In 2000, guitarist Johan Liefvendahl, bass player Andreas Blomqvist and drummer Johnny Sandin left the Swedish band Mankind to pursue the music they developed: a powerful kind of progressive metal. Adding keyboard player Andreas Söderin was the first step to the new band Seventh Wonder, but finding a suitable vocalist was a bit harder. Eventually they found Andi Kravljaca and with him they recorded the debut album Become (2005). After personal problems between the band and Andi, the latter was dismissed and when Andreas Söderin suggested Tommy Karevik as their new vocalist they hit the bull's-eye. On the next albums to follow Seventh Wonder's popularity was rising. Waiting In The Wings (2006) and Merci Falls (2008) are truly masterpieces in the progressive metal genre. Regarding their previous albums - that I liked very much - I was anxious for their fourth album. Being musical highlights in the progressive metal genre, I thought these albums could hardly be exceeded.
I was curious to know how The Great Escape would sound compared to their previous album Merci Falls. I think the music has evolved a bit further, but still remains in our beloved rock idiom. Opening with Wiseman we hear the band as we like them best: majestic vocals over a well-orchestrated melody of multiple layers of keyboards, a heavy bass, adventurous guitar playing, a fast guitar solo and emotional piano playing. Continuing with Alley Cat, the band comes up with a melody that catches you immediately. This song is a combination of the familiar progressive metal and power metal, while the melody keeps spinning around your head. It finishes with a more driven sound, more guitar-orientated which suits the band very well. The Angelmaker opens with a nice guitar sound taking over by the piano. With heavy distorted guitars and vocals the song builds up towards a fine long track. Tommy Karevik's majestic voice and the riffing guitar are the icing on the cake of this marvellous and powerful song. Both King Of Whitewater and Move On Through are fantastic songs with a power metal feel, to give the songs just a bit extra. In the first one we hear a violin sounding solo part and recognizable vocals; in the second we find some outstanding bass playing and guitar soloing. Long Way Home is a song that could address other people than the usual prog devotees. It's a fragile, almost radio-friendly ballad containing smooth piano playing with Tommy Karevik's very emotional singing, while regular guest vocalist Jenny Karevik does the second voice. However, still remaining a heavy band, this song is closed in style: heavy and rumbling.
There's only one song left and that's the title track lasting for more than thirty minutes. This fabulous epic piece is based on the saga Aniara written in 1956 by the Swedish Nobel Prize winner Harry Martinson. His daughter granted the band to use phrases from the book for the song's lyrics. During an interview I had with Andreas Söderin (see interview) he briefly explained the story. This song certainly got the best out of all band members. The vocal parts are wonderful, emotional and powerful and show that Tommy Karevik is one of the best singers in the prog metal genre. Long solos and instrumental pieces keep the song in balance; heavy parts and intense moments make this epic a perfect highlight on a superior album.
With The Great Escape, Seventh Wonder didn't make it easy on themselves for a thirty-minute epic is a real challenge to record for an album. However, they succeeded in creating a real gem. The other songs have evolved a bit more towards power metal because, unlike the previous albums, the guitar is a bit more up-front. There's even a spot for a more radio-friendly song which could gain some airplay. Finally the album turned out to be a perfect progressive album that could and should reach a worldwide audience. Unfortunately, drummer Johnny Sandin left the band at the end of 2010. Hopefully they soon find a new drummer for I like to see this powerhouse on a live stage!
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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