Seven Against Thebes Release ‘Art of Deception’

Seven Against Thebes’ third studio recording and second full length album, Art of Deception, opens with a mood setting instrumental “MMXXII”. The brief musical workout, running just over two minutes long, likewise serves as a concise introduction to the band’s sound. Their hard rock/metal pedigree means they can riff and crush with the best of them, but there’s clearly a higher level of musicianship propelling this outfit, especially in the area of arrangements. “’Til Death Do Us Part” is one of more traditional sounding numbers on the release, but still thoroughly modern, and features explosive lead guitar playing from Cyrus Rhodes. Drummer Bruce Burgess and bassist Mr. Black give him the foundation, however, to do that work and their performance here is the first in a string of impressive dexterous and muscular outings. Rusty Hoyle, the band’s lead singer, can clearly do a lot with his voice, exploring the higher end of his register with every bit as much confidence singing low.

Seven Against Thebes, or 7AT if you prefer, are apt to err towards the hard rock/metal side of things with this release and that’s a good thing. “Collision Course” is one of their best recordings on this path and has a hard-driving structure that stays on top of listeners from the first and scarcely gives you room to breathe. “Killing Time” is much different fare. Rhodes plays a much more straight ahead rock riff for the song’s central motif and the bluesy overtones running through the song are impossible to ignore. Hoyle is at his best here and gets under the lyric’s skin in a way few singers today can or do.

Mastervision” mixes direct rock theatrics, always convincing, with a slightly skewed feel characterizing some of the instrumental passages. The leering swagger at the song’s heart is like nothing else we’ve heard so far on Art of Deception and the darkness creeping along the edges of some songs is full throated here. It’s every bit as present in the song “Ashes 2 Ashes” and takes on the vestiges of an apocalyptic blues for modern rock audiences, even going so far to give it the sound of scratchy record; it’s like a hazy, low hi transmission from some lawless hinterland, prophecy about the end of everything from an electric Jeremiah

Bass brings us into the song “Judas Kiss” and Cyrus Rhodes’ divebombing entrance into the tune unleashes heavy-handed, often staggered riffing. Hoyle’s singing constantly impresses me with its ability to transition from a dead-eyed simmer into full blast flights of emotional intensity without ever jarring listeners. Another of the album’s best outright rock tracks is “Slave 2 the Needle” and it’s the album’s final quasi-nod to the blues, but tougher than nails and copping a strong metal feel. The title song dispenses with any hint of the blues and deserves consideration as one of the release’s marquee tracks. It’s a much more unrelenting rock attack than we’ve heard with other similar numbers.

“Yama”, running only a couple of seconds shorter than the earlier “Ashes 2 Ashes”, smacks of ambition and finds its mark. The presence of echo and electronic effects during the song’s opening will unsettle some listeners and you’ll have no clear idea where the band is going until the arrangement starts to flesh out around the bass and drums. It’s a patiently developed closer that pays off big for attentive listener and puts a bold exclamation point on one of 2018’s best rock albums.


Gwen Waggoner