Seventh Avenue - Terium 4/5

Reviewed: 6-13-08


1. Under the surface
2. Crowd in the dark
3. Terium
4. Authorities
5. Futures dawn
6. Brighter than the sun
7. Needs
8. Two masters
9. Hands of the king
10. Priests and servants
11. Trail of blood
12. Betrayal
13. Way to the stars
14. Innocence
15. New era

Like many who were waving the flag for traditional heavy metal at the dawn of the Internet age in the mid-to-late 90s, I remember what a thrill it was every time I discovered some new act playing my very favorite style of metal. You know, the speedy, melodic, guitar-driven, "happy" German style popularized by bands like Gamma Ray, Helloween and (a bit later on) Edguy, and adopted by unwashed masses of lesser known acts like Heaven's Gate, Scanner and Freedom Call. One such band was Seventh Avenue, whose 'Tales of tales' (1996) and 'Southgate' (1998) CDs had me doing cartwheels of joy. But then Seventh Avenue broke up, went on hiatus, as bassist/main writer William Hieb withdrew from the band. In the following years, metal's popularity exploded, the happy Helloween style was inundated by the attack of the clones, and Seventh Avenue were largely forgotten, left to fade into obscurity. The news that singer/guitarist Herbie Langhans and drummer Mike Pfluger were resurrecting Seventh Avenue in 2003 was welcome indeed, but much as I enjoyed the 'Between the worlds' (2003) and 'Eternals' (2004) CDs, something was missing. Maybe it was Hieb's absence. Maybe Langhans and Pfluger were trying just a bit too hard. Maybe the spark of inspiration hadn't quite lit. Or maybe I've changed, based on having heard hundreds of melodic power metal CDs in the interim. Whatever the reason, Seventh Avenue's post-reincarnation works appeared solid, yet unspectacular, while thankfully retaining the same speedy melodic power metal style of the band's classic recordings.

After another 4-year layoff, Seventh Avenue have returned with their 6th offering, 'Terium', an ambitious 71-minute concept CD featuring an exhausting 14 songs (plus intro) and an intricate storyline penned by lyricist Pfluger. The results rival Seventh Avenue's best work ever. Style-wise, nothing has changed. This is largely uptempo European power metal from the Gamma Ray school with uplifting guitar melodies and cool riffs all over the place, and few keyboards. Vocalist Langhans still sings in a clean but gritty style slightly reminiscent of Andi Deris, but there are also passages where he reminds me of the plaintive clean voice of ASKA's George Call. The guitar work of Langhans and Flo Gottsleben is superb, not perhaps in technical aptitude, but in terms of their knack for inserting just the right lick or harmony to push a song to greatness. Some of the guitar melodies bring to mind Iron Maiden, others Gamma Ray, others Blind Guardian, and some even a touch of Running Wild, but they're simply fantastic. The speed assault of "Priests and servants", which its pulverizing double-bass and an Iron Savior-type choir, may just be the best song Seventh Avenue have ever written, and stuff like "Terium" (what a catchy chorus), "Futures dawn" (more speed glorious speed, a majestic chorus, and a "Ride the sky" type main riff) and "Needs" (a bouncy cut featuring divine harmony guitars) is top-notch as well. There's only one pure ballad ("Innocence") and one semi-ballad ("Hands of the king"), so the vast majority of 'Terium' is packed with heavy, speedy material.

This band's lyrics have always been a source of consternation for a heathen like me, inasmuch as Seventh Avenue have always been forthright with their Christian lyrics. While nothing on 'Terium' matches the sheer absurdity of the "J-E-S-U-S" chant from "Prince of peace" on the band's 1995 debut, 'Rainbowland', the band's religious propensities are inescapable and in your face (sample lyric: "Holy Father Lord Creator / The highest name in the universe / We wait for your kingdom to come"). At least this time the evangelizing is wrapped in a science-fiction storyline about a world in which people become addicted to a substance called Terium, which engenders the decay of moral values and social fabric until a savior comes along performing miracles to restore hope and faith to the people. Tragically, the savior is betrayed, captured, and executed by the Romanes, causing much sadness to his followers until he is resurrected 3 days later. Okay, so maybe it's not the most original story in the world, but at least they're trying.

'Terium' is highly recommended to anyone who still gets a kick out of the Helloween/Gamma Ray branch of the heavy metal family tree. It just might be Seventh Avenue's finest hour. Who ever could have imagined that rockin' for Jesus could be so much fun?




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