Review Summary: "Just let go and you will see."
Few genres produce as many concept albums as progressive rock/metal--it's practically a rite of passage to release one. This commonality makes sense, since progressive music often aspires to constantly evolve, be it in one song or an entire album. Morever, many of our favorite stories in general are ones we love revisiting, despite knowing how the tale will end. At that point it becomes less about knowing the outcome and more about picking up on various details along the way. The same principle applies to music. Seventh Wonder must've had this idea in mind when writing their third album, Mercy Falls
. Going from a buoyant showcase of their talents to a concept album only made sense, since it would give them a set goal to work towards in developing their music.
At first glance, Mercy Falls
' story will appear similar to Ayreon's The Human Equation
; a comatose man (by car crash) finds himself in a place called Mercy Falls, offering a sort of dual narrative for what happens in and out of his mind. Yet the two take very different directions, with Mercy Falls
being the more traditional and small-scale. Voiceovers and dialogue make their way into the album, mostly during the first half, but they're kept to a minimum so the music can stand out. This will be an immediate relief for any listener, particulary those who enjoyed Waiting in the Wings
. The nature of this tale sets Mercy Falls
on a different pedestal than its predecessor, one that practically extinguishes their power metal influences. Just looking at the album art you can gather that this will be a darker, more personal affair, but not nearly to the extent that the band feel transformed again.
Instrumentally, Mercy Falls
is a fitting successor to Waiting in the Wings
, though Seventh Wonder have made a few small, appropriate changes. One of the band's endearing qualities has been (and continues to be) their emphasis on Andreas Blomqvist, who again shines by making a strong case for memorable basslines. This time, however, the rest of the band have started catching up; there's definitely a more balanced sense to not just how everyone plays, but how they've been mixed together. You can immediately notice this in "Welcome to Mercy Falls," the third of what could be called the album's intro tracks. The drums have been brought up to enhance the backing rhythm Blomqvist would've previously dominated, creating a stronger overall foundation for the music. From this we're able to notice a bit more from the guitar leads and keyboards, with the latter (by Andreas Soderin) being memorable thanks to a host of recurring notes throughout the entire album.
Discussing Seventh Wonder post-Become
wouldn't be complete without appraisal to singer Tommy Karevik, who could deliver the same performance on every album and still leave our ears in a constant state of climax. Yet even he took a subtly different approach for Mercy Falls
, namely with regards to how he handles his enthusiasm. He's still as powerful as before, but the serious nature of the album is kept all the more in-check when he sings. It doesn't feel like he's trying to show off as much, and to compensate, we get a more palpable sense of emotion from his deliveries. This works even better when you consider the above points about the band feeling wholly balanced. Where Waiting in the Wings
at times felt like a clash of proficiency, often by Blomqvist and Karevik, Mercy Falls
consistently feels like a true team effort.
also remains Seventh Wonder's longest album to date, clocking in at just under 75 minutes. Since the aforementioned proficiency is still in high supply (just better handled), there is a slight growing curve. One may be turned off by the inital batch of spoken words ("A New Beginning" and "Tears for a Son"), especially when the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired--the doctor being the weakest link. Thankfully, the album barely contains any of these after "Paradise" kicks off, beginning a stretch of tracks that dedicated listeners will eventually find themselves engrossed by. Like Waiting in the Wings
, Mercy Falls
contains a 9-minute song ("Break the Silence"), only this time it's a captivating piece, and just one of many shining moments in what may end up being the band's bleakest album, ironically enough.
Third time is definitely the charm for Seventh Wonder. After establishing an strong, enthusiastic groove on Waiting in the Wings
, they found a way to tighten their music on Mercy Falls
. Where before things nearly sprawled out of control, here they learn the value of direction and focus. This approach allowed their music to hit harder thanks to an overall sense of concentration. Concept albums may be a dime a dozen in progressive metal, but Mercy Falls
earns a spot among the best, modern-day examples.