Review Summary: Comfortable holding back.
Time is an important part of progressive music. The genre leans towards lengthy songs, and attention must be made to keep the listener interested without turning into sensory overload. From 2005 to 2010, Seventh Wonder made impeccable use of their time; Waiting in the Wings
showcased them in a bright, reinvigorated light after a sloppy debut; Mercy Falls
tempered that same light, resulting in arguably the band's best release to date. As for The Great Escape
, their most recent effort" Well, this was an interesting turn for the band. Not in the sense that they took a drastically different approach, unless that's what you constitute going from concept album to non-concept album as. Rather, The Great Escape
shows Seventh Wonder doing what they do in a way that feels different from all of their prior efforts, yet it somehow harkens back to them all the same.
From a technical standpoint, this is the best Seventh Wonder have ever sounded. The instruments are clear and distinct, with Johan Liefvendahl's guitar leads finally achieving a sense of prominence. "Alley Cat" features smooth guitar playing, even at its most punctual, as if to be less abrasive and more accessible. In fact, going from three comparatively muddy albums to The Great Escape
can feel a bit jarring. One driving force behind this is the album's mixing, which is by all counts and measures excellent, except when it comes to demonstrating Michael Blomqvist. I've previously gushed over Seventh Wonder's talented bassist, undoubtedly thanks to the previous three albums constantly putting him front and center. He's a key reason the music felt so distinct. The Great Escape
does not, however, showcase him in that same light. Blomqvist's performance is still top-notch, but his immediately remarkable moments aren't in high supply. This isn't to say that he's been shoved aside like Jason Newsted on Metallica's ...And Justice for All
--that'd be disingenuous, it's just harder to pick up on him than before.
Such a shift in direction may be a blessing in disguise, since The Great Escape
is, for all intents and purposes, Seventh Wonder's balancing act. You get the impression they wanted to refine their sound, avoid making one member consistently steal the spotlight, and focus on delivering a host of material to illustrate their changes. Indeed, one word that repeatedly comes to mind while listening is actually "casual," with the ballad-like "Long Way Home" being a defining example. Even when tapping into its most progressive elements, The Great Escape
never feels demanding, especially when it houses Tommy Karevik's irresistible voice on each track (all six of them). This combination of factors grants the album an extremely accessible identity, not just for the band, but for metal and progressive music in general. This is primarily where the similarity between it and Waiting in the Wings
comes into play, since The Great Escape
is almost completely upbeat, from the strong opener ("Wiseman"), to the aformentioned "Alley Cat" and the rousing, penultimate "Move On Through."
As I've mentioned, the album is oh-so cleanly produced, almost to the point where it could put off some more established fans, even if the music is tightly crafted and avoids descending into overindulgence. Yet this is still a progressive piece, and if any doubts settle during one's initial run through, the final track will see those doubts swiftly crushed. Clocking in at over 30 minutes, "The Great Escape" is the ultimate testament to Seventh Wonder's ambition. Yet just like the preceding tracks, "The Great Escape" isn't set on knocking the socks off your feet with epic, cinematic aspects you'd otherwise find in a group like Dream Theater. Instead, it's all about the five band members playing in a way that suits them. The results are natural and mostly unpretentious, though I'll admit it lacks that bone-chilling or euphoric climax that makes you want to return and experience the whole thing all over again.
Seventh Wonder had all the right tools in place on The Great Escape
, and for the most part, they realized much of their potential. Like any good progressive album, there's enough variety in and between the small selection of tracks to leave any listener fulfilled. The music sounds nice and crisp, forgiving and completely inviting; yet it also has the structure and depth one would expect from an even more established group. The Great Escape
doesn't quite fire full-blast and on all cylinders, which may or may not be for the better. This depends on how much restraint you think a progressive album should have. Outside of the title track, there's not much of a "loose" feeling, and even then it's hard to label such an epic as overzealous. Ultimately, Seventh Wonder's fourth effort is a strong contender for a newcomer's foray into contemporary progressive metal. The first five tracks are a nice, proper warm-up to the full-fledged closer that gives listeners a more-than-hearty meal. How good you'll feel afterwards is something you'll need to experience yourself.