Seventh Calling are a traditional power metal act from South Dakota. Their third full-length, Battle Call, features sharp riffing and twin guitar harmonies overlaying a tight rhythm section with primarily clean vocals accenting the entire affair. With a description like that, this should be everything I want in an album, right?
Unfortunately this is a case of solid band being completely hamstrung by some of the worst vocals of recent memory. Honestly, at three lines into the second track, Battle Call, I was about ready to hit the Stop button and delete the folder off my hard drive. Singer (a term I use loosely) Steve Handel tries to emulate Rob Halford’s trademark screams but has neither the range nor the tone quality to do so. The higher he tries to reach, the flatter and more strained the notes sound, making the song borderline painful to listen to.
The bright side (such as it is) is that the title track is the worst offender on the album. I’m not saying things get "good" from this point forward, but they get more tolerable. The middle five minutes of Fight For Your Life have a driving rhythm, and Handel stays in a more comfortable range, sounding like a less-nasal Dave Mustaine. He also dips into some gutteral vocals, which actually work pretty well. The same can be said of Say Your Prayers. Basically, if Handel isn’t trying to do high notes, it’s not bad. Again, it’s not good, but it’s enough to take the icepick away from my eardrums.
So as not to dwell on the bad, the instruments have a great sound. The two guitars harmonize well with one another, and the various solos evoke a modern take on the classic 1980s sound. The bass is both present and leads the rhythm section with power and pride. While the percussion could use more push in the mix, it sounds good overall.
I really wanted to like Battle Call more than I did. The instrumentation is great, the songwriting ranges from servicable to good, but the vocals undermine the entire performance. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’ve gone as far as I’m able to with Seventh Calling.
Available for preorder at Big Cartel.
Special thanks to Online Metal Promo for the complementary review copy.