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Geeks In Metal – SEVEN KINGDOMS

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Game of Thrones & Seven Kingdoms

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Written by Jonathon Besanko

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As we fast approach the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones on July 16 (July 17th for us Aussies), I thought, what other better time than the present to discuss a band I’ve been wanting to for a little while now? Seven Kingdoms. As the name implies, the US power metal band take their lyrical inspiration from the works of fantasy author, George R.R. Martin; specifically that of his most prominent work, A Song of Ice and Fire.

Beginning life as a melodic death metal band under the direction of guitarist Camden Cruz and harsh vocalist, Bryan Edwards, Seven Kingdoms independently released their debut album, Brothers of the Night in 2007 to fair commercial and critical success. With the band hailing from Florida, recording for Brothers of the Night took place at the famous studio, Morrisound Recording in Tampa, a site which gave rise to many of Florida’s most prominent death metal bands in the late ’80s to early ’90s, including Morbid Angel, Death, ObituaryDeicide, and a number of others. Fast forward a decade and May 5th this year saw Seven Kingdoms – now with an updated lineup and musical direction – release their fourth studio album, Decennium; a word which, as could be guessed, is Latin for ‘decade’.

For this instalment of Geeks In Metal, I’ve handpicked three songs from across Seven Kingdoms discography that relates to an event with an interesting connection to where the TV series currently sits by its seventh season. For the sake of fun, obviously, due to the differences in direction between the books and TV series, I won’t be touching too much on the formalities of where the series has headed in terms of the show versus the books, given the TV series has moved beyond the novels at this point and has altered certain aspects of them. With that said, let us dive into the bloody, treacherous, and fascinating world of Martin’s series!

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Opening this up is the song, “The Long Night” from the Brothers of the Night album. Chronicling a fascinating period in Westeros’ history, the Long Night itself, as it is called, occurred over eight thousand years before Aegon’s Conquest (the Targaryen ruler who later subjugated the Seven Kingdoms, with the exception of Dorne) in an era known as the Age of Heroes. It was here where a great and terrible darkness fell over the Known World, and where the Others (otherwise known as white walkers) came down from the uttermost north, raising the dead as wights, and terrorising the First Men and the children of the forest. Thought of as demons, the lyrics cry forth,

The demon hordes are coming here

They need our blood, they’re drawing near

With the wintry hand of death grasping closer, though the end comes this night, the First Men and the children will defend our dying land; for there is no turning back for them; this is our stand, they say. Fear grips the community as wild eyes dart, and any deemed strong enough to bear arms is made to. Sights as the lyrics describe below are seen,

Boys and men of elder years

Women and children holding spears

The people have no choice but to arm themselves and prepare the coming battle, for the evil force of the Others is drawing near, and the First Men know there is nowhere to run, nowhere they can hide.

Our final stand here, side by side

It’s time to make our last ride

The music opens frantically and desperate, epitomising the horror of the individuals trapped in this barren place, with the reapers scythe slashing at their throats. Edwards’ clean vocals come almost like a father speaking to his children, and then as a captain addressing the women and children as soldiers. He tries to assure them they can make it out of this alive, though the hint of fear in his words sullies the message…

Don’t cry now, don’t shed a tear

Though the end comes, you will feel no fear

When all is done on this night

We will meet again in the afterlife

The people accept that their chances of survival are slim. Through the harsh vocals of Edwards and Cruz’s shredding riffs (which sweep and grind like the clashing of steel, as Keith Byrd‘s drums beat like the pulse of piercing dragonglass), the horror of their situation erupts in an unsettling manner. As told, this battle will be our last, and pray to those who do survive that they may live to pass warning of the horrors that may come again, should the Others cross the boundaries of the Wall in the ages to come…

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Next is “After The Fall”, taken from Seven Kingdoms third studio album, The Fire Is Mine (2012). Being the catalyst that sets off the plot in A Game of Thrones, Bran Stark’s pushing from the tower by Jaime Lannister is an important event in the series for a number of reasons. Not only did it set off a chain reaction that would have lasting ramifications long after Bran’s attempted murder, but it also awakened the dormant voice within Bran that connects him with the three-eyed crow (or raven), something which will likely see him becoming one of the most important figures in the overarching war against the Others.

“After The Fall” follows Bran’s realisation that he has the ability to warg, a unique trait that allows him to tap into the minds of other creatures to see what they see and to do as he pleases by means of possession. Paralysed from the waist down, the three-eyed crow’s words in Bran’s dreams are the boy’s deliverance; his means to break [the] chains of misery that bind his body to his bed in Winterfell. Bran learns to ‘fly’ in his mind’s eye with the aid of the black bird.

Now wings replace these broken legs

Guide me to my destiny

I feel the cold of Northwind’s Breeze

Raven show me how to fly

Set me free in Summer’s eyes

 

Learning to harness this newfound ability, Bran wargs his direwolf Summer and finds himself drawn to the mysterious land beyond the Wall, a place that holds many secrets, both terrible and great. After his fall, Bran in time comes to understand that the world is far larger than he and that he has his own part to play in the looming War for the Dawn.

 

A quest to breach the Wall

To reach the land of ice and snow

 

The music carries with a fever pitch, drowning out Bran’s sorrows and filling them instead with an energy and passion for this new life and purpose he must now take upon himself. The rolling beat of Byrd’s drums and Cruz’s solos harmonise as one, possessing a speed and rhythm to them that brings to mind images of Summer running through the godswood with the chill northern wind rushing through his silvery-grey fur.

Realising that his dreams are not just feverish conjurations, but rather premonitions, Bran comes to the understanding that the answers he seeks after are beyond [his] wildest dreams. Forced from his homeland by the men of Iron shores, the Greyjoys, he fears for the worst that is yet to come and flees North, to a destiny that’s calling [him]. The voice, soaring on pitch black wings of destiny, guides Bran home to a land of ice and trees far beyond, and to a destiny that will forever change Bran’s life and the lives of those he loves.

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Lastly, we have the track, “Undying” from Seven Kingdoms new album, Decennium. One of the more conceptually riveting tracks, lyrically speaking, this song connects to Daenerys Targaryen and her series of visions within the mysterious House of the Undying. Occurring during the novel A Clash of Kings, the visions Daenerys has in this strange and ghostly place is one that falls under much speculation by fans, due to the seemingly prophetic images she is shown (ashen sights of the past and future). The House of the Undying falls under the rule of the “Undying Ones”, the elite warlocks of Qarth, of whom are a suspect and a deceiving lot. Their hospitality is shown in the end to have been a trick, and a way for the pale, bald, slender magicians to capture the young Targaryen princess and steal her three infant dragons, to be used for their own black purposes.

In what is undoubtedly one of Seven Kingdoms best songs to date, “Undying” tears off to a roaring start, with such a speed and riff-driven delivery that I was thrown back in my chair the first time I heard it. As the melodic guitar passage then opens to the whispered words of lead vocalist Sabrina Valentine, the whispers drift off from corner-to-corner in your ears; wonderfully encapsulating the otherworldly, strange grey ruins of the sometimes named ‘Palace of Dust’. This is one of those songs where Sabrina’s operatic vocal delivery (which recall Simone Simons of Epica at times) truly shines, and where the shadowy omens behind the lyrics are captured with a fitting grace.

Opening the palace door, Daenerys is met by curious sights, sometimes horrible in nature, and decaying lands: a banquet for the dead (a then-foreshadowing of the Red Wedding). Far off, a child cries, and voices beckon her to turn back, to run and not return. As the Mother of Dragons and the daughter of death, Daenerys denies this and continues on, steadying her pace. The fire within her and the destiny she knows to be hers appear within reach:

A fire must burn
Fate in your hands
For death, love and life

But there is a price to be paid in all things, and betrayal she will surely know. It is there the deception of Pyat Pree and his fellow warlocks are made known, where the visions fade to be replaced with threats of death.

Dark wings descending
Arms open wide
Visions are fading
Now you die!

Calling upon her three dragons, the winged-beasts, though still young, set alight Pyat Pree and the warlocks, scorching this palace of dust. The warlocks dance and writhe in the flames; crumblingwithering.

A corrupt heart will cease to beat
Paper-thin, their voices cry…

The obscure and cryptic visions that were shown to Daenerys in the Palace of Dust hint at a number of plot points in A Song of Ice and Fire, such as visions that could be early allusions to Jon Snow‘s true parentage, images of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen (and what this could spell for Dany’s future), Azor Ahai, the “prince that was promised”, and a number of other troubling visions. I’d recommend diving further into them elsewhere if you’re interested, it’s worth the read!

With the tagline to season 7 of Game of Thrones boldly declaring, “Winter Is Here”, it is through those old threats of the Long Night, and these prophesied visions of a great war that draws nearer, that the questions posed in the songs above are likely be answered sooner than we think.

Season 7 of Season 7 of Game of Thrones begins July 16th on HBO, and on July 17th in Australia on Foxtel.

 

 

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Seven Kingdoms new album, Decennium, is out now via Napalm Records.

 

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Carl Neumann

Carl is the owner and the director of HEAVY Magazine. Carl is a music journalist and photographer for HEAVY, Rolling Stone, scenestr, Planet Rock and Kerrang!
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