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Strangely Underwhelming - 75%

Larry6990, May 18th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Napalm Records

It's odd, but I find it really difficult to explain why I find this album so strangely underwhelming. Perhaps it's the absolutely phenomenal cover art that unrealistically heightened my expectations; perhaps it's this band's almost-flawless back catalogue, or perhaps I'm not listening hard enough. After all, this is power metal with multiple layers to explore. US power metallers Seven Kingdoms first released Decennium independently in 2016, but since signing to Napalm Records have managed to reach a wider audience with the CD here in 2017. Ten tracks of solid, reliable, texturally complex power metal that really should please all fans of the genre with ease. But for some reason, it doesn't.

The quintet are all on top form here - especially the stringed instruments. The two guitars and bass inter-mingle impressively, never remaining static for more than a few seconds. Check out the verses of "The Tale Of Deathface Ginny" where each has its own melody line, but fuse together perfectly. Keith's performance behind the kit is admirable and full of flair. And of course, Sabrina's voice soars above the clouds as usual - one of the finest voices in the genre. She is most effective when backed by the choral vocals such as on the chorus to "Castles In The Snow". The superb production quality is also a major factor - lending a heaviness to the sound that doesn't shroud the technical virtuosity.

So the wall of sound is impressive and interesting. So what's the issue? The songwriting may have taken a hit in the band's 4 year absence. It all feels monotone. Don't get me wrong, it's a great tone! Blazing melodic power metal from start to finish...but Decennium would've benefited from a polarizing change of pace somewhere. It feels like an insult to say this due to the sheer musicianship on offer, but this record would be amazing background music. Few sections jump off the disc and infect your mind. The anthemic chorus of opener "Stargazer" and the hymnal gallop of "In The Walls" are the only two I can remember off the top of my head...and I've heard the entire album six times!

There's a funny moment in the opening of final track "Awakened From Nothing", as Seven Kingdoms suddenly think they're a deathcore band for about three seconds. It's disappointing that this is a one-off, because more segments like this would've made Decennium a hundred times more interesting. If you're looking for US power metal done by the books, full of epic guitar leads, layered vocals and rapid tempos, then you've come to the right place. But I don't blame you if you start phasing out of attention past the halfway mark. Seven Kingdoms still kick ass, but a little understated this time.