Seven Spires - The Cabaret Of Dreams (EP) (2014)

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There's this thing that happens when we discover new music; we want more. It isn't enough to hear the songs. We want to see the band, read what they wrote, see where they've played, see what they're selling, and know every conceivable piece of information we can before we commit them to our memories. All of those pieces have to fit together to make a band stick. And once you see a picture, you make judgments, musical accompaniment or not. Female fronted band, wearing black, whoops, probably another goth rock act. Broad, sweeping generalities aside, our notions of the norm can be challenged if we allow them to be. Enter Seven Spires, a female fronted four piece who would like to do nothing more than shatter your ill conceived notion of what they can or do sound like before you've heard them play a note. On their debut EP, a seven track affair titled The Cabaret Of Dreams, they shove your opinion up your own ass.

Theatricality aside, there is certainly an element of classical influence branded into every facet of the album. From the opening, The Siren sees a great deal of string and horn work woven into it's short run time. This is the walk down the long, dark hallway into the banquet room. When the door opens, Encounter is waiting for you, dressed in flowing gowns and sparkling jewelry. But under the bright exterior, there is a sinister ulterior to be found, and something that comes through in ever aspect of the mix. The rhythm section, comprised of bassist J.P. Goldman (later replaced by Cameron Tidman after the recording of the album) and drummer Anthony Medaglia create a stunning backdrop, a lightning quick exhibition of timing and tempo. Their skill set is broad, obviously, but not watered down. With the foundation strong, it allows for lateral movement at the star positions, with vocalist Adrienne Cowan using every bit of that latitude to hit notes across the scales.

After a quick reset, the title track unveils this quartet to be who they really are. The demented cabaret has begun, hindered only by the blaring levels that pour from the speakers. Cowan's voice is sultry and seductive, with that hint of murderous intent. At the half way mark, a knife is plunged into your chest, but not by Cowan; her counterparts erupt in a furious attack of melodic death metal guitar riffs and blasting beats that, while not completely out of left field, may shock you with their precision. This is more Fleshgod Apocalypse than Within Temptation, both in terms of musicianship and ferocity. Having taken off the mask of beauty and delicate demeanor, guitarist Jack Kosto is free to be as rough trade with you as he chooses. Opposites attract, and Choices is a coming together of polar musical opposites. Galloping drum beats and a soft synth backing can't dull the sharpness of the blade itself, as Cowan's range cuts and slices with every turn.

With the longest track on the EP, the nearly six minute Closure, the band does nothing to tarnish the bright and shiny output they've gifted you to hear thus far. Sascha Paeth, who has allowed his magic skills to grace the production work of bands at the pinnacle of the genre, does an incredible job bringing out the absolute best in every member, creating a mix that is vibrant and rich. Cowan hits all the right notes, giving you chills, and bringing you to your knees all in one breath. Rather than clash with the wild and brutally heavy instrumental below, she embraces it and rides that wave of sheer terror to even greater heights. if there is one misstep to be noted, it may be the placement of 100 Days, a song that might be better suited to give respite during the show, rather than close it out. The first half tickles a different part of your inner ear, while the building symphonic tinged overture than finishes makes it all worthwhile.

You'll see a picture of Seven Spires, and you'll make a judgment. We all do it, so there is little use in pretending. You'll see their look, their clothes, the makeup of the band, and assume that this is another sugary sweet female fronted band that is less metal and more gothic rock. And, thankfully, you'll be dead wrong...just like I was. Unlike many of their predecessors they haven't submitted to the usual female fronted pressures of being sensual and sweet, and instead have found an identity crisis that will work for years to come. Cowan's voice is a monument to talent and intelligent songwriting. And her counterparts, the three men who craft and create the structures that she thrives in, are more than a backing band. This is only an EP, I suppose, but it was far and away one of the most dynamic and strong releases you'll find for female fronted metal this year. Or last year. Or the year before that.


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