|Seventh Key The Raging Fire||Frontiers Records|
Seventh Key is Kansas bassist Billy Greer and Streets/Steelhouse Lane founder/producer/guitarist Mike Slamer.|
This is their second album and to get right to the point, is better than the debut in every way. This sensational slice of pure melodic hard rock features better songs, better production, better arrangement and best of all, one hell of a vocal performance from Billy Greer.
The debut album was fabulous in its own right, but like all follow-ups, an artist must strive to improve and that has indeed been done. Any fan of the debut is going to be well impressed with this release.
The one detail on the debut that I didn't warm to as much was Billy's vocals. It might have been the fact that the album was the next from Slamer to follow the utterly essential Steelhouse Lane Slaves Of The New World album, which featured awesome vocalist Keith Slack.
On The Raging Fire, Billy's performance comes close to that of Slack's.
There is increased warmth in his voice, increased strength and a real conviction it the delivery. There are some spine tingling moments on this album, which shows the partnership between Greer and Slamer really maturing.
Mike Slamer's guitar style and production sound has always been detectable, but over the course of the two Steelhouse Lane albums and now two Seventh Key albums it has become legendary.
The Raging Fire contains all the tricks expected – a deep, full sound - worthy of any major label release - coupled with layers of harmonies and bombastic time changes, bridges and the all important over the top choruses. And don't for get guitar solos – there are some awe inspiring solos throughout the record – another testament to Slamer's ability.
Track By Track:
What better way to open any album than a guitar fuelled uptempo rocker? The Sun Will Rise is exactly that – a perfect pump your fist in the air, harmony filled, feel good rocker. Nice also to hear a big guitar solo right in the middle, before the song wastes no more time in getting back to the chorus.
Always From The Heart starts slow, with Billy's vocals floating over a soft acoustic intro. The song builds in mood and tempo and bursts into a huge high-tech fill which leads into another memorable hands-in-the-air chorus. It's one of the album's most commercial tracks and very reminiscent of the debut.
You Cross The Line is an interesting track. This is one of those great Slamer production moments when the melodic rock envelope is pushed a little harder than usual. This is a dark and moody track which starts softly, but explodes into a fired-up rocker with another bridge-to-chorus hook combo which delivers the knockout punch.
An Ocean Away is a simpler uptempo rocker with a cool lead guitar riff and a strong vocal. The chorus flows easily and is slightly more melodic than the tone of the overall track. Another highly memorable and enjoyable track.
The Raging Fire is another less than straight ahead track – clocking in at 6 minutes and featuring a dark moody vibe to it also. The verse is rather haunting, with an eerie piano "riff" adding to the feel. The relatively short chorus features some tough guitar riffs.
Sin City returns to the straight ahead feel of the opening track and An Ocean Away. A simple, guitar driven rocker which balances the quirky tracks perfectly.
It Should Have Been You is the album's only real ballad proper. The track has the vibe of a classic Foreigner ballad, with a moody verse, layers of keyboards and harmony vocals and a heartfelt anthem chorus which would sound at home on any good rock radio station.
Run is a classic style hard rocker with Def Leppard-ish production and Eddie Van Halen lead guitar sound. Mix that with a little Steelhouse Lane and you get the picture. However, it's not the album's best chorus.
Pyramid Princess is an epic styled hard rocker, also with a dark edge, but a huge production job that includes some bombastic drum passages and a high-impact chorus. One of the more dramatic songs of the album.
Winds of War is another slow to start track. I really like the way these guys build the songs and this is no different. It starts slow, but through the 6 minutes plus, builds to quite a tasty rocker.
However, every note on this album was written and recorded to please the fans and I believe they have done that with some outstanding songs and inspired performances. Terry Brock adds backing vocals, which give the harmonies even more depth.
A brilliant album that will please just about everybody.
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