Artist: Seventh Wonder
Fans of Tommy Karevik and the band he was known for before his Kamelot days have been waiting for a new album for nearly 8 years, but as of October 2018, their wish has been granted. Seventh Wonder released their second concept album, Tiara; this marks their first effort at a concept album since the critically-renowed Mercy Falls back in 2008.
While not very familiar with Seventh Wonder myself, I found myself curious about this album, as I was not quite on the same Mercy Falls hype train as everyone else. However, “Alley Cat” is one of the best songs I know these days, so there was at least some potential in this album. At least, enough for me to sit down with the lyrics and give it a listen-through.
I have to start this off by saying that if I was going to rate this album based on the music quality and vocal performance, I don’t think I’d have any issues and I’d give it a solid 8/10, losing points only for the extremely cheesy parts and some lack of cohesion between parts of the songs. If you’re the type who just wants to put on an album and hear some nice music and Karevik’s lovely, lovely voice, I doubt you’ll have any major issues with this album. But I always try to consider music as a whole, which includes lyrics, and this is where I ran into some unforgivable flaws in the album.
So what is the story in Tiara? From what I’ve gathered, an extraterrestrial race called the Everones that has watched over mankind has decided that we are unworthy and have sentenced humanity to death. Mankind prepares to wage war against the Everones, but a little girl cries out for them to stop and they are all so moved by her words that they decide to send her into space to plead on mankind’s behalf. The world says farewell, and her father says farewell, and Tiara (that’s her name) looks out the window and sees people celebrating her, putting all their hopes into her. She travels into space and meets the Everones, and says that she cannot do what she was sent to do because she was raised to be honest and true to herself. So she returns to earth, the Everones attack, Tiara is labeled a traitor to mankind, and chaos ensues. Then somehow, Tiara sacrifices herself for mankind and the Everones leave, declaring humanity redeemed, and it is implied that she is not dead after all.
So the first issue I have with the story is the lack of cohesion in anything. The child on the album cover looks to be about 4-5 years old, while the child in the music video for “Tiara’s Song (Farewell pt. 1)” is likely somewhere around 8-12 years old. She is referred to as a child, and it is said that her innocence will win them over. Some of the sweet words from the father in “Goodnight (Farewell pt. 2)” sound fitting for a little girl. However, during “Beyond Today (Farewell pt. 3)” she wonders about meeting boys and falling in love and what the future will hold for her, which, if I’m to think back to my own self as a little girl… well those thoughts were important around 13-15 years. So, how old is this child savior supposed to be?
Next, how exactly did she tell everyone to stop preparing for war? Where did she plead, that she was able to reach so many? Also, this has bothered me since I realized it, but why on earth did they name her Tiara? A tiara is a small crown, not a name. Tianna is a name. Why Tiara? If she’s supposed to be humanity’s crown, that’s a pretty lame metaphor. If not… it’s a lame name. Then, how exactly did she sacrifice herself to stop whatever was happening? And what exactly was happening when she decided not to plead on earth’s behalf? The beginning of the story spends a lot of time wondering if she’ll ever come back (and she does right away with zero drama, incidentally), but spends almost no time explaining what the Everones decided to do after Tiara called humanit unworthy, or how Tiara stopped their attack in the end. I honestly like the idea of this story: mankind has shit the bed, an alien race tries to exterminate us, a little girl pleads for peace, earth sends her to plead for mankind but she can’t do it, the aliens attack, and she dies to save the world. It’s a pretty decent story. But it’s missing any details of what happens in the end. I could put up with any number of inconsistencies in story if the ending was good, but this story seems to mostly just fizzle out.
Then there is the issue of the music. The best concept albums in the world tell a story in music, not just lyrics. I will refer you to Ayreon and Avantasia as good examples. SW have got some great music on this album, but it’s all just different riffs and solos tacked together without any cohesion, jumping from rock to prog to metal to opera to acoustic and beyond without warning or reason. Worse, there are only a handful of moments where the music actually seems to be assisting with the storytelling. If you listen to an album like The Human Equation by Ayreon, you’ll find that the words and music are all a part of the storytelling. The story has come first, and the music emphasizes what is happening. This album feels like it was done the opposite way – they wrote the music first, and then tried to tack an overly complex story onto music that doesn’t suit it. The music often drags on and stagnates, or goes in a totally random direction that… well if it has anything to do with the story, the band kept it too close a secret, because we sure as hell didn’t catch on to what they were trying to say with it. One song is 0:45 long – the one time the message they were portraying was expressed in a reasonable amount of time for its need. So why does every song on the album average about 6:00 in length?
The other sin they committed was a lack of flow in the lyrics itself. Don’t get me wrong, Karevik’s got a beautiful voice and is full of passion and feeling on this album. It’s just that what he’s singing sounds like something I’d hear on stage in a musical and not on an album’s lyrics. I can see the scenes vividly in my head, but it results in Karevik just sing-talking the lyrics, which are inconsistently jumping between poetry and scripted dialogue. When complaining about the lyrics, and this is me being very picky, but if you’ve got some poetry in your lyrics but the rest is basic, it just emphasizes how dull the rest of it is. You are capable of writing poetry, so did you just get lazy with the rest of the lyrics? Why is the first half of the story overly explained, and the second half under-explained? Right when you reach the climax, they stop telling you what’s going on. And the way the songs are written doesn’t work well with a concept album. They repeat choruses and pre-choruses too many times in many of the songs, which means the story doesn’t move along and becomes stagnant. Simply put, it needed to be accompanied by acting or dance, and if this was a stage show, it might really work well, but as an album… well… it kinda sucks.
Ultimately, I have to give this album two separate ratings. If I’m giving it a rating just on the music and singing and not worrying too much about story and message, I’d be happy to give this album an 8 or 8.5/10. However, as a concept album, the pacing was wrong, they tried to tell too big of a story, and sounded like it was trying to be Ayreon by doing what Ayreon does without understanding why Ayreon does these things, and ends up being worthy of no more than a 3/10 for me. So ultimately, in order to give them a rating, I’ll have to average those two out, and the quality of the music ends up not being enough to save it for me. Hopefully next time they’ll stick to one-off songs and not try so hard with the lyrics.
Rating: 5.5/10, 2.5 stars (music: 8.5/10; concept execution: 3/10)
2. The Everones
3. Dream Machines
4. Against the Grain
6. Tiara’s Song (Farewell pt. 1)
7. Goodnight (Farewell pt. 2)
8. Beyond Today (Farewell pt. 3)
9. The Truth
10. By the Light of the Funeral Pyres
11. Damnation Below