There's a fine line between technical for the sake of being technical, and having a deep, profound understanding of your instrument and composition as a whole. SEVEN)SUNS falls so deep into the latter category that it's likely they’ve never even considered the former’s existence.
SEVEN)SUNS' debut album For The Hearts Still Beating kicks off with "Fratres Ghost Mix (Arvo Pärt, remix by Raz Mesinai)," which I'd imagine is a very solemn apology from the string quartet for what's about to happen to you once "Rikers: Songs of the Voiceless I. Trivisia" kicks in. Right from the get go, SEVEN)SUNS wears its Dillinger Escape Plan influence proudly, and as they should – it's one thing to mimic another artist, but SEVEN)SUNS takes the chaotic insanity of Dillinger's sound and translates it into its own brand of gorgeous torture chamber music pandemonium. Both movements of "Rikers" shift from breakneck tempos and rhythms that would make any guitarist up and quit, to terrifyingly coherent full band melodies that slowly erode back into chorus. Considering the suite was inspired by visits to Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York City, the theme of blurring faceless moments into one monolith of terror makes quite a bit of sense.
Going in the opposite direction of the “Rikers” suite is one of the band’s other originals, “In Full View.” Unlike the technical maelstrom of “Rikers,” “In Full View” plays more with volume and repetition of melodies than it does trying to sandblast your skull off your shoulders. “In Full View” is akin more to the other two originals on the album, “Yama” and “Malice,” though each carry their own sense of individual melody and generally horrifying undertones.
Of course, For The Hearts Still Beating has its cover songs – namely “43% Burnt” by The Dillinger Escape Plan and “Quote Unquote” by Mr. Bungle. Oddly enough though, the best cover seems to be “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots. Twenty One Pilots’ music is generally insufferable, but SEVEN)SUNS has taken the composition for what it is and turned it into an upbeat little ditty that wouldn’t be out of place scoring some sort of massively apocalyptic scene in a film. Who says the powers that be don’t have a sense of humor?
So now we get to this part of the review – can a string quartet be metal. The short answer is “absolutely,” with the elaboration being that SEVEN)SUNS is probably more metal than most metal bands out there. SEVEN)SUNS doesn’t half-ass its aggressive passages and play it off like it’s “super brutal,” nor does it succumb to these overly-saccharine sorrowful bits that over convey the message to the point of making it difficult to listen to.
For The Hearts Still Beating is fucking metal through and through. This is a quartet who have absolutely mastered each of their respective instruments just as much as they have writing and performing for the group they play in. Sure, the cover songs on the album are creative and provide the listener a stepping stone into what SEVEN)SUNS is really trying to do here, but the original songs are phenomenally well-written and deserve every single bit of attention they get.
Listen to the “Rikers” suite and close your eyes, and I guarantee you’ll feel the tendrils of terror, or that you’re becoming a blur in a room full of unidentifiable blurs. Put on “Yama” and try not to slow head bang to the main riff, or feel uncomfortable during the slides and sudden jerks.
For The Hearts Still Beating evokes an emotional response from the listener, whether you want to participate or not. The only real complaint I have about this record is that it isn’t stuffed with original tracks.
Grab For Those Hearts Still Beating here via Party Smasher Inc., and next time you're listening to The Dillinger Escape Plan's Dissociation, keep an ear out – the string work you're hearing is SEVEN)SUNS!