Atomic Fire
rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Pirate's Curse
02. Saudade
03. Sarpanit
04. Gods of Babylon
05. The Reckoning
06. Inferno Rising
07. Seventh
08. My Redemption
09. Haunted Sea
10. Saudade Acoustic

After nearly 30 years of loyal service with MOONSPELL, Mike Gaspar can be forgiven for setting his sights on new creative goals. SEVENTH STORM represents a new vehicle and a new sound for the legendary drummer, and while much of "Maledictus" exists in territory that fans of his former band will recognize and appreciate, this is also a very purposeful and fully fledged leap into the musical unknown. Partly inspired by Portugal's illustrious, sea-faring past, and all the atmospheric triggers and epic bombast that such a focus entails, SEVENTH STORM's debut is a uniquely dramatic and fearless return to action from an often-unsung underground hero.

The essence of "Maledictus" can be traced back to the blustery, triumphant metal of the old school, whether that be early MANOWAR, "Hammerheart"-era BATHORY, METALLICA's first five albums or any of black metal's more symphonically minded exponents. Overall, however, SEVENTH STORM is a much more organic and naturalistic enterprise. These songs are rooted in the purest traditional metal, arcane doom and the windswept wonder of the Viking metal contingent, and yet convincing comparisons are hard to conjure.

Opener "Pirate's Curse" sets the tone in suitably thunderous fashion, with rolling waves of melancholy riffing and an impassioned, rabble-rousing vocal from frontman Rez Next. "Saudade" arrives armed with a sensationally emotive chorus that erupts from spinning storms of percussion and a wall of despondent, discordant guitars. Scene duly set, SEVENTH STORM go for broke on "Gods Of Babylon"; perhaps the clearest indication here that Gaspar's rejuvenated vision could take him anywhere he damn pleases. It's a song that thinks nothing of pummeling away at full blast, wrecking every neck in the place with a superb mid-paced thrash riff and then veering off into grim and grinding sludge, with echoes of peak-era ALICE IN CHAINS. In less capable hands, such a hybrid could easily descend into a game of "spot the influence," but instead this feels like an album unsullied by any particular genre association. Clearly more intuitive than calculated, sinewy sprawls like "The Reckoning" and "My Redemption" exert real metallic weight, and yet "Maledictus" is an album of great soul and warmth too. The closing "Haunted Sea" proves the point: a meandering, eight-minute epic metal odyssey, it takes in pagan metal's scarred sheen, the twists and turns of the darkest, classic prog metal, a generous dash of theatrical mischief and a guitar tone heavy enough to knock Bob Rock out of his producer's chair.

Leaving MOONSPELL after 28 years must have been an emotional upheaval, but Mike Gaspar clearly felt he had something else, something new to say. On this evidence, he was right. SEVENTH STORM's fantastic voyage begins here. Get on board.

Author: Dom Lawson
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