Album of the Week 35-2019: Them – Manor Of The Se7en Gables


On the surface, Them seems like another one of those King Diamond and Mercyful Fate-inspired bands that seemed to pop up everywhere especially around Northern Europe about a decade ago. They even have the aesthetic down better than, say, Attic and Portrait. In fact, Them began existence as a King Diamond tribute band, but it’s almost ironic how little Them actually sounds like the Danish horror metal master. The inspiration is undeniably there – of course a concept album driven by a B-grade horror story is inspired by him – but Them took those influences and turned them into their own thing.

Upon first listen, you can almost hear what was going on in the heads of singer Troy Norr and guitarist Markus Ullrich. They heard King Diamond and thought: you know what this needs? Vocals that are consistently on pitch and more thrashy riffing.  Norr doesn’t even sound that much like King Diamond unless he’s speaking or using his falsetto. A closer comparison would be Winters Bane’s ‘Heart Of A Killer’. While not quite as technical, ‘Manor Of The Se7en Gables’ does feature a similarly theatrical heavy metal sound. Also, Norr sounds fairly similar to Tim Owens on that record, with maybe some ‘Nosferatu’-era James Rivera thrown in.

More importantly, the music on ‘Manor Of The Se7en Gables’ is simply really good. In all honesty, I could do wihtout the narrative disrupting the music, but fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often. What remains is some excellent, mildly technical contemporary heavy metal full of engaging borderline thrash riffs and climactic progessions. Ullrich and Markus Johansson have arranged their guitar parts effectively around each other’s strengths and Them is one of the few metal bands with a keyboard player (Richie Seibel) who doesn’t constantly push himself to the forefront, opting to enhance the horror atmosphere of the music instead.

Although ‘Manor Of The Se7en Gables’ is full of great uptempo tracks like the relatively thrashy ‘Refuge In The Manor’, the particularly aggressive ‘Seven Gables To Ash’ and the climactic ‘The Secret Stairs’, what really makes it superior to debut album ‘Sweet Hollow’ is the quality of its slower material. The mid-tempo tracks on that record weren’t bad by any means, but not nearly as memorable as the bombastic ‘As The Sage Burns’ or the melancholic ‘Witchfinder’. ‘Punishment By Fire’ rounds out the album nicely by tying all the stylistic elements together, resulting in an excellent slightly progressive metal track.

Them is at constant risk of being misunderstood. The band is no cheap King Diamond clone and I actually prefer both ‘Manor Of The Se7en Gables’ and ‘Sweet Hollow’ to anything King Diamond ever did. The conceptual approach gives the band direction, but in all honesty, this material would have impressed regardless, including the interludes. Any fan of eighties heavy metal who complains that no one makes anything like that anymore should certainly give ‘Manor Of The Se7en Gables’ a spin. It might be a more contemporary take on the classic stuff, but that only adds to the relevance of Them.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Secret Stairs’, ‘Witchfinder’, ‘Refuge In The Manor’

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