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Triumph - Thunder Seven CD (album) cover




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2.52 | 51 ratings

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2 stars It's a pity to see Triumph on this esteemed site, a pity because for all the talent in the band and greatness in the music there is hardly a shred of progressive music to be found in their catalogue, aside from Rik Emmett's classical guitar compositions and a few other musical tricks here and there. Triumph are mostly a commercial hard rock band. That they were ever compared to Rush or considered to be competition to Rush is sillier than the Judas Priest/Iron Maiden fiasco of the early 80's. The two bands are quite distinct and Rush clearly followed the more progressive path while Triumph built their style on their strengths as a hard rock band.

"Thunder Seven" was released around the time I was first considering giving Triumph a listen and I remember a review in a rock magazine describing the guitar at the beginning of the opening track, "Spellbound" as "having all the subtleties of a rusty chainsaw". Indeed, "Spellbound" aimed at hitting the listener with a very typical but exciting hard rock song that by all expectations was to go down well with concert audiences. All of side one, in fact, comes across very much as a classic commercial hard rock album, as if Triumph had taken all they had learned from their past composing and recording experiences and tried to make it work for the big money and a bigger fan base. The album was a huge success for the band, and the inspire-the-teens rocker, "Follow Your Heart" was the monster single that propelled the band into Pepsi commercials after Michael Jackson got his 'fro toasted.

So side one is pretty much Triumph at their commercial hard rock best, and there is nothing here that would please anyone looking for that special musical twist that opens the doors to the progressive realm. Not even Emmett's acoustic slide guitar solo in the much derided Zeppelin-esque tune "Cool Down" can save this album on this site.

But side two looks more promising. Here's where the band quite likely came the closest to doing anything visionary. Consider the mini pseudo-suite of the time-themed songs: "Time Goes By," "Time Canon," and "Killing Time" with what is possibly Emmett's best classical composition ever, "Midsummer's Daydream" nestled in there. Most reviewers here agree that either "Time Goes By" or "Killing Time" are at least decent hard rock songs, and I think "Time Canon" shows the band attempting to exploit their vocal harmony capacity. Is it a rip off of Queen or Gentle Giant? Maybe the inspiration came from there but I don't think Triumph were out to take any credit for mimicking. In an interview at the time, Rik Emmett (who has an extensive musical background) said he suggested the idea to the other two members and was met with dubious looks and cocked eyebrows. I think it was a wonderful touch to an otherwise commercially oriented album.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" takes us out of the time pseudo-suite and back to the hard rock feel of the album but with a little more attention to the vocal and instrumentation atmosphere. In other words, they are looking away from the top of the hard rock pops approach that dominated side one.

The album closer is a carefully composed electric blues instrumental, "Little Boy Blues", for which some reviewers (bless them for their opinions) have offered little appreciation. I personally love this piece. There is mood, mood change, emotion and soul in the guitar playing, and the rest of the band do well to make this a wonderful and intelligent instrumental (I always listen for the drum solo break!). It seems that while Triumph were aiming to capture the commercial hard rock market with this album, they were also attempting to stretch out a little more than previously. Perhaps if they had continued to explore more progressive ideas they may have eventually become a real heavy-prog band. Instead they went for the more commercial approach on their next album, "The Sport of Kings".

I once laughed at a friend for buying the same cassette twice because he loved it so much, but there are now several albums in my collection that I have bought three times, first on cassette in the 80's, then on CD in the 90's, and then on remastered CD in the 00's and 10's. "Thunder Seven" by Triumph is one of those albums. It has always remained a favourite of mine (even though I don't listen to it often) because this was where I felt Triumph were making an effort to go beyond the standard commercial hard rock format. I give it 4.5 stars as a rock album. But as for a prog rock album I agree that more than 2 stars is pushing it. I am, however, glad to see a couple of people have rated it higher. Bless them for their opinions!

FragileKings | 2/5 |


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