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Finally, a new PF release. And it's not up to the expectations, or at least mine. The fact that Simmons from Epicrap is doing vocals in one song should be a sign of the direction the band has taken.
Seven Seals was a necessary departure from the Priest-worship that the band had done in their previous 5 albums and this album continues that path. It doesn't sound like Priest at all, but here you won't find most of the things that made Seven Seals so good.
Let me get through the several weak points that I find:
1. The music is happier (at times). Not necessarily a bad thing in power metal, but it doesn't work for PF, mainly because of Ralf's vocal style which leads me to...
2. Ralf's vocals are getting weaker with every release. Not only is he forced to multi-track his delivery almost always (that isn't new anyway) but his attack is not as sharp as before, the vocals seem very forced this time. It looks like he couldn't do it on his own without reeeeally pushing his vocal chords. For a perfect example, you need to look no more than a minute into the album - his first appeareance and he is already weak. I think he should just relax and settle down with his mid and low ranges, which I find powerful (when he uses them, which is very rarely).
3. The guitar tone. Since the debut album, the band has been known for a strong, sharp and heavy guitar tone, but here you will inmediately notice that it has been flattened and cut, going in a Kamelot-like direction. Let me sort it out, this is NOT a Kamelot-worship album but it has some small signs that the band is going in that direction, especially when talking about the guitar tone and also about...
4. The riffs. Very much in agreement with their Priest ascendancy, the band has always produced some strong riffs that original or not, kicked serious ass. Here there are NO riffs of that style, and the guitar is sort of there, without doing anything interesting. Most of the time it is doing pure background noise (Everytime it rains, whose verses could pass as an Evanescence song...), doing start-stop bullshit (verses of Fighting the Darkness) or even nu-fecal shit!!! (Psycho being the only example, luckily. Here you have an excellent chance to witness the shitty tone and mallcore-like riff). This is a major concern, as one of the main features of the 'classical PF sound' is gone. In exchange, we get lots of pseudo-riffs (intro to Blood on your hands), but note that with an appropiate tuning and re-arrangement of the tone, these pseudo-riffs would become killer metal riffs like the ones from previous albums. Speaking of the tuning...
5. The down-tuning. Not necessarily a bad thing, just like the first point, but something that you have to be very careful with. Seven Seals used standard D tuning as do some other bands that use it very well (for example Dream Evil, Firewind) and achieved a very heavy sound through down-tuning. But to achieve this you ought to have the perfect guitar tone, which this album doesn't. Therefore, the down-tuning becomes a problem.
6. Lack of leads. And I mean, good leads. All lead playing is average, not what I expect from PF, you can take that for sure. Totally unmemorable, it seems they added them just because you are supposed to have solos.
7. Inconsistency. The first song is quite happy, the second and third are rather sad. No. 4 is happy, no. 5 is sad. You get what I mean, right? It is ok to do some mood changes, but please re-arrange the tracklisting in order to create a better flow between one song and the next throughout the whole album.
8. Inconsistency (II). Huh? Let me explain: this time I'm talking about songwriting inconsistency. Fighting the Darkness and Everytime it Rains can be considered gothic metal, Sign of Fear and The Curse of Sharon are straight-up happy power metal, Too Much Time is a throwback to the extremely goofy, early Gamma Ray days (of which Scheepers was part of, the coincidence!!). Resuming: there is little consistency regarding a style. I notice that the band has an established sound but is also trying to change it towards a more gothic style.
9. Filler tracks. There has always been an amount of filler in every PF album, but considering the lack of killer here, the filler gets even more annoying than usual. The title track and World on Fire are complete filler, incredibly dull and unispired.
But not all is bad. The first track is rather good, even if the main riff and the verse riff ain't jaw-dropping at all. The drum craziness at the start is quite good - at first it looks very awkward, but then you get to appreciate it. The chorus is rather good, but not great either.
The second track might be the best one, even though the keyboards are over-powering and the guitars dissappear completely during the verses. The thing that makes this one rather good are the vocal melodies, which are quite memorable.
Then Fighting the Darkness, the longest track, features a solo section at 4:05 that is completely excellent, and has the big PF mark that we know and love. Starts with a melody full of pinch harmonics and then the second guitar comes in harmonizing, and you know this is gonna be the best solo in the album. Too bad before and after it the band put two crappy sections. In fact, this track is incredibly dragged out with sections randomly placed that do not connect at all, but we can enjoy the good nonetheless.
Another good point: the riff found at 2.10 into 'Blood on Your Hands'. The only riff which I found excellent in this release, and when the drums come kicking back again this is thrash! Too bad that this lasts only a minute, and then we're back to crap-land. As you can see, the good is sprinkled throughout the bad, but I can still stick it out.
Here is how I broke down the score:
1. Sign of Fear 6/10
2. Face the Emptiness 7/10
3. Everytime it Rains 1/10
4. New Religion 3/10
5. Fighting the Darkness 4/10
6. Blood on Your Hands 4/10
7. The Curse of Sharon 6/10
8. Too Much Time 4/10
9. Psycho 0/10
10. World on Fire 3/10
11. The Man (That I Don't Know) 2/10