On their second studio album, ‘Wonderland’ (released in March 2023), Swedish rockers Seventh Crystal delivered some enjoyable melodic hard rock tunes. In the title track, especially, listeners were treated to some well crafted, slightly old fashioned riffs that advertised the musicians’ talents with a decent amount of punch. On that track, the energies of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal could be heard lurking beneath a big sound calling back to American melodic rock acts of the late 80s in the best possible way. It was when tackling smoother sounds that Seventh Crystal really excelled, though, and ‘Million Times’ shared some great harmony driven AOR, loaded with soaring melodies; the classic sounding balladry at the heart of ‘In The Mirror’ showcased a strong vocal from frontman Kristian Fyhr, and the perky ‘Next Generation’ peppered some finely played melodic rock riffs with a poppier core, showing how the band weren’t afraid of mixing things up just a little.

The decision to keep that album to a vinyl friendly thirty eight minutes meant that the band found themselves with a surplus of material. Too good to waste, the second tier tracks eventually were given a home on this digital EP, and if anything, all of them are a cut above their relegated status. In a couple of cases, there are tracks here that are better than some of those that made the final cut.

The title cut is a great piece of melodic rock. Right from the opening bars, it promises something quite big by introducing a slowly rising melody driven by twin guitars. It’s a musical hook that is used just as effectively between the verses. Those verses, meanwhile, reintroduce everyone to Seventh Crystal in style. You’ll find chopping riffs at the heart of a slow-ish tempo, used brilliantly to underscore a strong vocal, before shifting into a higher gear to share a rocky rhythm and a great chorus hook. The faster elements might be more of a melodic rock by numbers persuasion, but a couple of twists to make room for a very 70s keyboard solo and a grand lead guitar are a reminder that the band aren’t afraid of thinking a little bigger. It’s a strong start, certainly, but there’s better to come…

‘Memory Lane’ is one of this EP’s more interesting tunes. It still clings onto a classic melodic rock sound, but places the bass much higher in the mix, giving the verse an interesting juxtaposition of moody music and uplifting voice. The twist on the familiar doesn’t end there, since the chorus employs a huge pop influence on the harmony vocals, occasionally making Seventh Crystal sound like a rockier version of a Swedish boy band, and a quieter middle eight introduces an atmospheric piano. Linking the pieces, of course, you’ll find plenty of tried and tested AOR tropes. The guitars arrive during the second verse with a chunky but melodic edge, tapping into something that might have come from the Alien camp back in the early 90s, and Kristian fills a lot of the number with a huge vocal that draws from a similar melodic pool to the likes of Robbie Le Blanc.

‘Ready Set Go!’ opens with a brilliantly played piano riff – worthy of a peak Jim Peterik – before doing a complete musical U-turn to reveal a high energy rocker where pounding drums and choppy guitars dominate. There are occasional piano lines beefing the chorus, but beyond the opening bars, this track very much belongs to guitarists Emil Dornerus and Gustav Linde, whom shift between the hard edged rhythms and soaring leads with ease, whilst Fyre puts in a commanding vocal. In lots of ways, this sounds like something many Scandinavian rockers could deliver just as well, but such a tried and tested approach doesn’t ever weaken the end result here. With a great chorus in hand, and a tune that captures a great energy throughout, it’s a solid rocker. In a slight change of mood, ‘Rivals’ pays homage to a couple of Harem Scarem ballads with a strident piano and strong vocal. With little to hide behind, it shows how strong Fyre’s voice can be, and when tackling a melody that occasionally sounds like a little brother to Harry Hess singing ‘Honestly’, it’s obvious he’s an AOR star in the making. Even once the arrangement grows to feature a few synth strings, it’s the vocal that remains the key feature, and overall, this recording is a brilliant homage to the AOR ballads of the late 80s and really shows off Seventh Crystal’s love of a retro melody.

Another rockier offering, ‘Silence’ shares a great drum part and some deftly played twin guitars to create a great intro. That’s enough in some ways to make the track a winner, but a high octane verse that sounds like a cross between an old Frontline tune and something from the Jeff Scott Soto catalogue pretty much guarantees melodic rock enjoyment. With a layer of pompy keys joining an enthused vocal, it’s a little busy in places – but in a good way – and some more perfectly pitched lead guitar work lifts an already great tune. There are a couple of odd stops along the way, which is very much the product of a band trying to be, perhaps, a little too clever, but it doesn’t spoil an otherwise decent track.

The band made the right choice by choosing to hold back these tunes for their own release. Had they been part of ‘Wonderland’ – bringing that up to almost an hour – it almost certainly would’ve weakened the album as a result. Less is more, as they say. Those who enjoyed ‘Wonderland’ will definitely find ‘Infinity’ a worthy companion and find plenty to love in this very small package. It mightn’t care for musical fashion, but this EP is yet another great example of the Swedes affinity for great melodic rock, placing Seventh Crystal a little further up the hierarchy of great bands.

October 2023