Call them progressive metal, modern hard rock, whatever you like, but the bottom line truth is that Seven Against Thebes is a great music band, period, end stop. Labels help sell the music and that’s fine, but let’s not confuse the issue any more than we have to. If progressive means you expect Seven Against Thebes to lay down a song or two clocking over ten minutes, some long-winded self-indulgent pseudo epic, prepare to scale back your expectations. The band’s latest studio album Art of Deception keeps things snappy and on point even for its longer songs.
The Seattle headquartered four-piece, however, has a sense of adventure accompanying these thirteen songs that keep you guessing about where the next turn may take you. “’Til Death Do Us Part” is the first lyrically driven tune on the album and it’s a solid introduction to both the album and any newcomers to the band’s songwriting. In most bands, there’s one or two members who stand out while the others are solid support for those central figures. It takes a single song, however, to make clear that Seven Against Thebes truly work, musically, as a cohesive band unit.
Lead vocalist Rusty Hoyle and guitarist Cyrus Rhodes lead the way on the song “Killing Time”. It’s a reflective song, lyrically, and Rhodes does an excellent job heightening its emotional weight with go for broke lead guitar playing. Art of Deception’s production really leaps out at you with this song – it responds to the second by second needs of the song while remaining at a consistently high level. “Mastervision” rates as one of the album’s more dramatically structured tunes, but gains a lot from its effects-laden texture; it must be said about Seven Against Thebes, however, that they don’t indiscriminately employ effects in their songs. Everything has its time and serves a purpose, but the basic music skill forming the bedrock of these songs is always much important to the band’s success.
“Ashes 2 Ashes” is a kind of post-modern electrified blues, warped by modern life and its pressures, but recognizable nonetheless. Hoyle’s singing during this track is especially memorable and the nearly hushed tone of the musical accompaniment allows listeners a chance to hone in on his vocals and the song’s strong lyrics. “Fly Paper” is one of the album’s most successful attempts at diversifying the band’s core sound and upending listener’s expectations some; it also boasts some of the album’s best lyrics and Cyrus Rhodes really distinguishes himself here with a multi-faceted performance.”Slave 2 the Needle” is anchored by a dynamic, slightly claustrophobic riff that the drumming keeps pinpoint pace with throughout the song. This is a metal blues, in a way, with an assortment of rough-edged rave ups marking its way.
The album’s second instrumental “8 Husbands of Cleopatra” revisits some of the exotic vibes the band communicated so well with “Fly Paper” and works as an excellent prelude for the release’s title song. “Art of Deception” riffs with just as much power and conviction we heard with “Slave 2 the Needle” and the ferocious steamroller effect only backs off for the song’s chorus. It’s one of the most powerful tunes included on this album and deserves its title track status. Don’t call it a comeback – Seven Against Thebes rampages through this set of songs like they’ve never been away.
Find the album on AMAZON
-review by Scottie Carlito