It’s generally thought that there are two kinds of bands; copycats, who sadly comprise most of the music industry, and rare gems who’ve formed a distinct sense of self. However, there’s a third kind no one really talks about; the ones who are working on building an identity, but haven’t fully solidified it yet. Seventh Station are one such band, and their second album, Heal the Unhealed, is a prime example of the tectonic crack between triteness and individuality.
Cover art by Tal Asulyn
Happy Holidays, metalheads. As stated, today we’re looking at a release by Seventh Station, a band from uh…
Seventh Station’s Metal Archives profile
Anywho, Heal the Unhealed is the followup to Seventh Station’s debut, Between Life and Dreams. And while listening to these two albums, I couldn’t help but think thoughts like: “Ooh! Nice drum tone, but it sounds suspiciously similar to the one in so many Dream Theater albums. The same can be said for the guitar tone, too.” And “Hm. That’s a neat chord progression, but I could have sworn I heard it in a Dream Theater song, or two… or forty.” Or “Ya know, the effects they’re adding sound like those frequently used by a certain prog metal band. Gee, I wonder who that could be?”
See a running theme here?
Listen to just about any Dream Theater album; Images and Words, Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, A View from the Top of the World… there’s no album they’ve released that Seventh Station’s music doesn’t sound eerily similar to.
And look, Dream Theater are one of my all-time favorite bands. They’re easily up there with the likes of Megadeth and Inquisition for me. But if they already exist, why the hell would anyone instead choose to listen to some other group that sounds identical to them? The listener could get the exact same experience from the original band.
That being said, there is a noticeable difference between Seventh Station’s first and second albums; Between Life and Dreams was pure Dream Theater worship. Heal the Unhealed, on the other hand, shows the band beginning to carve their own path.
Let’s start by going over the album’s unique concept. It was written about dictatorships, and especially the dark side of the Soviet Union’s history, referencing a certain Soviet demagogue (something, something Stalin) numerous times through the lyrics and old found footage recordings.
The songs that touched me the most were “Seven Digits,” “All Hail the Moustache,” and especially “The Heart of a Nation (Nadia).” They present a style far more distinct than the band’s typical Dream Theater worship, going for something so deeply twisted and macabre, my skin crawls every time I listen to it. If that description didn’t deliver the point enough, these songs sound like they were written by J.S. Bach, Robert Fripp, and Bernard Herrmann after witnessing an organized massacre in the heart of Siberia.
On top of the compositions, the haunting vibes in these three songs also come from the band’s vocalist, Vidi. You can tell he’s not some James LaBrie wannabe. His vocal range is insane, able to hit high notes, growls, and everything in between. On top of that, there’s so much emotion in his delivery. Everything from anguished cries, sounds of relief, and creepy hisses can be heard in his performance. I truly think he’s one of the best vocalists in prog, and it’s a damn shame not many people know of his greatness.
Unfortunately, even with all of the album’s aforementioned positives, it’s still plagued by an equal amount of negatives. Again, it goes back to the band not fully establishing their own sound yet. The instrumentals for the songs “Unspoken Thoughts,” “The Ruthless Koba,” and “A Final Bow” (that’s half the album!) still sound identical to what you’d expect Dream Theater songs to sound like. And as someone who deeply values music that has a sense of identity, this greatly hinders the experience.
And I’m not saying that being a pioneer is essential for a band to build an identity; that would be setting the bar way too high. It’s still possible for a band to establish a sense of self whilst taking obvious influence from previous artists. Look at Allegaeon, for example. They never invented anything new, nor have they ever tried to. You can clearly tell how heavily they’re influenced by early tech-death and melodeath bands. But it’s okay because they’re not trying to mimic the sound of just one band to an absolute T, and they add their own touches here and there, meaning their music is still distinguishable from other bands within the tech-death genre. I can easily tell the difference between an Allegaeon song and an Inferi song. But with Seventh Station, had I never heard of them, if someone played the instrumental versions of most of their songs for me and said they’re from an upcoming Dream Theater album, I’d believe them. And again, that’s a problem.
But how did Seventh Station manage to achieve this? It’s easy to perfectly imitate a lot of artists, but Dream Theater? Their sound is so complex, varied, and distinct, every band member needs not only ridiculous technical skill, but also insights into how Dream Theater write their music, and the thought process that goes behind it. Does someone in the band have that kind of knowledge? Well, turns out there is an explanation as to why Seventh Station are able to perfectly mimic Dream Theater’s sound, and it goes beyond just the technical skill of each band member.
See, the band’s keyboardist is Eren Basbug, who works with Dream Theater. He’s assisted the band in arranging their songs and conducting their orchestras during live performances. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the man started working with Dream Theater in his early 20s. In other words, what we have on our hands here is a prodigy with an understanding of music theory and composition most could only dream of (pun intended).
Even so, I don’t think Seventh Station should get a free pass for being a semi-copycat just because one of their band members works alongside Dream Theater. The band is exploding with creative potential, but as of now, they’re only using part of it.
With Seventh Station’s second album, they’ve definitely taken a step in the right direction towards establishing their own identity, but there’s still a ways to go. And I’m not saying they should completely wipe their hands clean of all Dream Theater influence. Considering Eren Basbug’s role, that would be impossible. My point is that they should look for influences from other places as well, and alchemize everything while adding some creative touches to craft their own style. They’re clearly capable of so much more than being a Dream Theater tribute band in denial. And on Heal the Unhealed, there are signs of a new identity being born, one that’s evolved, but untamed.
If Seventh Station successfully complete their quest for individuality on their next release, I’ll definitely write a review of it. If not, this’ll be the last time you’ll read anything about them on this site.
Before I end the review, I’d like to give a special shoutout to Seventh Station‘s vocalist, Vidi. He supplied me with information regarding Heal the Unhealed‘s concept and also told me about Eren Basbug. Check out Vidi’s other band, Subterranean Masquerade, and as always, stay metal.
TL;DR: Seventh Station are finally forming cracks in their Dream Theater worship shell, but they’re yet to break out of it.
Rating: 5.7 / 10
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