Powerful potential lost to an urge to state the obvious.
Judging by its cover, it's indeed safe to assume that Sevendust’s new release would be heavily laced with morbid musings on the state of world, and yes - the album’s title, 'All I See Is War', is a pretty big indication that this is, in fact, the direction the heavy alt-rock American titans are heading in. But let’s just remember that first and foremost, we’re all here for the music, and though this latest Sevendust offering has its ups and downs, it is well worth the ride overall.
Please look past the socio-political inclusions and focus for a minute on just how powerful and how sexy that the album's hard rock opener ‘Dirty’ is. For there’s a certain kind of power in this kind of sound - a sense of elation comes from within, your very insides pound against your chest ready to burst with euphoria, much like the explosive drum rolls running into the very choruses of this song. The sheer swell of sounds creates a buzz of feeling that reminds us all of why we love music so much – I know you know the kind. And a song that can elicit such a sensation is surely going to pave the way for an album that will merely continue just so, right? Right! So cue a mere shrug of the shoulders.
But don't fret, there is still plenty to enjoy here.
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‘God Bites His Tongue’, with its melodic minor lilt of an intro, trots from gentle to genocidal; 0-80 in very little time. Textured harmonies grace disgruntled cries, raising you up to that place somewhere between bliss and understanding. The cheek and quirk of the melody in ‘Medicated’ does nothing to conceal the statements of simple truth that run rife in the lyrics, both gripping and honest at the same time. In ‘Unforgiven’ we get more of that gritty yet sexier vocal power from frontman Lajon Witherspoon, as he croons and cries his way throughout the track. It's that kind of brittle tone - grainy and unlike most voices on the rock/metal scene nowadays - that draws you in and really complements the dense work and undertones of the guitar and bass. Only with this track will you most likely begin to accept the socio-political angst of Sevendust here, realising just how well the band are able to provide a soundtrack to current global discontent, what with Witherspoon’s little blues lick at the end of the track reinforcing an underlying message of pleading.
That being said, however, as smart and as motivating as the band's songwriting here on album #12, twelve tracks of sometimes preachy material (that we’ve certainly had plenty of in most musical releases over the last few years), means your attention might become lacking. The smack in the face that is ‘Risen’ at the halfway mark, an otherwise potentially energetic performance, lacks coherence and, disappointingly, loses some momentum. And I think that regarding much of the record's remaining back half, the band sadly lost their mojo that dominated the first half.
The automated response to 'All I See Is War is without a doubt ‘Phwoar!’, but ultimately, the emotion and might contained in the album is often so convoluted with a sermon so often preached. As a result, Sevendust’s intention is often washed away by an excess of opinion and sometimes over-ambitious stretches in sound, further muddying up what is often a decent offering. It’s worth sticking out this alt-metal journey to the end mind you, just to pull out that handful of standout songs from this record that makes it an impressive and enjoyable listen; the songs that make you feel amazing, that make you understand, and the ones that make you want to rock. So be rest assured, there's plenty of reasons to slip this new Sevendust release into your hard rock arsenal once it drops in May. Just maybe not all of it.
'All I See Is War' is out Friday, May 11th via Rise Records.