A good deal of my musical taste stems from a rather frequent exchange program between myself and my older brother. When we were younger I would steal into his room and make off with a few albums, exerting diligent effort to return them to their proper place when I was finished. As the years progressed and we both began amassing a larger collection (and seeing that our tastes were so similar) we would frequently recommend records to one another. One of the first major exchanges occurred when I was a mid-teen and he was in college. It was a swap that left me forever attempting to ingratiate myself with my brother to even the karmic scales. (I’m still behind, by the way…)
The year was 1998, and I was frequently blaring a newly-minted aggressive rock act I’d stolen from his stack of cast-offs, Godsmack. While I was in my room rocking to, “Whatever,” “Keep Away,” or, “Moon Baby,” my brother was in his room across the hall playing video games and picking up pieces of the record. Finally, he asked me what I was listening to. “It’s one of yours,” I said, “I swiped it for the Goth-girl on the cover… but I really dig the record. It’s pretty consistent from start to finish.” His response would change my listening life forever. “Let me take it back and listen to it. In the meantime, you need to listen to this.” He handed me Sevendust’s self-titled record that had been released that same year. I reluctantly surrendered the Godsmack, but the instant I heard the intro to, “Black,” Sully and company may as well have never existed. From that moment on I was a dyed-in-the-wool Sevendust fan.
While my enthusiasm for Godsmack would wane with subsequent releases, my ardent appreciation for Sevendust swelled with every album. From Home to Animosity, on through their apex record (in my opinion), Seasons, the band provided a distinct sound and feel to each new disc. The tone would shift from track to track, undulating from aggressive, chugging riffs to spacey arpeggios and eventually into delicate, ascending acoustic ballads. The group refined their sound with every effort, reaching a state where each chorus on Seasons felt as operatic as a Queen composition. The band’s identity was uniquely polymorphic— ever shifting, yet always identifiable as Sevendust.
I will admit the band seemed to lose a bit of that diversity when Clint Lowery left in 2004. That is not to say I enjoyed the material any less; however, there were certain elements missing in his absence that had been major attractants for me as a listener. Admittedly, I followed him to Dark New Day and left Sevendust behind for a time.
Next and Alpha were excellent records, but a part of me always felt something was missing. The sweeping, elaborately orchestrated efforts seemed to slide back into the tried and true grit and grind of straight-ahead metal. While aggression is certainly a strong-suit for the band, it was always buoyed by the contrast provided by their melodic elements. Lajon’s clean, mellifluous melodies always helped leaven the gruff, barking growl of his gutteral utterances. When Chapter VII was released, my appreciation had begun to taper. While the same diversity lingered in some form, it had begun to feel a bit unfocused.
Following Clint’s return, in my opinion, the group’s efforts began to regain that old-fashioned feeling. Cold Day Memory was definitely the soundtrack of a band that was beginning to find itself again. The emphasis on choruses had returned, and the shifting inflection was beginning to present itself throughout the record. The songwriting had shored up significantly from the previous release. Sevendust was ascending again.
After Cold Day Memory the bulk of the band members began to work on side projects. While Lowery had previously been involved in Dark New Day and his solo project, Hello Demons, Meet Skeletons, he created another group with Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose entitled Call Me No One. Their debut album, Last Parade, was released on June 5, 2012. Subsequently, guitarist John Connolly and bassist Vinnie Hornsby joined forces with Alter Bridge / Creed drummer Scott Phillips and former Submersed guitarist Eric Friedman to form Projected. Their release, Human, hit shelves September 12, 2012. Both records displayed elements present in Sevendust’s wheelhouse, but previously unexplored facets presented on each album certainly helped augment and illustrate the individual member’s talents.
Choice Cuts: “Faithless” “Picture Perfect” “Cold As War” “Black Out the Sun” “Got A Feeling”
The result of the side-projects diffusing some creative energy is a new Sevendust record that feels focused, revitalized and rejuvenated. It’s as though the band reconvened with a renewed determination to return Sevendust to its blistering, bludgeoning and chameleonic former glory.
Black Out the Sun (set for release March 26th, 2013) is the most driven, aggressive and punctuated effort from the group since the release of Animosity. There is vitality to the songwriting and performances that is above and beyond the quality of their past few albums. The compositions are dynamic— the choruses soar, the percussion and guitar-work are kinetic as ever, the bass booms and Lajon’s melodies stab through the mix like an ice pick. This is most-definitely the Sevendust of old.
Black Out the Sun feels like a jaw-shattering uppercut following a series stiff jabs that lulled your attention away from the impending power punch. Hooks are consistently infectious from track to track, with little letup from the album’s opening interval to its concluding chords. Ethereal harmonies, seething screams and blistering leads pepper a record that is expertly controlled, plotted and executed.
For Sevendust fans, this record is a return to form that the band has been flirting with on their past few releases. The album is an experience, imbued with its own personality and emotionally unique voice. As with their first four records, each track skyrockets within its own composition, creating an organic sense of synchronicity in the overall soundscape while still managing to stand out individually. The songs, presumably like the band members themselves, are harmonious and accentuate one another brilliantly. No singular element is over-emphasized and the overall orchestration is very even-handed. This is a record you will want to own.
Like those first fruitful exchanges between myself and my brother, I pass news of this amazing album on to you. Sevendust has come full-circle, and it’s only fitting that I return to my roots in sharing their abundant talents. If you enjoy this record in the slightest, I’d say we also owe a vote of thanks with my brother Jeremy for introducing me to the band and setting me straight before the Godsmack got the better of me.
You can see our post about their upcoming tour dates here, and stay tuned for our coverage of their show at the Marquee Theater here in Phoenix with Lacuna Coil, Coal Chamber and Candlelight Red on March, 28th. Keep coming back, kickers! We’ll leave the amps on for you!