Seventh Gear – Origen – 2.5/5
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It was with some reservation that I took on this review, as the bands members are all long standing members of the Lifer forum, lead guitarist and frontman Nathan Snelgrove even holding the position of administrator at one point. Reviewing the work of friends has its inherent problems, namely running the risk of offending said friend if the review is less than kind, or conversely heaping unwarranted praise upon said release out of some sense of loyalty. Due to this, I had considered giving up the duty to Mr.Bawden, as he is heartless and cruel enough to avoid such folly (I of course jest…., a little). Upon listening to it however, I had a change of heart as there are aspects of this debut e.p. in which I want my opinion known.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I will have to say that Seventh Gear is very obvious in where theirs come from. While the band state on their MySpace page that artists as diverse as Shadows Fall, Alice in Chains, Pink Floyd, Carcass, and Arch Enemy are influences, it is two other bands listed that come through most blatantly in their music, that being Metallica and Megadeth. This is especially true of Metallica for many reasons, but on a macro level, SG’s desire to emulate the “Black Album” era is undeniable. From the overall tone of the e.p., the arrangements, and especially Nathan’s vocal, the Gear are clearly big fans. This is not entirely problematic, although there are times in which I think the similarities are a touch too close, and verge on apery. This is most conspicuously heard in Nathan’s vocal which is very similar to James Hetfield’s in delivery, the mans lower register growl and phrasing constantly on display but Nathan not having the same dynamic or range. Whether this is a natural similarity or a conscious attempt at the style is something we would have to ask Mr. Snelgrove, but there is no doubt that the gentlemen sound very much alike. There are song choices that are quite revealing of these influences as well. The opening riff of “Dead Space” is highly derivative of Megadeth (Hanger 18?), “Deliverance” quotes Metallica’s “Battery” in the vocal delivery, and “Wasteland” is practically Hetfield and crews “The Unforgiven” version 1.5. While not debilitating, I would have liked to see a little more individuality and originality in Seventh Gear’s style.
Well, enough on the critical side, as this mini has much to recommend it as well. Out of the gate, this is a professional production and it shows. The album sounds great. The mix is balanced, each instrument finding its niche and sounding off forcefully and discernibly. This is a great surprise as most bands first outings tend to suffer from woeful production. Not the case here. Another major plus is the musicianship. Snelgrove’s growth as a guitarist is stunning, and it is a particular point of pride for me to have witnessed this development first hand. His riffs are fiery, and his solos sizzle. Bassist Daniel Manary is his own man, counterpointing Snelgrove beautifully. Not one to sit around and double the riffs or simply hold time with the drums, he makes a fine account for himself, delivering many fine runs and staying generally busy(though never “too busy”). Sticksman Aaron Calenda(the only member of the band I am not familiar with) is also quite impressive. Delivering the goods, this guy shows definite “pocket” groove, and appears to have all of the chops needed for a successful metal drummer. His fills are quite tasteful, and he uses double bass in skillful proportion instead of clobbering the listener with an unvaried barrage. Finally, lead off track “Against Leviathan” is killer. A rhythmic storm, the track is propelled by some truly awesome guitar work, leaving the listener breathless and hopeful. This bodes well for the guys, as it is a good calling card, and a building block for the bands future endeavors.
This is clearly a band still in its developmental stage, clearly in search of its own identity. But they must be commended for attempting to be a creative force out of the gate rather than going the route of a covers band, a route too often traveled. While far from a perfect endeavor, and as I said, a tad derivative throughout, this is one youthful outfit that is worth keeping an eye on. As they mature as song writers, and find a directive, I am confident that these guys could be quite successful as a recording entity. Seventh Gear reeks of potential. I for one am eager to see how it plays out.
Highlights: Against Leviathan, Dead Space