Almost four years after the band’s sixth studio album “The Interzone Mantras”, Canadian flagship act, The Tea Party return to Europe with a new album. Hailing from Windsor, Ontario, The Tea Party has enjoyed Platinum status in their home country and abroad and has a worldwide reputation for being a phenomenal and intense live act. Their latest release, “Seven Circles” finds the hard rock trio on top form and picks up the thread of their previous album, consolidating their standing as evolving songwriters.
This time around, Jeff Martin (vocals, guitar), Stuart Chatwood (bass, keyboards) and Jeff Burrows (drums) have concentrated on a return to their roots and the purism of their first two albums, the independently released self-titled debut from 1991, and their major label debut “Splendor Solis” from 1993. Experimentation with keyboards and Eastern sounds and rhythms, which played an important part in the development of the band’s sound no longer appear to be a deliberate inclusion as the band have opted for a more stripped back approach. Stuart Chatwood sums this up by saying, “With each album we raise the level higher because we’d prefer not to release something that doesn’t exceed our previous work”.
The interpretation of the new album title can be taken in a literal sense, in that it is the band’s seventh album and also that they have come full circle with their sound, however it does extend to deeper references as well. Pythagoras’ theories of music came from looking up at the stars and at the time there were only seven known celestial bodies as Pluto, Uranus and Neptune had not yet been discovered. He believed these to be transmitting harmonic vibrations that became the basis for the Western scale of music. “Later this was called ‘The Harmonies of the Spheres’, or simply ‘The Seven Circles’”, explains Chatwood.
The considerable lapse of time between “The Interzone Mantras” and “Seven Circles” was not unintentional. Chatwood explains that it was primarily due to the death of the band’s long time manager, Steve Hoffmann from cancer. “We were absolutely opposed to the idea of rushing through the process of recording an album while Steve was dying”. This tragic event also provides some explanation behind the band’s shift from a darker mood on this album to a more contemplative one. Chatwood says that the collaboration with fellow Canadian producers Bob Rock (Metallica etc.) and Juno Award winner Gavin Brown (Billy Talent etc.) also “moved the sound structure into a direction that was away from our previous standards”.
“Seven Circles” covers a lot of ground for the band with a wide range of dynamics. From the straight forward pile driving opener “Writing’s On The Wall” with it’s prominent bass line reminiscent of Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” to the effusive and very British sounding “Stargazer”. Canadian guest vocalist Holly McNarland appears on the shimmering, melodic “Wishing You Would Stay”. “The Watcher” is a beautifully moving ballad and possibly one of the best the band has written with its combination of power and romance set to strings and acoustic guitar. The song “Oceans” was written in tribute to the band’s former manager on the day that he passed away. “I had two possibilities at the time” says Jeff Martin, “either to go off into oblivion and have a nervous breakdown or to channel my feelings into the most open and honest song I have ever composed”. This is how the song “Oceans” came into being.
Originally, “Luxuria” was intended to be part of a soundtrack that Stuart Chatwood wrote for the video game “Prince Of Persia”. “Before I turned in the song I played it to Jeff and asked for his opinion”, the bassist and keyboardist says. “He liked the track very much so we decided to work it over for “Seven Circles””. The end result is a powerful example of the band’s earlier works with its Middle Eastern influences, thumping drums, chunky guitar riffs and infectious chorus. Then there is the title track, which brings the album full circle to its finale. All of the band’s virtues meeting again and leaving the listener wanting more as it fades out with an incredibly melodic guitar solo – one of Martin’s best ever. All in all “Seven Circles” shows a mature (and perhaps chastened) band still bursting with power and enthusiasm for their playing. The Tea Party continue to prove that they are a band to be reckoned with.