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Seventh Wonder - The Great Escape CD (album) cover


Seventh Wonder


Progressive Metal

4.04 | 237 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars I'll just go ahead and say it up front: this album is a masterpiece. While this is decidedly a more song-centered album than, say, Scenes From a Memory, there is not a single moment on this album that is less than stellar. There are definitely still touches of the power metal sound on The Great Escape, but make no mistake: this is a prog album through and through. The songwriting has improved from the already excellent Mercy Falls, a fact which is most clearly demonstrated on the 30 (yes, 30) minute closing track. However, this album is anything but one-sided, and in fact I would venture to say that The Great Escape is one of the most consistent, listenable albums I've ever heard.

"Wiseman" kicks the album off on a bang, with speed-riffing guitars and grand, cinematic synths immediately establishing an epic mood. It also soon becomes apparent that Seventh Wonder has retained from their previous album their excellent ear for melodic, sweeping, power-metal-esque vocal lines. However, it appears that this album represents another step in an even proggier direction than on their previous effort, Mercy Falls. Rhythmically complex riffs and loads of mini-solos from both guitar and synthesizer ensure that any fan of this classic style of progressive metal will find plenty to like, and forays into differing sounds such as the quieter interlude towards the end of the track prevent "Wiseman" from sounding like a standard verse-chorus power metal song. No doubt a killer opener.

One of my favorite songs from Seventh Wonder follows this up, as "Alley Cat" begins with a technical yet melodic series of riffs before another excellent vocal line kicks in. Where the song really shines, however, is the chorus. With a main hook that can only be described as "anthemic" and plenty of backing music from grand, sweeping synths and pounding guitars, this is the kind of song that makes you want to stand up and shout along with the lyrics. Per the unspoken requirements of the genre, there's a technically blistering solo in the middle of the track as well, and while that perhaps doesn't excite me as much as it might have once, it's hard not to be impressed by the playing (at least for a relative musical layman such as myself).

"The Angelmaker" begins with a very melodic, slightly melancholy guitar part. When this is augmented with synths and crashing, distorted guitars the track begins to remind one of Symphony X, a similarity that remains as the vocals enter. A little bit heavier and "crunchier" than the first two tracks, there's nonetheless a strong sense of melody throughout, with not one but several excellent melodic hooks prominently used throughout the track. Interestingly, the song shakes up the formula a bit by pairing these hooks with chugging riffs rather than cinematic sweeps, and this change-up works quite well and makes the symphonic synth sections all the more effective when they finally do appear. "The Angelmaker" fills its 8 and a half minutes admirably, never feeling excessively long despite its somewhat standard structure.

"King of Whitewater" again bucks the formula by beginning with a gorgeous solo piano part which is quickly augmented by symphonic orchestration. It's not long before this symphonic melody is overlaid with metal instrumentation, and the song begins in earnest. The vocals are as powerful as they've ever been and the hooks just continue to get better. "King of Whitewater" even features what sounds like a violin solo, lending a strong, albeit brief, folky section.

"Long Way Home" is a more restrained number, featuring a simple but effective piano/vocal duet to begin the track and a much quieter instrumentation for most of the song's duration than the loud and bombastic nature of the first four tracks. I know there are those who aren't the biggest fans of ballad-like songs such as this on progressive metal albums, and I'll admit that the cheese factor is fairly high, but I still really enjoy this song. The pacing is brilliant, ramping up towards the end by adding a degree of heaviness and throwing in some sparse but effective female vocals. Additionally, Seventh Wonder's knack for melody synergizes perfectly with the more melodic nature of this type of song, and as a result the vocals just go into overdrive, with the singer providing some of the most powerful delivery on the album.

"Move on Through" is the final short track on the album before the epic closer. Starting off with a very atmospheric bass and synth part, the track develops into a juxtaposition of slower, almost jazzy verses and a more rhythmically regimented chorus. It's a combination that works very well, and the slightly jazzier playing is a nice break from the mechanical riffs that dominate most of the rest of the album.

It's a testament to the strength of the material here that if the album ended before the closer it would still, in my estimation, be a four star effort. Clearly, though, Seventh Wonder was not content to go halfway. It almost seems unfair that we should be treated to a massive, 30 minute closing epic after the incredible first six tracks. One would almost be inclined to worry that such a closer could detract from the overall strength of the album; that it would inject unneeded filler into an otherwise very tight album.

Fortunately, those fears are unfounded. From the opening strains of acoustic guitar and the delicate vocals that accompany them, it is immediately clear that this song is not going to be anything less than a fantastic journey. This becomes even more apparent as the track's overture of sorts begins, with a variety of orchestral sounds clearly demonstrating that "Symphonic Metal" is more than just metal with strings. A huge variety of melodies and themes make appearances just in this opening 5 minutes section of the track, and by the time vocals come in again the listener is fully prepared for the tour de force that is to follow. A galloping guitar line matched with a slightly western-sounding synth line sets up a sense of adventure and grants the listener a hint of the voyage they are beginning to embark upon. The song hits its first fade-out at about the 10 minute mark, and another solo piano part picks up to begin the second distinct section of the track. Guitars and percussion are re-introduced as one of the best vocal sections on the album begins. Though the impact of the word "epic" has been somewhat diminished by drastic overuse in the last few years, I simply can't think of another way to describe this music.

It's not until about the 17 minute mark that the energy dies down again, and the third section of the track begins with an incredible acoustic guitar and piano part that meshes perfectly with the dramatic vocals it accompanies. The guitar takes a wonderfully emotive solo as well, though it's very brief and more than anything serves as a lead-in to more riffing. At about the 20 minute point the female vocals return, serving again in a very understated role but providing a perfect, subtle foil to the more bombastic, heavier main part of the track. The song moves towards its conclusion with another gorgeous piano/vocal duet before some of the themes from the "overture" are reprised. Everything finally culminates in a final, grand wash of synth before a simple acoustic guitar part closes out the track, giving the song a nice degree of symmetry.

I'm astounded every time I listen through this album because every song sounds like it should be the highlight, and on any other album it probably would be. With this album Seventh Wonder have hit upon that rare vein of inspiration that leaves not a single bad moment in the album's 68 minute run time. I mentioned in my review of Mercy Falls that Seventh Wonder is one of the few bands for whom I can sit through 70 minutes of material without ever even thinking of pressing the skip button, and that is absolutely still the case on The Great Escape. If anything, this album is even tighter. I really can't stress how good every single song is, with the closer especially standing out as one of the best progressive metal epics I've ever heard. I really believe that Seventh Wonder deserves to be thought of as a top-tier prog-metal band and I hope I can hear much more from them in the future.


VanVanVan | 5/5 |


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