‘Welcome to Atlanta’ is actually my first introduction to the Swedish progressive metal band Seventh Wonder; even though they have actually been going since 2000, formed by Andreas Blomqvist, Johan Liefvendahl and now ex-drummer Johnny Sandin.
The band have been through a few incarnations over the years with vocalists coming and going and the original drummer – and founding member – departing in 2010. But now they are experiencing a new lease of life after signing with record label Frontier Records to release their first ever live product ‘Welcome to Atlanta Live 2014’ on CD and DVD, with a new 5th studio album also planned, expected to be released in 2017.
‘Welcome to Atlanta’ features a live and complete rendition of their third album ‘Mercy Falls’; which is their concept album from 2008 that tells the story of a car crash victim. He ‘awakes’ from his coma and finds himself in the mysterious fictional town of Mercy Falls – which he has dreamed up in his unconscious state. This performance was to be the first and final time they played Mercy Falls in its entirety.
The album also features tracks such as Alley Cat from The Great Escape (2010) and Banish the Wicked, Walking Tall, and Edge of My Blade from their 2006 album Waiting in the Wings; along with DVDs of their live recordings from when they played ProgPower USA Festival in 2014 and two bonus unreleased tracks – Inner Enemy and The Promise; the latter of which is a tempting appetiser for the new release in 2017.
The album starts with A New Beginning, which is the first track from Mercy Falls and is full of haunting organ and stadium sized guitars, with a slightly galactic feel to it. With a sombre finish, it piles into There and Back (Overture) which is crammed full of atmospheric guitars and hammering drums as it begins to weave the story in your mind’s eye.
Next is Welcome to Mercy Falls in which guitars continue the intricate story telling with another space age feel to it before the haunting vocals of Tommy Karevik start for the first time on the album.
As Unbreakable starts, it is clear to hear that Seventh Wonder have stayed remarkably true to the studio version of Mercy Falls, getting the sound nigh on perfect from the stunning guitars to the solid bass and drums; the live rendition also featuring the stellar guitar solo from fretboard wizard Johan Liefvendahl.
Tears for A Father, A Day Away and Tears for a Son also remain very faithful to the studio tracks, and make you realise how much of a masterpiece it was, even after eight years – and it has weathered the test of time very well indeed. Tears for a Father also features an emotional crowd participation, which warms the cockles as you can just feel how delighted people are to be there and witnessing the full sole re-telling of this album.
Paradise and Break the Silence are some of my personal high points of the album, with stonking bass, huge vocals and top-notch instrumentations work throughout that continue to paint a delightful manic imagery of Mercy Falls as it plays out in the man’s comatose mind.
The strength of the live sound continues with Fall in Line, and the rest of the Mercy Falls album, Seventh Wonder consistently doing justice to their critically acclaimed studio album in a live setting, with on-point guitars and bass, all the instruments set at an equally decent level so you, the listener, get a full taste of their showmanship and bravado. The vocals from Tommy Karevik are incredible and add bucket-loads of theatre to an already impressive and ear-shattering set. Another one of my personal favourites is One Last Goodbye, which is a stunning climatic piece to wow you into submission with the range of what Seventh Wonder can do.
The two bonus tracks, Inner Enemy and The Promise are breathtaking, and are a great addition to this album with fantastic vocals and guitars weaving their way throughout them, with the former at 3:41 and the latter standing at a sensational 9:29. They seem to be very typical Seventh Wonder songs from what I’ve learned with my recent limited exposure to them, but I would surmise that old and new fans alike will appreciate both tracks.
I have enjoyed my introduction to Seventh Wonder immensely, finding this whole live album an absolute masterpiece even though it is not my first preference in terms of genres, and have subsequently added them to my music collection.
In my opinion, current fans of the band with adore this live offering as it fails to disappoint at any aspect, and the striking talent Seventh Wonder display is undeniable. However, if you have only just learned of this band, I suggest picking up the Mercy Falls studio album and taking that fully in; then listen to this album. It will delight and impress new and old fans alike, and is a stellar addition to the Seventh Wonder discography.