Alpha Label: Asylum Records
Revolver Magazine recently ran an article about Sevendust, who are now in their tenth year of existence and have just released their sixth studio album, Alpha. Mentioned in the article is a list of bands who, at one point, acted as support for Sevendust’s late-'90s headlining tours and have since skyrocketed past them on the charts. The list includes the following bands: Kid Rock, Godsmack, Staind, Drowning Pool, P.O.D., Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, Disturbed, and 30 Seconds to Mars.
The popularity questions have plagued Sevendust throughout their careers. I'd have bet good money that 2001’s Animosity would have shot them to superstardom, but it just never happened. As a huge fan of the band, it has always made me a little sad that they haven’t seen greater success (although they still have a few gold albums and a highly devoted following among their fans) as they tour endlessly and truly put on one of the best hard rock shows on the planet.
With Alpha, Sevendust has reverted to the kind of explosive, melodic hard rock that they first exhibited on 1997’s self-titled debut and 1999’s follow-up, Home. This is easily their most brutal record since the aforementioned Home, and this turn indicates that either A) Sevendust, now on its own label, is doing things its own way for once, or B) the band has simply given up trying to be the most popular band around. It could be both. Either way, Alpha is a true gift for longtime fans who have been begging for Sevendust to return to their roots.
“Deathstar” gets things off to a raucous start. Vocalist Lajon Witherspoon, who has one of the top three best voices in the genre, is as angry as ever here. He uses his voice more as a weapon on Alpha than any previous efforts, and the result is a far more foreboding Sevendust than we’re used to. Tracks such as “Clueless,” “Feed,” and “Alpha” unleash immense frustration, while songs like “Under,” “Aggression,” and “Burn” have the type of melodic beauty we expect. Alpha, on the whole, plays like a culmination of every element Sevendust has brought to the table in its career.
Track 11, “Burn,” deserves special mention. This is the first time the band has ever delved into what could be described as “experimental” music, but this is one of the best songs in their entire canon. A slow, single-note guitar riff starts the song before evolving into a beautiful, layered chorus. Right when you think the song is over, the piano takes over and the tune ends on a solemn, emotional note. Clocking in at nine minutes, this is uncharted territory for Sevendust and easily stands as one of their most memorable tracks.
The only complaints I have are that there a few forgettable tracks – namely “Story of Your Life” and “Suffer” – and drummer Morgan Rose is simply given too many vocal duties. Rose used to only pop up during the pinnacles of Sevendust’s most intense songs, but since the departure of guitarist Clint Lowery, Rose has assumed a larger role on backup vocals. There is simply no reason for him to be on tracks like “Under” and “Aggression.” His work on “Story of Your Life,” much like the song itself, is subpar.
In the scheme of things, these are small quibbles. Alpha is a fantastic hard rock record and proves that Sevendust still has the chops it had a decade ago. They continue to be one of the hardest-working bands on the scene and the fact that they are still under the radar baffles me to no end. Witherspoon’s quote at the end of the Revolver article sums up Alpha and its ramifications perfectly: “I think God has a plan for us, and whether the industry has a plan for us or not, we’re about to come out and whip everyone’s ass.”