|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: William Hieb & Jan Bocek|
|Record Label: Ulterium||Country Of Origin: Germany|
|Year Released: 1998/2009||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 66:54|
Germany’s Seventh Avenue represents one of the foundational bands in the Christian power metal scene. Formed in 1989 initially under the name The Preachers but not putting out its first demo, the eight song effort First Strike, until 1993, Seventh Avenue returned two years later with the single Children and full length debut Rainbowland. The group followed up with an excellent sophomore outing, Tale Of Tales, in 1996 before returning in 1998 with Southgate and the EP Goodbye the very next year. Seventh Avenue continued to stay busy following the turn of the century, releasing Between The Worlds (2003), Eternals (2004) and Terium (2008).
Southgate, an initial Treasure Hunt Records release, was re-issued in early 2009 by Ulterium Records. The album finds Seventh Avenue bringing its trademark European power metal sound but touched up with elements of speed metal and melodic metal. Fans of Helloween, Gamma Ray, Stratovarious and Blind Guardian will find a lot to like here as will those into Adiastasia, Dream Quest, Lightmare and Zephaniah.
Many of the better moments on Southgate take place on its epic ten minute title track and quintessential power metal of “May The Best One Win”, “Big City Sharks” and “Puppet Of The Mighty”. “Carol” and “Nameless Child” stand out with their melodic based sound (huge chorus hooks on these two) while “Father” and “Heart In Your Hand” head in quality ballad territory. Closing things out is a very well done semi ballad, “Goodbye”.
I have always been a fan of Herbie Langhan’s melodic and clean but raspy vocal style. While he warrants direct comparisons to Les Carlson (Bloodgood) and Andi Deris, he can go for a Michael Kiske-like high note (“Protection Of Fools”) or reach down low and add some grit to his delivery (“Big City Sharks”).
Herbie joins with Andi Gutjahr to handle all guitar duties. The two prove masterful in putting together an abundance of memorable riffs and melodies while proving adept in the soloing department. “May The Best One Win” and “Nameless Child” showcase some rollicking guitar leads while “Southgate” and “Puppet Of The Mighty” allow the group to display its instrumental propensity.
Production values are spot-on in reflecting a clean sound allowing the instrumentation to rise above the mix.
As always, give Seventh Avenue credit for excellent cover artwork.
Keyboards, piano and offbeat sound effects uphold instrumental album opener “Introduce”.
The albums ten minute title track proves a technical piece of progressive metal. The song delivers its share of variety, ranging from double bass driven passage to slower more tranquil moments to several excursions into instrumental territory. A melodic based bridge and anthem-like chorus tops off what can best be described as a sublime listening experience.
“Protection Of Fool” brings a no frills power metal sound. The song stands out with its aggressive riffing, establishing a sweeping environs as it drives through its intent verse portions and chorus put over the top by its unremitting aura. Tight guitar harmony and radiant soloing carry a lengthy instrumental section.
A more melodic based direction is taken on “Carol”. This one might slow the pace down a bit – at least in comparison to “Protection Of Fools” – but proves no less able. The melody here is abundant (great catchy chorus hook) as is the drum sound (plenty of non-stop double bass) and Herbie’s gritty vocal approach (some of the Les Carlson comparisons come to the forefront here).
“Father” takes things in ballad territory. The song opens to an acoustic guitar that is soon joined by some bluesy lead guitar. Slowly drifting through its ethereal verse portions, “Father” picks up in pace as it acquires an emotionally charged chorus backed by a crisp rhythm guitar. A nice transition is made past the halfway point to a short acoustically driven passage.
Power metal anthem “May The Best One Win” finds Seventh Avenue at its best. Driven its distance at an upbeat tempo, the song showcases a plethora of rapid double bass along with a high-octane chorus in which the band exudes its all out raw energy. Creative would be the best way to describe “May The Best One Win” as it later repeats its chorus in a stop-and-start manner as a bass guitar holds sway over the backdrop.
A perfect transition is made to “Puppet Of The Mighty”, another first-rate slab of Euro power metal. The song begins its first minute and a half instrumentally to a stylish amalgamation of rhythm guitar and keyboards. Maintaining the relaxed tempo as it slowly maneuvers its first verse, “Puppet Of The Mighty” picks up in pace for a hard hitting riff prior to charging through the second in spirited fashion. The all out raucous vibe is maintained for the stately chorus that follows. With its changes in tempo and notable hook, this one ranks with the albums finest.
Speed metal instrumental “Storm” is carried its short (1:20) distance by pounding drums and jagged-edge riffing.
“Heart In Your Hand”, the albums second ballad, moves its entire length acoustically (unlike “Father”, which features touches of rhythm guitar). The atmosphere proves quite touching while a melody on the abundant side of things cannot help but draw you in (and refuse to let go). Herbie’s refined vocal approach adds to the moving scene.
“Nameless Child” starts, appropriately, to the sound of kids playing before moving forward to an open air rhythm guitar. The song proceeds to plow through its first verse to a merging of pounding riffs and pumping bass lines, culminating is it attains a catchy chorus in which storms of pounding double bass makes their presence felt. A bristling run of lead guitar rounds things out.
Opening calmly to a crisp acoustic guitar, “Big City Sharks” maintains the tranquil atmosphere upon reaching its flowing first verse. The song picks up in pace at the start of the second as the rhythm guitar cuts in, not letting up until acquiring a chorus driven at a steadfast upbeat tempo. Another span of fiery lead guitar.
Closing things out is the seven minute semi-ballad “Goodbye”. This one takes more of a “metal ballad approach” in that an electric guitar can be found throughout (along with occasional traces of the acoustic). Similar to “Heart In Your Hand” and “Father”, the melody here is copious but not to the extent of coming across commercial- that is, again, due to the more than adequate amount of rhythm guitar permeating the mix. The only complaint is that this one might be a bit long winded (I would have chosen to cut it by a minute or two but a solid effort nonetheless).
If you are a fan of power metal (in all its forms) or simply need to round out your Seventh Avenue collection then Southgate comes strongly recommended. The album proves a very fine precursor to the bands efforts that would follow in the subsequent decade, Eternals and Terium. The performance form Seventh Avenue, particularly in the areas of vocals and lead guitar, is solid as well. Give credit to Ulterium Records for making this available again.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Introduce” (2:28), “Southgate” (9:56), “Protection Of Fool” (4:48), “Carol” (5:48), “Father” (5:32), “May The Best One Win” (6:21), “Puppet Of The Mighty” (6:36), “Storm” (1;20), “Heart In Your Hand” (5:16), “Nameless Child” (5:28), “Big City Sharks” (5:05), “Goodbye” (7:41)
Herbie Langhans – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Andi Gutjahr – Guitars
William Hieb – Bass
Mike Pfluger – Drums