Things often shock me. I do a lot of double takes. So I did a couple of them (is two double takes, a quadruple take? I digress) the other week.

Firstly “Seven” arrived and I realised the title was a reference to the fact that Winger had only released seven records. I am a child of 80s and 90s rock. So you’d best believe that “Pull” was a major record back then. I was 14 when it came out. My Gran had died only a few days before it emerged. The first time I’d really understood grief. That record, Poison’s “Flesh And Blood” (which had been released a couple of weeks before) and Little Angels “Don’t Prey For Me” (from 1989, but which I’d only just heard) are the ones that I’ll always associate with that time.

Second, a friend text me to say it was only a week until they saw Winger. I hadn’t realised they were touring. Then I saw they were opening for Steel Panther. I bow to no one in my dislike of Panther, and I only hope Winger are being well paid to share a stage with them.

And its not without an irony that “Seven” is everything Panther are not. Classy, serious, and excellent.

That much is evident, pretty much as soon as “Proud Desperado” brings forth a hard rock sound that is elevated with a grandiose feel. Look, sets the tone for what’s to come.

And, let’s be clear, Winger know that those albums are 33 years old. And in 2023, they have to be relevant. “Heaven’s Falling” showcases the band’s ability to evolve with haunting backing vocals that prove they’re not just rehashing the past.

The album takes an unexpected turn with “Tears of Blood,” which features overbearing religious imagery and a spoken word bit that evokes a real sense of confusion. “Resurrect Me” boasts a thunderous chorus, as if to prove they can still do it, while “Voodoo Fire” has a swaggering bass groove that underlines that Kip Winger has few peers.

“Broken Glass” is an epic ballad that borders on prog and showcases the band’s musical prowess – they always struck you as a bit above their competition, and Reb Beach and “new” boy John Roth (who’s now an official member having toured for years) are in stunning form.

 “It’s Okay” takes on an 80s vibe with its vocoder riff – it could have been on the early albums and probably wears a Frankie Says Relax t-shirt when no one’s looking, while “Stick In The Knife And Twist” is a brilliant, shining example of what modern hard rock could be (I hope they play it to the Steel Panther Crowd)

“One Light To Burn” takes on a more modern sound, with a touch of grunge reminiscent of Pearl Jam. “Do Or Die” starts off ominously with acoustics that show a maturity in the band’s songwriting, and then explodes into a powerful chorus.

“Time Bomb” brings in a filthy blues sound that adds another layer to things while “It All Comes Back Around” is another standout track on a standout album. With genuine emotion in the bombastic prog journey.

And if you weren’t expecting the words “prog” then maybe think for a minute. Winger are a superb hard rock band and there’s moments here where they pin back the ears and go for it. However, they are also in their fifth decade and it’d be a little sad if they were still writing “Can’t Get Enough”, wouldn’t it?

“Seven” is, I’d contend, pretty much exactly what Winger needed to sound like in 2023.

Rating 8.5/10

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