When it comes to hard rock, Italy hasn’t really had a super iconic band of note yet. Sure, there are Italian bands in the scene which are highly respected by those who have heard of them, but Italy hasn’t really had a band like AC/DC, Motley Crue or Led Zeppelin who has made a major impact upon the world. I do know a few good bands who do glam metal (Starsick System’s debut, Daydreamin’, grew on me a lot over the course of last year, Hell in the Club at least have respect from me for a great cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘Another Saturday Night’ and Cellulite Star have received enthusiastic recommendations to me in the past, although I’ve never got around to them for various reasons), but hard rock? Not really got a name I can think of, if I’m being honest.
I really want to say that Seventh Veil have proven that there is great hard rock coming out of Italy and that the band are going to become legends who you’ll want to know now, but, being critical, I think the band still have a few things they need to tighten up before they’re going to be capable of hitting the big time.
First of all, let me state that Vox Animae doesn’t sound like your typical hard rock record, as it is actually a bit darker in sound than you might expect. It does this through combining their with other elements that result in a sound that is best summed up as what glam metal would sound like if it was off its anti-depressants (or, to put it in genre terms: it’s hard rock, but with a few gothic elements and arguably some lessons in creating atmosphere from doom metal), with some occasional symphonic elements which give the whole album a grand scale to it. The result is actually quite interesting and somewhat unique, as it’s not a sound that you’d expect from this type of genre! The claim of them going for a more mature sound is probably a slight exaggeration, considering hard rock isn’t exactly a genre which demands you to be mature (case of point, AC/DC have pretty much made a career out of singing about rock n roll and having sex for over forty years now!), but it’s certainly got a grain of truth to it, considering this album doesn’t feel like the product of a bunch of people just turning their instruments up to eleven and rolling with it, but an actually knowledgeable group of musicians who want to make a proper record.
The band themselves are generally fairly decent musicians. Not virtuoso level, by any measure, but, considering their genre of music, that’s not really a big problem, since technicality has never been a priority for hard rock as a genre. I’d probably place their performances as about average if I had to rate them overall, as they have some really good moments (the really fast guitar playing in the opening of ‘Living Dead’ is actually pretty good), but they don’t really do anything that exceptional either. The only performance which I wasn’t that convinced by was vocalist Lorenzo “Steve” Bertasi, as his voice just didn’t strike me as especially great. He has a decent enough vocal range and I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a bad vocalist, but he’s definitely not got a voice to put him on the level of the greats of the genre. He could develop into a great vocalist, but I don’t hear his potential on here.
Observant people will have noticed that I’ve not talked about the songwriting yet. Well…yeah, that’s really the big problem with this record. It’s not necessarily BAD, but there’s very few songs from the record which I personally felt were strong enough to warrant listens outside of listening for this review. The band’s choruses tend to feel somewhat similar to each other, which can make it surprisingly difficult to remember which chorus fits which song, and the rest of the song outside of the chorus just doesn’t tend to do much to stand out. It might be a bit harsh to say that, I’ll admit, but part of the appeal of hard rock is that it is memorable and catchy, which this record just isn’t, for the most part. There are exceptions, though: I really think the band hit the mark perfectly with ‘No Pain No Gain’ (which is easily the highlight of the record for me) and I think that ‘Devil In Your Soul’, ‘Living Dead’ and ‘Sms’ have their moments which show that there is definitely potential in the band for the songwriting to become great.
The production of the record also has a few minor problems for me, although they’re not album breaking by any measure. The good news is that the mixing is generally pretty good (the vocals could have done with a tiny bit more volume, as they can sometimes be overpowered by the guitars and drums, and the bass could have done with a bit more volume, but I’ve heard FAR worse mixing jobs in the past), but something about the actual SOUND of the record feels off to me: I can’t quite place what it is, but it says a lot that I didn’t get a feeling of energy from this record. My best guess is that the band relied a little bit too much on studio production tricks and didn’t let the energy of their performances shine through properly, but even that’s more my best guess than a definitive statement on the issue. The mastering is probably a bit on the louder side of acceptable for me, but it’s definitely not to the extremes that some producers are notorious for, so I’m happy to let it slide without any complaints.
Overall, I think this is a record which is hard to recommend in good faith. Is it a bad record? No, of course not! However, there’s a lot of other bands who are doing better hard rock than Seventh Veil are who are more worthy of your time, which is really the big problem: in the grand scheme of things, Seventh Veil just don’t really have anything to help them stand out beyond their somewhat interesting sound, and they still need to refine their songwriting to allow them to take full advantage of that. There is a potentially great record in this band, but I can’t say that Vox Animae is that record. If you like hard rock with a darker vibe to it, then this should be worth a look into, but it’s hard to recommend it to anyone else.
Vox Animae will be released on the 5th of February by Pure Steel Publishing. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.