Things have never been easy for Sevendust. How they are not a national hard rock
darling is beyond me, especially considering they have toured with such
high-powered acts as Creed and Staind. The band’s sound has gotten progressively
catchier since their breakout, 2001’s Animosity, but they can still rock
with the best of them. One of nü-metal’s few survivors; Sevendust has struck
again with Next.
Next, the band’s fifth studio album, has been a long time coming as the
band has had to dodge various obstacles. The band parted ways with longtime
label TVT (although the label recently released a best-of - a contractual
obligation I am sure) and also lost guitarist/backup vocalist Clint Lowery to
the startup project Dark New Day. Brought in to fill the big shoes is Sonny
Mayo, he of Snot fame.
Those looking for Sevendust to break new barriers with Next will be
gravely disappointed. The formula is followed to a tee: Balls-to-the-wall intro
riff, chugging verse, soaring, catchy chorus, and dynamic breakdowns. The good
news is that Sevendust has always done this better than anyone else. What
distinguishes the band from all the “too little, too late” counterparts that
have popped is the powerful, heartfelt voice of lead vocalist Lajon Witherspoon.
His range is absolutely fantastic as he can go from a grunt and growl to a
beautiful melody at the snap of a finger. Drummer Morgan Rose has always added
color vocally to the music, and here he is getting more work than ever with the
departure of Lowery. His punishing style dominates “The Last Song,” a breakup
anthem that could easily have been a bonus track on 1999’s Home.
Mayo brings some new ideas to the table, and they flourish on the record. He
adds some depth and complexity to what could easily be interpreted as generic,
down-tuned riffing. His brief but engaging solo on “Pieces” easily propels it
past its counterpart, “Enemy,” off 2003’s Seasons. The ballad “This Life”
(written to celebrate the birth of guitarist John Connolly’s daughter) features
some beautiful, intricately woven guitar work.
Sevendust explores many of its token topics on the record, including anger,
isolation, and even joy and poignancy. The band has improved greatly lyrically
over its past several efforts, and the songwriting on Next varies from
impressive to startlingly simple. There is never a shortage of heart in what
they write, and Witherspoon’s delivery has left many a crowd weeping from its
Next proves once again how talented of a band Sevendust are. They have
all the elements in place, which has helped them survive the ever-changing metal
landscape. Longtime fans will yearn for a true head banging-worthy song in the
spirit of any track off their 1997 self-titled debut, but Sevendust has evolved
and grown since those days. Next won’t win any originality awards, but it
does showcase a gifted band doing what they do best. By now I’m sure Sevendust
would agree that you can either take it or leave it.