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Gaia Epicus: Seventh Rising

From the cold and frostbitten north, Norway's Gaia Epicus are power/speed metal underdog if there ever was one. Playing melodic heavy metal and hailing from a place known for bands that fancy corpse paint and long walks in snow covered forests is a setback in and of itself, but throw in the loss of band members due to tragedy and an unfortunate expertise in staying under the radar in a fairly commercial genre (by metal standards) for over 20 years... it makes it hard not to root for the guy. Yes, "guy" in the singular as this has over the years evolved into a one man show. Thomas Hansen is the sole remaining member of the band, but along with a crack team of hired guns, Gaia Epicus deliver us an exciting and fairly diverse album in Seventh Rising.

On their previous album, Alpha and Omega, there was a noticeable thrashy edge to the music. Stop and start chunky riffs, and plenty of lyrics about war and gritty topics du jour, in addition to Mr. Hansen giving us his best Dave Mustaine impression on vocals in more than a couple tracks. On Seventh Rising, the thrash has been dialed back to focus on blazing speed, harmonized guitars and soaring melodies which I feel absolutely work in the band's favor. Opener "Like a Phoenix" starts us off with an emotional piano intro and missing is Hansen's Mustaine-like snarl, replaced with a cleaner delivery more fitting to hoisting a horn of mead than slamming a cheap beer and thrashing in the pit. It's a full on power metal assault once the pianos fade away, and it's ass-kickery of the highest order. A fantastic addition on this album is session drummer Mike Terrana, who brings his trademark blistering double kicks and hard hitting stick work to the band. On tracks like"Like a Phoenix" his energy and intensity just come bursting through the speakers. Gaia Epicus came to rock on this one, and judging by the lyrics of this song in particular it's obvious Hansen feels he has something to prove.

"Rising" continues the speed/power assault, the band shredding along almost like a turbo charged early Stratovarius meets Gamma Ray. The previously mentioned vocals are particularly fitting for the riffy and blistering guitar backbone of the song. Thomas has a lot of grit in his delivery and isn't nearly as polished of a vocalist as you will find in many power metal bands, but for songs with more than a tinge of speed metal this works wonderfully. "Nothing to Lose" veers the album away from hyper-melodicism and has a vibe that reminds me a bit of Primal Fear or later Judas Priest. A bit of crunchy thump, but the lead guitar work is stellar and the solo section is a standout.

"From Ashes to Fire" is the absolute barn burner of the album. Think Sonata Arctica at their fastest in parts. Teranna is just out of his mind on the double kick and the melodies are fiery and uplifting, as one would expect from yet another song about the eternal Phoenix. Definitely one of the strongest tracks here.

After a thorough butt-kicking, the album slows down slightly with a few tracks that I would simply describe as "brisk". "The Dream" and "Invisible Enemy" are both workmanlike stompers, with the former being the better and more interesting song of the two thanks to a particularly tasty solo and some almost melancholic melodies. The latter is a bit more generic, but has a vocal delivery somewhat reminiscent of mid 90's mainstream thrash and some middle era Iced Earth is hiding in the guitars.

"Dr. Madman" is predictably goofy, and sonically it's straight up Gamma Ray worship. If you are into this style of music, silly lyrics about scientists should be no stranger to you by now (I think there's a band out there called Helloween with one, but I could be wrong) and shouldn't be a deal breaker. It's a fun song that has everything turned to 10, with the speed turned to 11.

If you're sick of me referencing other bands when describing Gaia Epicus, well that's definitely not gonna stop with the next track, "Number One". It is basically the band's take on "Wherever I May Roam" by Metallica. No, seriously, listen to that verse melody and tell me I'm not right on the money on that one. The intro features some egyptian-ish guitar work and the solo, as seems to be the trend here, is stellar. "Gods of Metal" is another entry into the ever growing ranks of novelty songs that cram in as many references to other bands and songs as humanly possible. Tim "Ripper" Owens lends his pipes to this one, with his piercing wails giving the song a little something beyond some cheap references.

"We are the Ones" brings us back up with it's message of empowerment and pounding, relentless bass and slick melodies. "Eye of Ra" is the prerequisite "epic" of the album, with it's 7+ minute run time. It's a bit of a slow starter, but once it gets going it's another powerful tour de force. A surprise piano break in the middle leads into the best guitar work of the album, with solo after solo and harmonies not unlike the best that Helloween has to offer. A truly fitting end for an album full of sparkling highs.

It's fitting that Seventh Rising has a bit of a fixation with the mythical Phoenix, as this album is noticeably full of fire and you can feel the conviction and passion in here that can't but appeal to you if you are a fan of the genre. While the album does lose a bit of steam in the middle, and the vocals are going to be a bit divisive, by the time "Eye of Ra" unleashes it's triumphant outro that slowly fades out you will be throwing the horns and saluting Gaia Epicus with a "damn right".

Track Listing:
1. Like a Phoenix
2. Rising
3. Nothing to Lose
4. From Ashes to Fire
5. The Dream
6. Invisible Enemy
7. Dr. Madman
8. Number One
9. Gods of Metal
10. We Are the Ones
11. Eye of RA

Added: February 24th 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 705
Language: english

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