Review Summary: The band delivered the disappointment all followers knew they would. Apart from a song or two, there seems little hope "on to" which fans can hold.
Seether has been at the top of the hard rock scene for nearly a decade. The Disclaimer
albums as well as Karma and Effect
were amazing for the genre. These facts only serve to make their latest release, Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray
(I suppose I can forgive the grammatical error), the most disappointing album of the year. In fact, to fully describe it, the review would need to be R-rated.
What better place to start than the beginning? "Fur Cue" kicks everything off heavy in classic Seether style. If you are still fooled by this tactic, then I guess their plan is working. It seems that the band feels that they can trick their old fans into thinking that nothing has changed and the band is still the Seether of the past. While the song is the heaviest, this does not mean it is the best. Seether generally puts one of the best songs of the album first, but this one does not come close to the previous album openers ("Gasoline", "Because of Me", and "Like Suicide"). Let's not let the band get off easy with that song title, either. "Fur Cue"? Really? How cute. Too bad those words make no furking
sense when placed together. Maybe Britney Spears helped them out with the song title.
After the not-so-terrible "Fur Cue", listeners are treated to two songs so nauseating and heartless ("No Resolution" and "Here and Now") they'll be fooled in to thinking "Country Song" is of quality. The songs just don't go anywhere. There is seemingly no emotion behind them and, as a result, they are absolutely boring. At least the band experimented a little with "Country Song", but it missed the mark as well. It is quite an accomplishment to do something fairly unique and still manage to be completely generic (the group-chanted "hey"s and "woah"s seal the song's fate). The song actually has a good bridge that may make one forget that the song is forgettable. Until the chorus kicks back in, that is.
Let's discuss the positives of the album for a minute so you can catch your breath before we return the mountains of disappointment. The direction taken for Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray
will not be favorable for the majority of Seether fans, but it is a respectable progression since the band did not take the route that many others (such as Nickelback) have. Even with this undesirable direction, there are three songs on the album that are very enjoyable listens. Unfortunately, it takes until the 5th song of the album for Seether to treat their fans to "Master of Disaster". This song is really nothing overwhelmingly special, but it feels like one of the few songs on the album Shaun Morgan (guitarist and lead vocals) actually felt. As he croons, "You stole my dreams...I'm dead inside", you can genuinely feel the disgust in his voice. The song also features an awesome bass interlude toward the end that is absolutely perfect for the song. The rhythm section, with John Humphries on drums and Dale Stewart on bass, highlighting the album is nothing new; that is Seether's style of music. "Roses" uses keys along with the traditional Seether-style of music to create a song that sets a mood like no other on the album. It is dark and ominous throughout most of the song, but a key change in later choruses provides release and a sense of hope for listeners. It truly is an fulfilling experience. The surprise (and possibly best song) of the album comes follows immediately. As "Down" starts, you may think you are listening to a song by The Toadies. It is is different in the most positive sense of the word and is just different enough to keep you interested during the verses before it blasts you with a catchy chorus. True greatness comes from Pearl Jam-esque solo (it is by far the best Seether solo to date) and the outro. No one has ever accused Seether of using profanity in a productive manner, but here Morgan sings the most effective profane words of his career. As the song comes to a close, the lyrics of the chorus change slightly and he belts, "Why'd you f***ing doubt me, why'd you have to put me down?". This is not about the lyrics. This is about the feeling. These words give hope that somewhere deep inside, there may still be some passion left inside Morgan.
One should note that Morgan seems to have worked out some issues in his life and is now a happier man, as evidenced by this new music. Formerly dark bands, like Seether, putting out happy songs is not a problem as long as the sincerity is still there. The problem is the majority of these type songs on Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray
feel fake, as Shaun would love to say. It is simply unnatural for Morgan to be singing about such bright subjects. Happy songs are more difficult to write and he does not seem to have the ability to sing them in the way they are meant to be sung. That being said, Morgan does succeed in the sure-to-be hit, "Tonight". It may not be the cup-of-tea for older fans of the band, but a good song is a good song no matter the band that wrote it.
There are plenty of forgettable songs on the album and that is forgivable to an extent. However, there is no forgiveness for "Pass Slowly". The only PG-rated word that can be used to describe the song is "atrocious". I've never been one to skip songs when listening to albums, but that lousy excuse for a song is unacceptable. "Desire for Need" sounds like a song pulled straight from a Disclaimer b-side cd, "Fade Out" builds up massive potential during the first verse and fizzles out, and "Forsaken" is an uninspired album closer. In contrast to the generally well-produced nature of the album, the bass drum sounds awful. It nearly sounds dead. It is like they recorded some guy hitting a mattress with a hammer. This distraction is quite disappointing since Humphries is a very solid drummer.
Even though the album is not all bad, but there are certainly much more negatives than positives to discuss. The band seems to be in a downward spiral and there may be no coming back. It may be time for Seether to hang it up if they cannot find a way to put more energy and passion into future releases. The talent is certainly there. It is just a matter of finding the drive to keep on going.
Master of Disaster