Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sevendust - Black Out The Sun

Sevendust
Black Out The Sun
7Bros Records/Asylum Records

When long running Atlanta (Georgia, U.S.) based alternative/nu-metal metal outfit Sevendust announced the return of guitarist/vocalist Clint Lowery into the fold after a three year absence, fans were clearly hoping that change in personnel would see the band return to form after a couple of albums that left many thinking they had lost their way. But while the reunion did see the band produce a solid release in ‘Cold Day Memory’ (2010), I couldn’t help but feel that Sevendust had completely disregarded their newfound sense of experimentation (Which was evident on 2007’s excellent ‘Alpha’ and 2008’s ‘Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow’) in favour of giving fans exactly what they thought they wanted.
In the three years since the release of ‘Cold Day Memory’, Lowery and drummer/vocalist Morgan Rose formed their own side project Call Me No One (Who released the fantastic ‘Last Parade’ in 2012), while guitarist/vocalist John Connolly and bassist Vinnie Hornsby put together Projected (Who released their debut effort ‘Human’ in 2012). While both bands weren’t anywhere near as high profile as Sevendust, they were both quite well received, and proved that nobody within the group was in a rush to release another Sevendust album until the time was right.
Well, it took three years, but it would seem that the band (Who also include vocalist Lajon Witherspoon) once again found the inspiration to reactivate Sevendust, and duly started to put together their ninth full-length album ‘Black Out The Sun’.
In the recent past, I’ve been critical of Sevendust and their unwillingness to deviate from their tried and true sound and the uninspired song writing that seems to overshadow the times when they have come up with some good material. But with ‘Black Out The Sun’, it would seem that the time spent apart on other projects and the extended gap between releases has done wonders for the group.
After a minute and a half long acoustic/keyboard instrumental piece (‘Memory’), the band immediately gets into the groove with ‘Faithless’. Although fairly typical of what you would expect from Sevendust, the rhythmic and grooving riffs, Witherspoon’s mix of screams and clean vocals and the catchy choruses will suck you in and have you nodding your head in approval.
The aggression and power delivered in ‘Till Death’ is a welcome change of pace in the early stages of the album, and show that Sevendust still have plenty of bite, while a touch of experimentation can be heard in the southern influenced rock groove of ‘Mountain’. There’s plenty of attitude filtered throughout the track, and the inclusion of a brief solo doesn’t hurt either.
As you can gather, ‘Black Out The Sun’ is quite a diverse album, where the melodic tracks and the aggressive efforts are given plenty of space apart from each other. Evidence of this can be heard on tracks such as ‘Cold As War’, the title track ‘Black Out The Sun’, ‘Dark AM’ and the slower paced ‘Picture Perfect’, all of which have the band focussing on strong melodies and catchy grooving riffs, which is in complete contrast with songs such as ‘Nobody Wants It’, the Call Me No One sounding ‘Dead Roses’ and the album’s lead single ‘Decay’, all of which project an air of menace and hostility that is akin to earlier efforts from the band. Overall, it’s this sense of duality in sound, and a stronger sense of clear song writing that really works in the band’s favour this time around.
But while the album has many highlights, it’s Clint Lowery and Witherspoon’s dual vocal efforts on the acoustic based ‘Got A Feeling’ that really shines. While many will label the song as a ballad, it actually veers more on the side of dark acoustic country music, but with a touch of southern rock in places. It may be a little hard to pin down stylistically, but there’s no denying the brilliance of ‘Got A Feeling’ as a whole.
Another highlight worthy of singling out is the closer ‘Murder Bar’, which like its predecessor ‘Got A Feeling’, is a hard track to pin down with its mix of keyboards (Provided by sound designer/One Hundred Thousand drummer Kurt Wubbenhorst), guitar effects and clean/aggressive vocals. In a lot of ways, the track reminds me of the kind of experimental material the band was exploring on ‘Alpha’. And to these ears, that’s not a bad thing.
While fans were excited with the return of Lowery on ‘Cold Day Memory’, I really couldn’t help that Sevendust were under pressure to deliver what was expected of them. But with ‘Black Out the Sun’, Sevendust have once again managed to distance themselves from preconceived expectations of fans and put together an album that sounds truly inspired.
To me, Sevendust have always been a bit hit and miss in the studio. But with ‘Black Out The Sun’, the band has well and truly delivered one of their best.

For more information on Sevendust, check out - http://www.sevendust.com/

© Justin Donnelly