Out Now on Mascot Records

Seven the Hardway is a 5-piece progressive rock/metal band formed in 2009 by guitar virtuoso Tony MacAlpine (Steve Vai, Planet X, CAB), legendary drummer Virgil Donati (Planet X) and renowned vocalist Mark Boals (Uli Jon Roth, Royal Hunt, Yngwie Malmsteen).  Joining MacAlpine, Donati and Boals are bass player Doug Shreeve and 21 year old Argentinian newcomer Stefanía Daniel on guitar though this pair according to the complete lack of their names in any capacity on the inlay booklet suggest they have joined after completion of the album for live work as Macalpine is also credited with bass on the album in addition to Guitar and keyboards.

This 10 track debut album has been mixed by Roy Z and is a completely different kettle of fish to when the core trio last collaborated in the neo-classical band Ring Of Fire.  Musically this is being marketed as progressive yet alternative metal might well be a better genre to go with.  Vocally this is far away from anything I have really heard from Boals.  Gone is the trademark operatic wail to be replaced by a much darker timbre and in the case of opener “Liar” a bit of an need to be Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell rolled into one with Alice In Chains style vocal harmonies.  Not what was expected at all. 

The vocal weirdness is prevalent pretty much throughout the album yet hits its nadir with the mock rapping of “Guilt” – yes really.  The AIC ism’s return for “Solitary Man” over a nice odd time signature dirge of a riff from T-Mac which does fare a little better.    The dark acoustic tone of “Where I’m Going” is better, yet “All I Had” is trying to be modern metal and is a complete write-off to these ears and I have to ask, Is Boals singing off key on purpose?   “Blame” plays around a riff the likes of Soundgarden might get away with yet lacks any staying power.  “The Wall” offers up hope with a faster tempo and is as progressive as the album gets in its musicality and even Boals appears to be trying a little harder here, yet we are treated (cough) to some vocal fx just in-case we might get a hint of the Boals of old, or so it feels like.  And so the album progresses until closure, and nothing manages to raise the quality level.

When I first received this album I was rather excited.  3 of my favourite musicians over the years, who have made excellent music both collectively and individually in the past, this should have been good.  That excitement quickly disappeared.  Vocally its dated already, perhaps more so than Boals operatic wailings from the Yngwie days, musically there is the odd peak but not anywhere near enough to maintain any real interest.  Progressive fans will find this samey and dare I say it bland, modern alternative metal fans will most likely look at the personnel and dismiss it straight away and the grunge boat sailed 15 years ago so it’s hard to see what audience this will appeal to?  Perhaps I am missing the point completely? All I know is that is a huge disappointment from start to finish and is topped off by poor artwork, which coincidentally bears no resemblance to the look being portrayed on the bands new website!

 A major major letdown.

Rating – 30%