Seven Kingdoms is:
Sabrina Valentine – Vocals
Camden Cruz – Guitar
Kevin Byrd – Guitar
Keith Byrd – Drums
Aaron Sluss – Bass
It is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Seven Kingdoms! Their brand of Power Metal is among the most polished and technically stunning from anywhere in the world, bar none! The icing on the cake for me is that they call my state of Florida home. After listening to them for years, seeing and reviewing their show in Orlando a couple months ago and reviewing “Decennium” that was released just over a month ago, I jumped at the opportunity to interview them when offered. Big thanks to Jon Freeman for this one!
Interview with Camden Cruz and the rest of Seven Kingdoms:
Odyssey: Your new album “Decennium” has been out for a little bit now and the custom vinyl has just been received (very, very cool, by the way!). How has pre-sales and initial sales been so far?
Camden: Yes! The vinyls just got here and were just getting ready to get those all numbered, signed and the inserts made so we can ship them out soon! They turned out great! We did very well on the crowdfunding platform and are about halfway through selling the pressings of Decennium. We should be close to sold out once we get home from the Evergrey tour in May. So get them while you can!
Odyssey: Writers have raved about the new album. What has feedback from fans been?
Camden: The feedback has been overwhelmingly great. A lot of people are getting what we tried to do with this album. We wrote the album specifically to be fast and a testament to that classic, fast power metal sound. We are just so happy that everyone is enjoying it so far. We still have a LOT of packages too that still need to go out so there are still a ton of people that have to listen to it, haha!
Odyssey: What motivated you to self release driven from Kickstarter instead of staying with the record company?
Camden: Well its 2017, haha a day in age where 1500 copies sold can land you on the billboard charts in one shape or fashion. Because of this, the traditional record label deal model doesn’t work with the low quantities sold. So being that we have already established a decent sized fan base, the smartest option was to handle the pre-order ourselves and collect the profits and handle everything a label would do. This has been one of the biggest blessings we have had in the last decade and we are just so thrilled that the crowdfunding preformed the way it did. We are still working on a deal with a label, as that is still a necessary step, but we are working on something different and a deal that is current in this modern entertainment age.
Odyssey: What were the pluses and minuses of changing tact this time around?
Camden: Well usually when a Label is in place, you deliver the masters and they take care of all the album pressings and the promotion. In this case we are responsible for the pressing, promotion and then also the shipping of the product which takes an enormous amount of time, since everything is old school hand labeled haha. This is something that a record label will really help with, since they would basically handle all the shipping. That is really a ton of time.
Odyssey: As you know from my review, I am absolutely floored by “Decennium”. What changed since the last album to create such a distilled, defined and polished album like nothing you have done in the past (in my humble opinion, this is a band-defining album)?
Camden: Well, I’m glad that you agree! Haha, Following the power metal Genre for a decade, we have seen the trends that the already established ‘forefathers’ of the genre set for themselves. And then ultimately what changed with the bands. We believe that some of that true, classic power metal sound is a bit lost today, and our goal was to write a full blown, full throttle power metal record that….. not necessarily re-defines a genre, but more a modern reminder of everything we fell in love with within the genre. We miss the fast drumming, wailing guitars, huge hooks and choirs. Everything that we think makes a good Power Metal album, we tried to put it in the songs on this record.
Odyssey: That said, where do you go from here?
Camden: Honestly, I think maybe the next album will have moments like Decennium but we may have something a bit more dynamic or different on the next one, but hey, were talking about a song or two… power metal is by definition generally not slow! Hahaha!
Odyssey: I consider Seven Kingdoms a premiere, first tier Power Metal band. Having a sound that is deceptively European, what are the differences in responses to your music between European and US listeners?
Camden: Haha! That kinda sounds like that Devin Townsend shirt! I think what sets us apart form the typical European sound is we are a little less symphonic driven and more riff based band. We have no Keyboard action at all, you’re just getting drums, bass, guitars, vocals and some choirs! Writing for a Keyboard sometimes effects the riffing and you cant really do as much, so we basically drop that part of the mix and then Sabrina has a country bluegrass background so it gives a bit different spin on her voice than the typical opera style female singer.
Odyssey: Having a couple in the band can be great or awkward (Entheos on the positive side, The Beatles on the negative side, for example). How does this dynamic fit into all that Seven Kingdoms is?
Camden: Honestly, the whole band is so family based that its really just a big family. It was not quite always like that in the beginning but it has for sure turned into that over the last decade. These are our brothers and sisters (and wife) haha so we really have a great relationship with one another. It’s a great group that is able to put up with one another! Hahaha!
Odyssey: Nerd question: I have to admit that all of your sound equipment invokes a severe case of gear envy. Normally, I would ask why you chose the gear you endorse but is completely not needed in your case. Your tastes are impeccable! Please give us, the gear nerds, a quick run down of all your rigs.
Camden: Well, we actually just ended up getting a deal with EVH for the new 5150III amps. When we went to record the Decennium record, our guitar engineer, Phil, Brought one of those new EVH 50 watt 5150s in and it basically ate everything alive that we were testing with. We ended up using that with a ProTone Dead Horse boost for guitar tone. So after that we had to get our EVH on! So since then I Personally am using the EVH 5150III Stealth for the guitar head. I’m actually still in the process of building the tour rig for may. I have to build a pedal board so ill be going pedal crazy soon! But generally, the Stealth with a Stereo Decimator, (currently) Pro Tone My Little Pony OD, into one of my old Engl Cabs. I should be getting some new EVH cabinets soon! As for guitars, We have endorsements with Caparison Guitars. They are some of the best guitars made and we are loading them with Bare Knuckle Pickups. It’s a pretty powerful combo!
Kevin: My rig is pretty simple yet effective. I use a Caparison Dellinger with Bareknuckle Aftermaths. EVH 5150 head with an Engl XXX cab and an Ibanez tubescreamer for the shreds.
Aaron: As far as basses and amps go, I’m actually not officially endorsing any particular brands at the moment. My main bass is a 2005 Warwick Vampyre LTD that I acquired shortly after joining Seven Kingdoms in 2010. This is the bass that I recorded the entirety of Decennium with. It has the stock MEC active pickups, but has been modified with a Glockenklang 3 band pre-amp. I am however probably going to be switching this bass over to an all passive electronics setup soon, as I’m playing with pedals a lot more lately and some effects don’t always like to play nice with the active electronics.
For strings, I use D’Addario nickel round wounds. For the drop C tuning that we play in, I use the EXL160BT balanced tension set. I’ve tried a lot of much more expensive strings, and have yet to find any that really justify their cost to me.
My pedalboard probably doesn’t look much like it belongs to a bassist in a power metal band, haha. I tend to favor a much more aggressive tone than most would for this genre(especially live). First in line is an IdiotBox FX Blower Box, a bass tuned Rat type distortion inspired by Blacky’s bass tone on Voivod’s Nothingface album. This pedal is on almost 100% of the time. It gives a nice, meaty grind without losing note definition. Next is a Lone Wolf Audio Iron Fist fuzz. This particular version is his take on the “Green Russian” Big Muff and while rooted in that familier tone, is much more versitile. I’ll stack this on top of the Blower Box for really heavy riffs, and then throw a flanger on top of that for maximum absurdity during the intro to Kingslayer. Speaking of flangers, there’s two of them on my board at the moment(I REALLY like flangers, haha), the tried and true Boss BF-2, a’la Justin Chancellor, and an Alexander Pedals F.13. The BF-2 is a classic flange tone and what I used on the album. The F.13 is a new addition and can get really, really wacky with features like a negative sweep, and a step setting that can sound almost like a mod version of a sample & hold. Last is another LWA pedal, the VHS modulated analog delay, which I don’t really use for SK but I’ve been playing around with at home a lot writing for Soulmass, as it excels at creepy, horror inspired stuff.
Finally, for amplification I’m using an early ’90s Mesa/Boogie Bass 400+. This amp is an absolute monster. 12(!) 6L6’s in the power section put this thing about on par with an SVT as far as wattage is concerned, but it definitely delivers that power in a very different voice. Live I run the 400+ through a Krank Basszilla cabinet that uses four 10” and two 12” Eminence speakers. Pictured is another cab I keep at home, an ’80s Ampeg SVT-18 loaded with an 18” Electrovoice PA speaker of similar vintage.
Probably a bit more than a “quick run down” but what can I say? I’m definitely more than a little gear obsessed!
Odyssey: That’s awesome! Thank you! You are preparing to hit the road with Evergrey, Need and Ascendia. How did the tour develop (barring any unforeseen issues, I will be seeing you at The Haven and maybe the following night in Tampa, May 6th and 7th)?
Camden: Yes, as I’m writing this I’m currently on tour as TM for Pain Of Salvation, so as soon as I get home we have just 8 weeks to get ready to go out again with Evergrey! Lol Tom and the guys wanted to do a tour around the new album and it just so happens we have one going out at the same time. I am also Evergrey Tour Manager here in the states (and now, one of their booking agents too) so naturally the fact that the two bands have fresh records and needed to tour, it really lines up. The tour should be like a very well oiled machine! We have just a few more dates to announce but it should be either 23 or 24 shows total.
Odyssey: Which bands have you not played with that you would love to share the stage with at some point in the future?
Camden: Honestly, I would just like to play with any bands that are bigger than us, that we may be able to appeal too. We are lucky to have already kinda scratched off some of the bucket list tours like Blind Guardian and Stratovarius so its kinda hard to top those when they are your favorite bands, generally speaking haha… maybe we can do a second tour with Blind Guardian in the states… That would be awesome!
Odyssey: You have toured the world over. How do your experiences differ from country to country? Are there any places that you have a particular affinity for and why?
Camden: Getting to see the world really effects your outlook once you have to do it on tour. Seeing all these places while not technically being on vacation is something that some people just don’t understand. When you get to the venue, if you are lucky, you may just get to see the street surrounding the venue and that’s it. Half the time you have no money so you are watching your spending constantly. Having to live like this in some countries really makes you appreciate things differently, especially being an American. At least for me, I came home with a new respect for our country. Each country has its own set of issues, and beautiful things, but I’m still red white and blue through and through. Now moving to crowds in different countries, America has a very good balance of loud people, However the loudest we have ever played for was in Italy. It was incredible to experience a crowd that was louder than the PA for the first time. Just WOW!
Odyssey: That said, you assuredly have come across tons of bands many of us have never heard. Who do you suggest we need to check out?
Camden: Honestly I’m just now discovering things that people would be like, WHAT you don’t know who that is?!?!? Or, You haven’t heard that?!?! Haha recently I’ve been trying to branch out into some other things and finding some new bands. There is a new kinda trend coming through the states now called SynthWave – That’s pretty cool, bands like Pertubator and Gost. It’s like the stranger things soundtrack but more and cooler! It’s pretty cool 80s based kinda throwback synth music… It’s different and pretty enjoyable to listen to while you’re working!
Odyssey: Is there a venue type (small, large, stadiums, festivals, etc.) that you prefer over another? Why? Do you have a specific favorite and why?
Camden: Actually yes, I just did a show at the Gas Monkey Bar and Grill in Dallas Texas with Pain Of Salvation. We will be returning here with Evergrey in May and I am super, super stoked to return there. That for sure is probably the coolest venue in the USA a the moment and it has a great sound system, staff and catering! A Plus in all areas!
Odyssey: Invariably, things happen when touring. What is most difficult? How are these issues dealt with? Any interesting tour stories that come to mind on this line of thought?
Camden: Honestly now since Ive been a Tour Manager for some years, a lot of the things that happen on the road don’t surprise me as much. The job of a good TM is to handle all the crap that happens and find quick solutions for basically anything. I think me doing this has trained me on the road on what to do and not to do. Usually each tour gets easier and easier for the most part. I think the hardest thing is to be sick on tour. That is some of the most miserable feeling you can get, and basically not be able to do much about it, away from home.
Odyssey: When I saw you guys a few months ago, I noted how positive you were; likely having more fun the audience. How do you deal with the off nights and still maintain this defining fun vibe?
Camden: No gig will ever be perfect and at the end of the day if the fans enjoyed it that’s what matters. I have played shows that i thought were horrible and everyone comes up to you like WOW THAT WAS AWESOME, and then others where you played great, but it was just a tough crowd. It all just depends on the show and part of being a pro is to take the good with the bad and just make sure the people there are having a good time and leave talking great about their time with the band. A great attitude with the members, together, is also important to this issue. If we have a bad night someone is there to say, It’s ok man.
Odyssey: Being a stable, long established band, what advice would you give emerging musicians?
Camden: First and foremost, find people you can live with and become your brothers and sisters. That is really the key to a good foundation
Odyssey: What has been your crowning achievement since Seven Kingdoms inception?
Camden: Aside from touring with some of our heros, My personal first goal for the band was always to be able to cut a record and have the recording costs, merch and promotion covered so we basically start an album cycle owing 0 dollars. With the most recent kickstarter campaigns we are very close to hitting that goal here soon after a few more things sell and that is a huge accomplishment for us, thanks to the fans!
Odyssey: What goals have you set that are still being developed?
Camden: The next goals are to be able to tour without it costing any or very little money. Not really our own shows but getting picked up to tour with other bigger bands and not being billed in support slots is our main goal. And then of course after that, to have our first national headlining tour!
Odyssey: Do you have further tours in the works for the rest of the year?
Camden: At the moment we only have the tour with Evergrey scheduled for 2017. I think though, we will probably look to pick up another tour in Europe sometime in 2018 as well.
Odyssey: What can we expect from Seven Kingdoms over the course of the next couple of years?
Camden: Well, we will hopefully find some tours over the next two years and then start working on album #5.
Odyssey: As is the case with all Metal Nexus interviews, you get the last word…
Camden: Thank you very much for your time and interest in the band! We hope that you enjoy the new album and if you don’t have it yet, Go Get it! BigCartel
May 06 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at The Haven in Winter Park, FL
May 07 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at The Orpheum in Tampa, FL
May 11 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Fulcrum Lake at The Rock Box in San Antonio, TX
May 14 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Helsott / Ascendia at Brick by Brick in San Diego, CA
May 15 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms at LVCS in Las Vegas, NV
May 17 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms at LVCS in Las Vegas, NV
May 20 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia / Prozac Staple at Studio Seven in Seattle, WA
May 22 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at Dickens in Calgary, Canada
May 23 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at The Exchange in Regina, Canada
May 24 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at Mod Club Theatre in Toronto, Canada
May 25 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at The Cabooze! in Minneapolis, MN
May 26 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at Reggies in Chicago, IL
May 28 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at Mod Club Theatre in Toronto, Canada
May 30 – Evergrey / Seven Kingdoms / Need / Ascendia at L’ANTI Bar & Specialties in Ville De Quebec, Canada