Winger, ‘Seven': Album Review
It is sufficiently impressive that Winger, 35 years removed from their debut, has managed to keep their original lineup intact while other bands of their era have lost and replaced key members. That the group has made an album as rock-solid as Seven is a testament to their collective power and virtuosity, and to the singular force that is their namesake leader.
They certainly come out of their corner punching hard with "Proud Desperado," as churning riffage sets the mood as Kip Winger tells of a character whose penchant for violence has swung around to claim him: "You're losing blood, face down in mud … Bullets fall like rain / But nothing bleeds forever." It's a tremendous beginning, made even more remarkable when followed by "Heaven's Falling," which decreases the tempo and switches focus to matters of the heart. "Can we survive all that's been said and done / Or has the end just begun?" Kip Winger sings, sounding weary but strong enough to ask the right questions. The huge chorus lifts the song, without hinting whether things will work out in the end.
Winger has always been a versatile bunch, equally adept at intricate, quasi-progressive pieces, fist-in-the-air anthems and time-stopping power balladry. Both "It's Okay" and "Tears of Blood" employ throwback elements to pull you in – the former, a talk-box-assisted main riff; the latter, a dry, distorted AC/DC-ish stomp. "It's Okay" amps up the proceedings by having Winger and Beach trade off lead vocals; "Tears of Blood" does the same by sneakily transitioning from its primitive beginning into a dramatic chorus, with only a couple bars of a spooky guitar figure between them.
That seamlessness also makes its way into "Do or Die," where a shimmering acoustic guitar slides into a sledgehammer pre-chorus; likewise, a stop-time solo section yields smoothly back into a softer verse. Nothing, though, quite prepares you for the album-closing "It All Comes Back Around," an epic seven-plus minutes of dynamic shifts, from ethereal moments to blastoff choruses. Kip Winger's voice gradually increases in intensity, then falls back, only to work its way back up again. Guitarist Reb Beach also shines, his solos moving from long bent notes to super-fast runs. Throughout the long song, not a moment or note is wasted; all the sundry parts fit into making the greater whole.
It doesn't matter whether you have a first-hand recollection of Winger's MTV-abetted introduction to the popular consciousness 35 years ago or you've picked up the records they've made since emerging from exile at the turn of the millennium. If you like potent hard rock and virtuosic playing, you owe it to yourself to check out Seven.