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Seventh Wonder - Mercy Falls CD (album) cover

MERCY FALLS

Seventh Wonder

 

Progressive Metal

4.20 | 111 ratings

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VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I really didn't know anything about this band, but someone on the forums wrote of them quite highly, and fortunately this album was on Spotify. I'm not usually a huge fan of power metal, and to be sure, there's a lot of that sound here, but something about this album sucked me in, to the point where I listened to it two or three times a day for the week after I learned about it. To put that in perspective, there are a lot of albums that I don't listen to more than 2 or 3 times a month, and those are albums I really like.

Lyrically, "Mercy Falls" is a concept album, and while I generally don't pay too much attention to "stories" of the albums I'm listening to, this one pulled me in. More importantly, however, is the consistent quality of the music. There are some occasional missteps (oft- used voice clips begin to sound out of place after a while), but on the whole this is a very solid album.

The sound of a car crash begins the album before "A New Beginning" introduces some cinematic synths. The whole track has a very introductory kind of feel that sets up a lot of different themes in varying degrees of heaviness, all the while accompanied by soundclips that help to set up the plot, with ambulance noises and speech clips from the "characters" in the story. It's a bit cheesy, certainly, but it's an effective setup, and the incidental music that accompanies the speech is surprisingly good.

"There and Back" is titled as the overture proper, and it begins on a bit more of an energetic note than the more atmospheric opener. A great combination of guitar and synth set a great, symphonic mood, with plenty of the epic hooks that are so pervasive in the power-metal genre. A very effective introduction to the musical feel of the album and a great lead into the first song proper, entitled "Welcome to Mercy Falls." Pounding guitar riffs and a piano line open the track before vocals come in. As with most music in this genre, the vocals are very technically impressive and emotive, with plenty of awesome harmonies and soaring melodies. Though it's not structurally that complex, with a pretty standard verse-chorus- bridge structure, the playing is very impressive, with a guitar/synth solo duel towards the end of the song that awesomely resolves into a single melodic line.

"Unbreakable" comes next, starting off with a great synth solo over solid riffing. The vocal line here is a little more restrained than in "Welcome?" though it's still plenty bombastic. "Unbreakable" definitely has a more proggy feel than just standard power metal, though it does still feature a fairly hook-laden chorus. However, there's a ton of instrumental interplay as well, not to mention a decidedly softer interlude section that features beautiful piano under soaring vocals. The instrumental section that follows has a decidedly cinematic feel, and there's one more brief vocal moment before a guitar solo closes out the track.

"Tears for a Father" is a decidedly softer number, featuring only vocals and acoustic guitar. Despite having some rather corny lyrics, it also manages to be a fairly heartfelt piece that fits in well with the story the album is telling. It's a very short song as well, giving way to "A Day Away" after less than two minutes. This next track I think falls pretty squarely into the power- metal camp, and it has a decidedly hopeful feel that's a nice contrast to the bleakness of much of the album. "Tears for a Son" completes the trifecta of short songs here, featuring another speech clip before another stripped back vocal section, this time featuring keyboards instead of guitar. The lyrics here are similar to "Tears for a Father," managing to convey a lot of genuine emotion despite a bit of cheesiness.

There's a short burst of static before "Paradise" begins. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, starting with an instrumental introduction that reminds me a lot of Shadow Gallery and a positively anthemic chorus that demands to be played very, very loudly. I can hear a lot of similarities here to power-metal band Serenity, especially in the way that vocal harmonies are used to give the chorus a very powerful, epic effect. "Paradise" is an awesome song, with awesome instrumental interplay between guitars and synths and awe- inspiring vocal lines to match.

"Fall In Line" comes next, beginning with some orchestral synths before a guitar melody line comes in. This in turn leads into some fast and furious riffing, with the synths all the while creating great background orchestration. The guitar throws in a great, emotive solo before the vocals start. For some reason, the vocal delivery (not necessarily the tone) on this track reminds me of Geoff Tate from Queensr˙che. The style is very dramatic and narrative, and the instrumentals continue to be stellar, with multiple guitar and synth solos throughout. There's a nice little instrumental postlude at the end of the track as well that serves as a transition into the next song.

This next song is also the longest, coming in at just under ten minutes. "Break the Silence" starts off on a softer, more melodic note, with only minimal guitar behind gorgeously harmonized vocals. At about the one and a half minute mark the heaviness returns, with the guitar laying down pounding riffs, over which another wonderful guitar solo plays. There's a brief shift back to a more stripped down instrumentation as the vocals re-enter, but it's not long before the full intensity of the track returns. Another guitar solo takes up a good chunk of the middle of the track, and though it's very technically impressive, I do think that sections of it lack the emotion that can take a solo from "impressive" to "spectacular." Luckily, these sections are few and far between, and a softer, more atmospheric instrumental section takes a bit of the edge off and adds some sonic variety. Additionally, a totally different vocal melody towards the end of the track shakes things up and makes the track feel like the prog- metal epic that it is striving to be.

"Hide and Seek" is another of my favorite tracks, beginning with a riff that sounds like Iron Maiden combined with Opeth and only getting better from there. A catchy synth melody sets the tone before the vocals enter. This is another song with a rather cheerful melody, a nice contrast that's highlighted even more by the super-high energy, epic chorus that features some of the most emotive, raw vocals on the entire album. It nearly goes without saying at this point that there are several spectacular solos as well, but they certainly shouldn't be taken for granted.

"Destiny Calls" begins with an intstrumental section that almost sounds like math-metal. At times heavily reminiscent of Dream Theater, this opening section makes great use of multiple time signatures and complex rhythms, and it's probably some of the proggiest music on the album. Though it's not long, this introduction certainly makes an impression, and the vocal section that follows is equally impressive. Melody and technicality combine in the best way to create stirring, epic metal, and a variety of motifs keeps this track feeling probably the most like straight prog-metal, with very little power-metal influence to be found.

"One Last Goodbye" is another relatively soft song, with strummed acoustic chords providing the main instrumentation for the track. Female vocals make a surprising but incredibly effective appearance on this song as well, and though they are only used briefly the effect they provide is very nice. There's some nice orchestration as well, and on top of all of it are the incredible, soaring, emotional vocals. Some possibly ill-advised spoken word clips appear over in the middle of the track, and in my opinion this disrupts the flow a bit. Fortunately, there's a triumphant duet between the male and female vocalist to close out the track, and it ends up being one of the surprise highlights on the album.

"Back In Time" begins with several samples from earlier tracks played over an atmospheric synth part. A similar technique has been used on several Ayreon albums, and it works quite well as a sort of "musical recap" before the final track. Unfortunately, there's another narrative-advancing voice clip used here, and quite frankly it's just not well delivered. It's supposed to be the climax of the story and a major twist, but the delivery is just so corny that it lacks a lot of the emotional punch that it's obviously supposed to have.

Fortunately, "The Black Parade" closes the album on a high note. Almost every line has the kind of epic power-metal hook that makes the genre so enjoyable to listen to. In addition, the playing is positively frenetic, with drums especially going insane on the chorus and keyboards and guitar synergizing perfectly to create atmosphere for the rest of the track. Excellent orchestration and a variety of keyboard sounds round out the track, and a killer guitar solo helps wrap it up before one final vocal section leads into the album's final fade- out.

So, while there are some minor flaws, this is an incredibly solid album for fans who like the power-metal sound in their prog. I usually have trouble staying engaged for the duration of long albums, but while this one comes in at a hefty 74 minutes it really just seems to fly by. Often when listening to power metal I run into the problem of a few songs having hooks I really like and the others just not measuring up, but that is absolutely not a problem here. Every track is almost bursting with epic grandeur, and that makes this a very fun album to listen to. Additionally, though this is something I don't usually say, I would recommend looking the story of the album up, as it is actually fairly compelling if you know what exactly is going on.

Excellent stuff.

4/5

VanVanVan | 4/5 |

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