Sound — 8
When talking about genre boundaries in music last Christmas, a cousin of mine naively told me that metal "is not beautiful." I think what he meant by that unfair (and in my opinion inaccurate) statement is that the distorted chaos typical of metal sounds nothing like what the average listener would describe as "beautiful" music. "Seven Year Storm" is a great counter to my cousin's opinion.
The track "Just the Cook" is a perfect summary of what this EP is all about. The crashing, dreamy chords demonstrate a great balance between heavy low-end and floaty high-end guitar that just works really, really well. Think of the best chunky, delicious prog-metal blended with leads reminiscent of Guthrie Govan or John Petrucci. In this sense, it's immediately clear that the style takes cues from bands like Animals As Leaders; however, where this project stands out is in its unique blend of tried and true musical elements. Tracks such as "Ciphers" demonstrate this well, with a hook featuring fantastic jazz fusion-style leads set against a walking bassline, with sections of thick low-end chugging in between. It's a melting pot of awesome.
Lyrics — 8
"Awesome" is also a good description of Chris Zoupa's writing on this EP. For example, the track "The Essence of a Man" builds its tranquil opening into the main groove surprisingly naturally in only thirty seconds, despite that these two sections sound so different. The fact that the track itself is so much fun to listen to doesn't hurt either. The solo sections in this EP nearly always feel like they were written with purpose as well, and the guest appearances add a welcome variety in style. My personal favourites would have to be Gary Joseph Potter Jr.'s on "The Essence of a Man" and Kevin Goetz's on "Just the Cook," though the blend between solo and track in the latter could work better. Despite that, the guitar work itself is fantastic enough for it to be a favourite of mine anyway. And of course it goes without saying that Zoupa's own shredding is spectacular right through the EP. The fantastic riffs, solos and delicious use of key changes throughout all make this a really fun listen the whole way through. To top it off, the variety in instrumentation and guitar tone throughout is a great way to surprise the listener on the first full listen, and helps the EP stay engaging on repeat listens. In particular, the opening of "Ciphers" throws the listener a crisp jazzy curveball, and the unexpected use of classical guitar in "Belly of the Beast" is a great way to add variety in musical atmosphere.
Overall Impression — 8
"Seven Year Storm" showcases some great instrumental prog-metal. It has enough variety in its writing and instrumentation to stay engaging the whole listen through, and if it indicates the quality of Zoupa's future output, there's plenty of reason to be excited for what's to come.
Here's a play through of the 1st track off the album!