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Evolution or half-life? - 90%

Altair 4, November 12th, 2013

When I first discovered Seven Kingdoms I had only known of their current lineup, that which is fronted by vocalist Sabrina Valentine. I really enjoyed their music and quickly bought both albums featuring her as the vocalist. However, I quickly discovered that they had an album before Sabrina Valentine which was fronted by a male vocalist, Bryan Edwards. It wasn't until recently that I actually acquired the album and was surprisingly blown away. Even more shocking to me was that most Seven Kingdoms fans I see who interact on their social media sites never bring up this album. After giving this album a chance and being handsomely rewarded I felt very compelled to review this underrated album.

I don't know if I'm narrow-minded in music or what, but I can't really pin down any other bands that sound like this. That's part of what gives this album such re-listen value. It's like downtuned power-thrash metal with some progressive elements thrown in for good measure. The melodies throughout are catchy and the songwriting flows in a way that never lets you get bored. The listener will constantly be engaged and challenged. It's combination of death metal vocals and melodic, heartful singing helps convey and amplify the ever-shifting lyrical themes of brotherhood, death and defeat, glory and battle quite well.

The opener "Eyes of Summer" and "Stormborn" can easily send shivers down your spine, especially if you're familiar with the lyrical content, that of George RR Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series. "Go give the king his crown of gold" seems like a nice enough line to someone not familiar with what is really going on! "We Do not Sow (The Legacy of Black Harren, Pt I)" touches on the Ironborn's ritual of drowning inductees (sometimes to death) as part of their religion, giving that much more power and nerd-value to the line "What is dead may never die!". All of these songs are chalked full of contemplative, darker lyrics such as these. Camden Cruz still shines with outstanding solos and leads, playing out when appropriate and keeping it simpler with more melodic lines when needed.

Easily the highlight of this album is the ballad "The Bloody Meadow". Where are songs like this on 'Seven Kingdoms' and 'The Fire is Mine'?! The chorus on this song alone makes buying the album worth it. The keyboards taking a more prominent role is also a very welcomed addition which helps give this song a distinct identity.

A few detractors do exist, however. Bryan Edwards shines quite a lot in this album but his singing voice is sometimes noticeably unpolished. This could have been fixed with some minor pitch corrections and/or more takes to get the perfect one. The example which sticks out the most are the high falsettos in "Dragonflight". He's in tune but the power isn't there and it's uncomfortable to hear, it's definitely out of his range. When Bryan is in his comfort zone he's soulful and moving. Luckily bumps in the road for vocals are few and far between and go by so fast that one can't linger on them.

The drums on this record sound sufficient, but I can't help but think this is actually a drum machine. The cymbals in "The Long Night" (and all the other songs, really) make this suspicion burn. Keith Byrd is credited with drums on this album's Metal Archives page, so I don't know what's going on. I still would put my money on this album's percussion actually being programmed drums. And lastly the only song I feel is weak would be "Watchers on the Wall". Very well performed, but it's bouncy, galloping power metal sound feels out of place with the rest of the album's darker, pounding aura.

To fans of Seven Kingdoms post-Bryan Edwards, I can safely say you owe it to yourself to give this album a spin. 'Brothers of the Night' is defined by Bryan's guttural screams and warm singing as well as it's comparatively experimental nature when held up against it's two succeeding followups. I don't know why Seven Kingdom abandoned some of the elements on this album, as this is the only Seven Kingdom album which holds my attention beginning to end. One could view it as evolution into a newer, more modern (and mainstream) sound. I would contend that it's more like half-life, constantly decaying into something different and in my opinion overall inferior.