Seventh Avenue - Eternals 3.5/5

Reviewed: 2-18-05





Tracklist:

1. Battle for destiny
2. Eternals
3. Future tale
4. Raging fire
5. Juggler of words
6. Remission
7. Infinite king
8. Storm lll
9. Hunger for life
10. Heaven can wait
11. Voices
12. Domination of sin


It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed since German melodic power metallers Seventh Avenue burst onto the international scene. In the interim, they have released 5 CDs and a couple of EPs, spun off a mildly interesting side project (Treasure Seeker), broken up, reformed, graduated from a hole-in-the-wall indie label to Massacre Records, and cycled through so many band members that you'll need a scorecard to keep track of who's on first. I've followed the band's career since the beginning, and harbor particularly fond memories of their 1996 sophomore CD, 'Tales of tales', and its successor, 1998's 'Southgate', both superlative examples of 90s happy European power metal at its finest, in a time before the genre became oversaturated by hordes of clones.

'Eternals' is Seventh Avenue's 5th full-length CD, and finds the band staying close to their roots, but elevating the songwriting, individual performances and production substantially over the decent-but-not-stellar reunion opus, 2003's 'Between the worlds'. It's a good thing too, as such improvements are imperative if the band wishes to remain competitive in today's crowded metal marketplace. The music on 'Eternals' is firmly rooted in the beloved speedy, happy German metal sound a la classic Gamma Ray, heavier Freedom Call, faster Heaven's Gate, earlier/better Edguy and the like. As if to underscore the point, the first notes of the title track humorously borrow both melody and arrangement from Gamma Ray's "Tribute to the past", although the song then thankfully mutates in a different direction. While there may be nothing remotely original about the style of music they perform, Seventh Avenue stand head and shoulders above the sea of lackluster Helloween clones because of the extremely high caliber of their work. I, for one, do not require that my metal be groundbreaking, so long as the songs are good and are performed with fire and enthusiasm. Seventh Avenue gets a big thumbs-up on both counts. Besides, these guys are no bandwagon jumpers. Remember, they were playing this style back in the mid-90s, when happy European power metal was at its absolute nadir of popularity and no label wanted to touch any band sound anything like Helloween.

Although 'Eternals' does not quite reach the highs of 'Tales of tales' or 'Southgate', it is an excellent CD that is guaranteed to leave long-time fans smiling. I have only two reservations in my otherwise whole-hearted recommendation of this CD to fans of the genre. First, singer/guitarist Herbie Langhans (the lone holdover from Seventh Avenue's early days) does not sing in the polished, high-register Kiske style, but instead offers a grittier, but still quite melodic voice (think of a more tuneful Andi Deris) that suits the music well. So if you insist on soaring, high-pitched vocals, you may want to check out a clip first. 2nd, Seventh Avenue is an unapologetically Christian band, and their lyrics have a tendency to degenerate into preachy sermons about life choices or paeans to God's glory. I am not troubled by this predilection; after all, I own dozens of CDs teeming with odes to Beelzebub, so Seventh Avenue helps me give equal time to the guy upstairs. Nonetheless, those who find proselytizing lyrics offputting may face a formidable obstacle to their enjoyment of 'Eternals'.



KIT




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