Review Summary: The Great Escape shows an already outstanding band reaching their absolute potential.
Masterpiece: n. 1. A person's greatest piece of work, as in an art.
2. Anything done with masterly skill
3. A consummate example of skill or excellence of any kind
The Great Escape, by the always outstanding Seventh Wonder, exemplifies all meanings of the term. They are a band that has a made a career out of crafting fantastic albums, even if their discography is somewhat sparse due to their relatively recent formation. Mercy Falls, heralded earlier as a masterwork, was thought by many fans to already be the high-water mark in the band’s career. So many bands achieve greatness, only to fall quickly by the wayside, trying to replicate the sound that had made them beloved to their fans in the first place, and, in the process, come across as parodies of themselves. I am ecstatic to say that Seventh Wonder are not one of these bands. Rather, by allowing their natural progression to continue, they have released a record that, dare I say it, surpasses even its exemplary predecessor.
This album contains the brilliant guitar, keyboard, even occasional bass flourishes that have adorned previous albums up to this point as well. Vocalist Tommy Karevik is in top form, displaying an absolutely awe-inspiring control over every note he hits throughout The Great Escape’s duration. The combination of his performance with that of the rest of the band members synthesizes into striking works of art and beauty that never fades for even the slightest second. The production itself is crystalline, throwing this glorious mixture into vast relief, each instrument carving its own niche in the overall sound, while simultaneously complementing each other in a constant, lucid flow of intermingling cohesively into a perfectly realized whole. The Great Escape as an album is such an amazing feat due to this very amalgamation. Not once does any individual attempt to rise up and seize the spotlight from the rest of the band members, with the clear focus on the song, not the individual, allowing Seventh Wonder to easily circumnavigate the pit of self-gratification that too many progressive bands seem to fall into.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this blend of simultaneously diverging and converging sound, it does indeed take several listens to fully appreciate the mastery of the musical craft on display here. As previously stated, all the band members handle their roles within the group with admiral aplomb. Simply out of this inherently complex nature, it is difficult to absorb all the different pathways explored over the course of The Great Escape, at least after a mere cursory listen. In order to be appreciated fully, as it clearly so deserves, multiple listens are indeed warranted, preferably in the foreground. This is not a mere soundtrack to be used for ambiance in the background. No, this commands absolute attention, the seamlessly interwoven melodies blending together in lines of absolute power and weight, so to speak.
Multiple listens are not difficult here, however, despite the extended length of the album, due to the fact that, while each song does sound completely unique, there is also an underlying musicality to the proceedings that undoubtedly unite these songs into a cohesive experience, as opposed to a mere collection of separate tracks thrown haphazardly together.
And of course, a review of The Great Escape would be sorely lacking without mention of the epic title track. A piece of mind-blowing genius and virtuosity, this song essentially collects every single thing right with this record, and puts it forth in miniature (if its even possible to mention the word miniature in relation to a jaw dropping epic exceeding half an hour in length). Based on the epic space poem Aniara written by Nobel Prize winner Harry Martinson, The Great Escape tells the tragic story of a doomed cosmic voyage aboard the ship that shares its name with the source material, after a mission to begin human colonization of Mars commences in anticipation of humanity’s imminent destruction of Earth. Containing 13 separate movements, each with its own unique sound, still tied ingeniously together into a unified final product, this song is, quite simply, the shortest 30 minutes I have ever experienced. Karevik’s vocal performance is simply beyond words, conveying everything from hope, to desperation, to deep, impenetrable despair, while simultaneously displaying his formidable range, proving beyond a shadow of doubt that he is one of the greatest vocalists to grace music in the past decade. And I can say, without the slightest hesitation, that The Great Escape is absolutely the greatest song I have ever heard performed. I was literally left in a nearly catatonic state at its conclusion, scarcely able to believe what had just come through the speakers.
This is Seventh Wonder’s masterpiece. The claim has been made before in regard to Mercy Falls, many left in wonder as to how the band could possibly follow up such brilliance. Suffice to say, if the band can repeat the pattern, they undoubtedly deserve to go down in history as one of the greatest bands to ever walk the Earth. Although, I do confess I have doubts that it is even physically achievable to surpass this work of pure perfection.