It was before a long journey that I haphazardly shoved all my new music on to my iPod, paying no regard to the attached one sheets and band biographies. Having never heard their material before, it was without expectation or even awareness of genre that I approached Seven Year Storm‘s début EP Aion I. Perhaps this should be my new method of promo selection: zero experience, zero genre prejudice, maximum joy when what hits you is brilliant. Sean Lang, the Canadian mastermind behind the project, is noted for his online drum tutorials and eclectic range of associated acts, including melodeath outfit First Reign, art rock and pop cover band A Night of Bowie, and folk cover band Byrd Dawg. With such a diverse range of influences in his percussive repertoire, it shouldn’t shock you that his drumming is at the forefront of this progressive metal EP. Though certainly not overtly metal in its chilled atmosphere and lack of extremity, the supreme instrumentation and delightful compositions enchanted me.
Falling somewhere near to Animals As Leaders or Exivious in its instrumental style, Aion I is a continuation of the recent trend towards ‘pretty’ metal: unrelentingly technical, yet uplifting in tone. It’s very easy to digest, clocking in at a brief 27 minutes, and is counter to what metal used to stand for: danger, adversity, arguably even hostility. This is a very affirming affair, wooing you in with its mellow opening synths and maintaining itself with catchy guitar melodies. “Nazca Lines” has a slick synth bridge, and the temporarily ominous piano at 3:15 juxtaposes the transition into a more hopeful conclusion.
But I mustn’t forget to mention Archspire. That subtle name-drop functions not only to grab our kvlt readers from the brink of oblivion, but is also actually relevant to the review. Did I mention that Lang is good friends with the ludicrously talented Dean Lamb, guitarist from the Canadian tech-death band? Nope? Well he is, and Lamb was persuaded to perform the guitars for Aion I to wonderful effect. Though clearly not so distorted and aggressive as his Archspire material, he brings his technical prowess, groovy leads and shredding potential to Lang’s already-stellar percussive performance. The careful arrangement of off-kilter drumming, suitably heavy rhythms and diverse leads draped over the top are compelling on the highlights, “Nazca Lines” and “Blue Car Syndrome.” The sense of dynamics is strong too, with great transitions and progression in commendably focused and wank-less songs.
Though not over-long, Aion I could have done with a little more diversity. The tone is consistently pleasant, and I would argue overly safe. The aforementioned moment at which haunting keys are used offers a welcome contrast, but it’s too brief and more could be distributed throughout. Despite sporadic breakdowns and up-tempo riffs, the structure is quite predictable which is a hindrance on supposedly progressive music. Maybe that would have naturally developed in a full-length release, but I can only critique what I’m given!
Despite the fairly uniform structure and atmosphere, Seven Year Storm is a very exciting project. It rewards multiple listens with unfurling complexities in its writing, and the fusion of its highly talented musicians ensures excellent execution. The aural experience is strong, aided by a solid production job. A more diverse emotional outlook would improve a follow-up, and I sincerely hope Lang continues on to an Aion II. The fantastic covert art only sweetens the deal.