Sound — 9
Power metal these days is in a rather difficult predicament. It has become somewhat scarce in America, with for the most part a lack of a large enough fan base to warrant full-scale tours except for the biggest bands in the genre, and not that many new power metal bands come from here. In Europe, a more friendly climate for power metal, there is a lot of it, but there it has become difficult to find an up-and-coming band that has a distinctive sound that immediately sets it apart from the pack. It is even rarer to find a female singer that can pull off the highs and lows that is needed to set the mood, which includes emotion and power, that allows the listener to connect to a song. There is one band who has accomplished all of this. Being based in America, crafting a distinctive sound, and having a phenomenal female singer, and this is Florida's Seven Kingdoms. Seven Kingdoms was formed in Florida in 2006 by guitarist Camden Cruz and former vocalist Bryan Edwards, with whom they released "Brothers Of The Night" in 2007. Edwards left the band and in his place joined Sabrina Valentine. With her on lead vocals, brothers Kevin and Keith Byrd on guitar and drums, and Miles Neff on bass, they released their self-titled album in 2010, featuring such strong cuts as "Somewhere Far Away", "Vengeance By The Sons Of A King", and "Into The Darkness". Neff then left, to be replaced by Aaron Sluss, in time for the band's North American tour in November-December 2010, opening for Blind Guardian. They had been hand-picked by one of the greatest bands in all of power metal as an opener, which in and of itself attests to their quality. That tour did a lot for getting the word out there about them, bringing their music to people all across the country who may not have heard it otherwise. In early 2012, they began work on their next album, "The Fire Is Mine", and it was released on October 9 of that year. "The Fire Is Mine" magnificently continues to carry the torch lit by the band's self-titled album, while adding the extra two years of experience and skill that the band has developed. Their style is firmly based on catchy, uplifting, and yet very heavy riffs, somewhat reminiscent of fellow Floridian Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth. However, they are more firmly in the power metal category than him, and if anything a very slight melodic death metal influence sneaks into their music. Anything from gallops to chords to even groovier thrash rhythms (at least in "Fragile Minds Collapse") is fair game for them, and they fit them all expertly into their power metal sound. The leads are very good, with guitarists Cruz and Kevin Byrd trading off expertly played leads. However, none of them are wanky or pretentious as power metal leads can sometimes be; they all fit the songs that they were written for, as opposed to the other way around. Their music packs a somewhat harder punch than most power metal, due to the lack of keyboards in their songs. Bass and drums are not often mentioned in conjunction with power metal, which generally revolves around the melody instruments, but Sluss and Keith Byrd do a remarkable job.
Lyrics — 9
Many metal bands include female members as a way to attract male fans to their audience who may not come otherwise (Huntress springs to mind as a particular example of this). However, Seven Kingdoms' frontwoman Sabrina Valentine is far from that. She is a very talented singer, one of the best female singers in metal, especially actual heavy metal, such as Seven Kingdoms. She draws natural comparisons to Doro Pesch, in terms of looks and voice, and that makes sense, but she has a style all her own. Her voice soars over the instrumentation, telling the band's heroic tales. All in all, she is a very important member of the band and without her, they would sound very different and would probably be significantly less. The band's name is drawn from George R.R. Martin's series of books "A Song Of Ice And Fire". Presumably initially chosen by original vocalist Edwards, the first album featured nothing but songs based on those books, with the lyrics written by him. The self-titled, written after Edwards' departure, features no songs about it, but by this album the other band members have gotten into the series as well, and there are three songs about it ("After The Fall", "The King In The North", and the title track, as well as the intro and interlude). Edwards actually returns by making lyrical contributions on those tracks. The rest of the album's lyrics are fantasy-based as well, and somewhat typical for power metal, but they are very well written, primarily by guitarist Cruz, with contributions by the other band members.
Overall Impression — 9
The album overall flows together wonderfully, even though the songs can have starkly different atmospheres ("A Song Of Ice And Fire" fans, see what we did there? Whoa ho ho!). Anyways, from the traditional-style riffing of lead single "After The Fall" to triumphant power metal leads of "Forever Brave" to the mid-paced title track to the ballad "Kardia", each song is unique. Some of our favorites were "Forever Brave", "The King In The North", and the title track, but each song is great in and of itself, and is equally good standing alone or as part of the cohesive piece that is the album. All in all, Seven Kingdom's "The Fire Is Mine" definitely brought a great punch to the end of 2012. With a unique sound and style, the band has certainly brought themselves into the eyes of many new fans throughout the world.