It's been three years since the release of Seven Summits’ eponymous debut album. And while that record was deservedly met with critical acclaim, it unfortunately failed to make a lasting international impression.
So the Belfast five-piece spent the past few years further honing their sound (as well as establishing themselves as a live force to be reckoned with), and follow-up album Fossils sees Seven Summits on confident form.
Kicking off with the Grandaddy influenced ‘Sooner or Later’, it's clear that Seven Summits have honed their sound exponentially on this sophomore release. Satisfyingly crunchy synths provide a groovy counterpoint to hard rockin’ guitars, a complementary rather than invasive juxtaposition that, all too often, other indie bands fail to achieve.
It is a joy to luxuriate in the comparatively stripped back sound of ‘The Worrier’, which sees the band at their most whimsical and tender. Singer Rory Nellis’ lyrics here are introspective and thoughtful, yet infused with a wry tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.
‘Is it nature, or is it nurture?' Nellis asks. ‘Or is it down to the Christian Brothers?’ The protagonist on this song is just one of a host of defiant characters that feature on the album, making each song that much easier to relate to.
Although typical of the more reflective tracks on the album, ‘The Worrier’ undeniably stands out. And yet it is perhaps a bold choice for the first single when compared to some of the more mainstream cuts, such as the endlessly infectious earworm that is ‘Burning Heart’ (above).
Power-pop influences from the likes of Ash and Weezer shine through on this track (the lyrics including a knowing nod to the latter’s ‘Buddy Holly’) yet such comparisons are reductive. 'Burning Heart' is Seven Summits at their very best, a catchy, summer-soaked slice of party rock that is unashamedly derivative and all the better for it.
The playful, 8-bit staccato synth, sparse, peppy percussion and lilting vocals on ‘I Want Somebody’ combine to create another stand out track that cries out to be remixed for the indie dancefloor. Indeed, Belfast’s Steven McCullough has already stepped up to the challenge, releasing an ambient electronica mix under the pseudonym Blaster.
Getting jiggy to the borderline psychedelic wig-out at the end of closing track ‘Okay’, I can’t help but wish for a little more. The ten tracks that feature on Fossils flow along at a rollicking pace, but it's always better to leave the audience wanting more than bore them with repetition.
Fossils straddles the worlds of pop-tinged indie and reverb-drenched hard rock, and yet it feels like a perfectly measured release. Seven Summits display serious musical maturity on the album, always knowing when to hold back and when to push themselves into unchartered, uncertain waters.
Showcasing a well-honed and streamlined sound, Fossils oozes confidence, and quite rightly so. It is understated yet thoroughly inventive. Nellis's lyrics are full of imagery and humour, making Fossils an irresistible release from a band at the peak of their game.
Fossils is out now, available from iTunes and Bandcamp. Seven Summits play the Limelight in Belfast on September 27.