Like the opening of floodgates, the dam separating us from the mammoth guitar brutality that Seven Against Thebes is capable of discharging comes crumbling down in one fell swoop with “MMXXII,” the first track of their new album Art of Deception. There isn’t any time to get hypnotized in its haunting glow though; the funeral march is interrupted by “’Til Death Do Us Part,” a sizzling metal call to arms that gets us front and center for the ensuing destruction. It’s all the band can do to prime us for “Collison Course” and the inevitable amplifier worship that it ushers into the frame. If you can’t handle rock music saturated in vitality, this isn’t your record. For the rest of us, it’s a straight up godsend.
“Killing Time” throws a dash of vintage post-punk sway into Art of Deception before clearing out for “Mastervision” and its colon-cleaning pulsating bass. The speed kicks back up for “Next 2 Zero” before devolving into the elegiac “Ashes 2 Ashes,” but rather than feeling dizzy from all of the volatility we’re almost made to be aware that the next jaunt is going to be more extreme than the last. “Fly Paper” starts off with a Hendrix-style eclecticism and crumples into a dooming dirge, but it’s mere mathematics next to the swaggering “Judas Kiss,” which may well be the heaviest song Seattle’s heard in ten years or longer. Any notion that this album is going to slow down is dashed pretty early on, but Seven Against Thebes don’t take issue with making sure the listener is cognoscente of the cyclone they’re in.
“8 Husband of Cleopatra” produces another vividly gorgeous instrumental intermission before the cryptic third act of Art of Deception, which is easily its darkest and most unforgiving both musically and lyrically. The title track commences with a lion’s roar created at the hands of guitarist Cyrus Rhodes and officially starts its ascent towards the heavens under the watchful eye of drummer Bruce Burgess. Rusty Hoyle really reaches a fever pitch on this song, and in the chorus it actually feels like we’re watching the band evolve on stage before us as opposed to listening to a professional recording made in some distant studio in the Northwest.
The raw power of Art of Deception is fully realized in the concluding track “Yama,” in which Seven Against Thebes finally succumbs to the enormous stack of grooves they’ve compiled over the previous twelve tracks. Slowly fading into the toxic abyss, Rusty Hoyle croons a farewell message “I’d rather die on my feet than live upon my knees…,” and just like that the album comes to a stone cold finish. Cinematically stylized and stuffed with more bulging flesh than any album that Metallica has released since …And Justice for All, Art of Deception is unquestionably a staple release in the discography of this decade’s rock music. If you consider yourself a high audio enthusiast, this album is an essential listen, but even if you just enjoy a compelling record that doesn’t strictly depend on hooks to make an imprint on its listeners, it’s more than worth your time.
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