7 Horns 7 Eyes – Throes of Absolution Review

7 Horns 7 Eyes’ Throes of Absolution is a fabulous heavy progressive metal album says Harry. Perhaps the best metal album of 2012 so far.

There’s been a buzz about this album in the metal world since the release of the digital single Convalescence last year. The involvement of guitar god Jeff Loomis (plays a solo) and metal uber-producer Andy Sneap (re-amped the guitars) – however slight in both cases – has added to the excitement, buzz and hype surrounding 7 Horns 7 Eyes’ album release. Just as well it’s a fucking brilliant brutal slab of progressive death metal then isn’t it? Throes of Absolution is technical, progressive and heavy – yet at the same time features interesting melodic themes that are explored to their full potential, rather than casting riffs and lead lines aside in a hurry. The result is an album with a strong overall identity yet not one where the songs merge together into a samey mess. And while there’s too much reliance on downtuned guitars in the rhythm section for my liking (I prefer the heaviness to come from the riffs themselves and the combination of guitar and bass) this is a record that delights almost all of the time.

The production by the band’s guitarist Aaron Smith is very strong. Thankfully – and yes I know I’m always beating on about this – the drums sound like real drums played in a room by a human. This is a very modern clean production with plenty of space for the instruments to breath. You can imagine 7 Horns 7 Eyes playing these songs in a studio rather than cutting and pasting it all together with Cubase and Superior Drummer. I really like Smith and Sean Alf’s guitar playing too, they’ve both got a strong line in melodic playing rather than just wanking away on the fretboard.

The rest of the band is equally strong too. JJ “Shiv” Polachek vocal performance is authoritative and powerful, and while lacking in variety, he does what he does very well indeed. This sounds like a band confident enough in their own abilities not to spend every song trying to show off, there’s enough space for everyone to shine, rather than a frenetic pile of sound that ultimate lacks dynamics. Dynamics for me are what makes metal heavy, and these nine songs offer the variety and interest needed to entertain without wearing your ears out with unremitting blast beats and djent guitars. Instead we get songs such as Delusions which really journeys between lighter melodic moments and strong heavy sections. And unlike myriad shitty “core” bands there’s no instant and unsatisfying switch between the heavy and melodic, it’s not a binary performance, these songs breath, grow and naturally flow.

Is it my favourite prog metal album of the last 12 months, not quite, that honour still rests with Omnium Gatherum’s New World Shadows. But Throes of Absolution is a stonking good album that fans of twiddly guitars and heavy chugging riffs will love. One of the stand out tracks for me is Vindicator, which begins with a really chunky medium-paced riff and grows from there into one of the album’s heavier tracks. The Winnowing has a wonderful bleakness that makes me think the band has been hanging out in snowbound Finnish forests and Shiv’s vocal performance is very strong here. Like many of the songs on Throes of Absolution there are nods to bands such as Opeth and NWOBHM heroes like Maiden, yet 7H7E retain their own distinct sonic character.

The album draws to a close with Regeneration, an instrumental track that showcases the band’s various talents – building from a restrained beginning into something heavy and magical. Here Ryan Wood’s tasteful drumming in conjunction with Brandon Smith’s great bass work are allowed to shine before the guitars take centre stage on the albums most progressive rock (rather than metal) like track. A bloody great way to finish a fantastic record. Fans of Opeth and other European progressive death bands may find the album a little lacking in warmth. There’s something clinical about American metal these days compared to a more analogue feel of the metal coming out of continental Europe. But give it a chance. Throes of Absolution is one of the first great metal albums of 2012. 7 Horns 7 Eyes’ Throes of Absolution is out on Basick Records on April 23rd. You can find out more about the band by heading to their facebook page.