To use a hoary old cliché, "you can't tell a book by its cover," and this has never been as true as it is with 7 Rivers. From all appearances, looking at the back cover photo on the band's debut CD Path Of Fire, 7 Rivers would seem to be an arena-rocking metal trio, or perhaps a Southern rock band. Appearances can be deceptive, however, Path Of Fire yielding unexpected musical pleasures. Drummer Mike Boisclair and guitarist Mike Groove formed the New Hampshire band in 2001. Former bandmates, and longtime veterans of the New England rock scene, the two musicians enlisted friend Ted Handrich to handle vocals, and 7 Rivers was formed. As time allowed, the trio worked on Path Of Fire throughout 2001 and early 2002, recording, producing, and releasing the CD themselves.
The musical experience that the members of 7 Rivers bring to bear on the band's work is evident in Path Of Fire, the album is a surprisingly mature and musically complex collection of songs. The bandmembers show a real chemistry, drawing on shared influences as diverse as Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues, and Spirit to create a hybrid of prog rock, British folk, and vintage psychedelica that is pure '70s throwback, but with a contemporary rock edge. Handrich's vocals are rich and friendly, with a dash of Roger Daltrey, a little Justin Hayward, and maybe a bit of Jay Ferguson. Groove's fretwork is fluid, powerful and, when necessary, subtle and melodic, while Boisclair is an ace drummer with a keen rhythmic sense, providing a strong framework for the songs to be built upon.
Groove and Boisclair penned most of the songs on Path Of Fire, but they fit Handrich's voice like a glove. The lyrics are intelligent and thought provoking, not merely a retread of yesterday's romantic obsessions. The passion, the anger, and the insight running through the material is real and heartfelt, not just a fashionable pose, and the band tackles a wide-range of subjects lyrically. Supported by weeping six-string work and mournful vocals, "Halloween" is a lament for the children of tomorrow and the world they will inherit. "We Never See The End" provides an excellent perspective on the fleeting nature of relationships, a reminder that while the friendships of youth may fade with time, they help make us who we are.
"Death Of 2" is the obligatory take on love and the failure of romance, with 7 Rivers offering a fresh perspective on the old subject with scalding guitars, lush vocals, and finely textured instrumentation. Named for the band, or maybe vice versa, "7 Rivers" closes Path Of Fire with a wild musical journey, Handrich's brightly burning vocals driven by a constantly-changing horizon of sound created by Groove and Boisclair. The song illustrates the impressive instrumental skills of 7 Rivers, opening the door for what might be accomplished with future recordings. One of the more interesting and cerebral of the early-00s indie rock bands, 7 Rivers has drawn upon its influences to create a sound that, while familiar, is nevertheless distinctive and electric in its own right.