|Seven Witches - Amped -Regain Records / Candlelight Records 2006
Running Time: 40:30
Admittedly, I've been out of the Seven Witches loop of late. I picked up City Of Lost Souls, and while the album had its moments of metallic glory ('The Answer', 'Hell Is For Children'), their next release - 2002's Xiled To Infinity And One - was never something on high priority for me. Still, when I heard that vocal powerhouse Alan Tecchio was joining the fold for Amped, the fire of interest was fuelled again, and I found myself eagerly awaiting its arrival.
Do you ever set your expectations too high? Turns out, that's what I did with
this one. The opening slammer 'West Nile' finds Tecchio more in the range of his
Non-Fiction days, but clawing for the stratosphere in the chorus, with Frost's riffs pounding away, setting the bar high for the rest of the album. I cringed when I saw the title of the next track, 'Sunnydale High'. Now while I'll admit the occasional flirtation with Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I'm thinking that certain things do not belong in metal, anything having to do with Sarah Michelle Gellar being one. Remember how great it was when metal bands would use literature for inspiration? Metal Church's 'Of Unsound Mind' and Metallica's 'The Thing That Should Not Be' come to mind. Well, this isn't that. Even the straight-up metal execution and semi-catchy chorus can't save 'Sunnydale High' from failure. 'Dishonor Killings' passed by pretty much unnoticed, which is the worst thing a song can do...simply be "there". Thankfully, the swaggering riffwork and powerful vocal delivery of 'GP Fix' redeem Amped somewhat, Frost's lightning-quick leads blasting through the beefed-up chorus. The introduction of a piano for 'Be' finds the band working that tired power ballad formula for it's worth, but somehow it just lacks the "punch" needed to drive that chorus into your memory banks. I think maybe if Tecchio had relied more on his patented Hades/Watchtower style for the chorus, it might've helped things along. 'Fame Gets You Off' lags until near the one-minute mark, but once the song truly cranks up, you know there's just no stopping Seven Witches when they're "on". The line "I'm not impressed by anyone, no not anymore!" holds the venom of a thousand cobras, and justifiably so. The best solo work on the whole of Amped can be found here, Frost never tossing off flashy fretboard runs, always being a more meat-and-potatoes soloist. It works for 'Fame...', and - truth be told - a good portion of the album. After the crunch of the previous song, the last thing I would've expected was the plunge into 80s punkwave for a cover of Billy Idol's 'Flesh For Fantasy'. I wonder if this cover wasn't actually intended for Frost's faux goth-metal project, Bronx Casket Company, as it would've fit better there. Reworking a song from Billy Idol without the trademark lip-curling snarl, and offering it up to the denim-and-leather legions who are much of Seven Witches' fanbase has to be one of the worst ideas in recent memory. Abyssmal, and the mid-paced groove of 'Red' can't pull us back from the depths to which we were dragged by the aforementioned cover. Frost's time as rhythm guitarist in Savatage wasn't wasted, and the final track, 'Widows And Orphans' virtually drips with Sava-stylings, ending the album with class, bombast, and no-frills American Heavy Metal.
As said previously, when Seven Witches are "on", they're untouchable. Unfortunately, when they're off, they're way off. Amped is a mixed bag of highs and lows, to be sure. I can see myself replaying this in the future, but with thumb poised over the skip button.