this should be taken with a grain of salt given the general character of their oeuvre) but slightly darker than their previous work.

    From the musicianship I trust this will work; Anubis Gate attempted this in 2017 and failed, as did Adagio who despite employing the preeminent “dark prog” master Kelly Carpenter (Beyond Twilight, Darkology, Epysode, Outworld, Zierler) dropped their neoclassical edge and therefore their unique appeal. If anything it sounds like SW might be making the opposite ‘mistake’, but their style is developed enough that for them churning out the same stuff would be at least to my ears an entirely acceptable route.

    The tracklist is unknown, but Seventh Wonder’s promo video can be found here:

     

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    I invite you to come with me to a time before 2008. It may surprise you to learn that at this point, Circle II Circle was actually a pretty damn good band. They did eventually become prog Godsmack, as history will record with bitter regret chronicling the storied tale of Savatage. For now, however, let’s make like boomers and complain about how things used to be better.

    Burden of Truth sounds like sentimentalism, at times. It feels rather like Skid Row filtered through Phantom of the Opera, in that characteristically Trans-Siberian Orchestra fashion. The difference, though, is that Circle II Circle crank the technicality and bite of their music significantly higher than TSO’s comfortable bombast. It’s certainly a little saccharine, but performed with such conviction and talent as to make that nearly irrelevant.

    Zak Stevens’ voice is vital to this whole undertaking. His overbored bass resonates unstoppably through every song, an unmistakably mature vocal delivery that dignifies even the album’s most banal emotional turns (“How can we learn to live as one…” “I walked by the church and saw the children, and the world through their eyes…”). Moreover, it is very identifiably American, and that’s the biggest selling point of this album. It’s worth noting he layers very nicely with his backing vocalists. The “The Black” and title track have particularly good harmonizing.

    One might be tempted to snicker at some of these lyrics and the melodies. How antiquated the notion of melodic music without dizzying rhythmic changes or production magic out the ass. Yet, the sheer power behind it all is impossible to deny. The piano line on “Heal Me” would be insufferable if it didn’t drag you in immediately. Despite the sugar content, Burden of Truth is largely fat-free. It doesn’t fall victim to most metal tropes, including the prevalence of vibrato. It’s endearing too, in a sort of Andie McDowell in Five Weddings and a Funeral kind of way, or perhaps of Joy Davidson in Shadowlands – very American.

    The opening to Revelations? Badass. The crunchy riffs of A Matter of Time? Some slick shit. The entirety of Evermore? One of the most masterfully tight, pointed pieces of prog metal out there that still pounds away at the ears like a cannon blast. If you wanted an aspirational American soundtrack, this is it. Songs for an endearing everyman with more behind his ears than you might guess.

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