Review Summary: With Black Out the Sun, Sevendust shine brighter than ever before, and have created their best album to date
Ever since Sevendust stormed onto the scene in 1997 (or 1995, if you want to count their early days as Crawlspace), they have consistently released quality mainstream metal that has been heavy, catchy, and most importantly, well-written. What set Sevendust apart from their nu-metal contemporaries was their ability to seamlessly fuse together bone-crushing riffs and soulful, melodic vocals. They never fell to the temptation of using unnecessary turntable scratches and rapping that was so popular during the late 90s and early 2000s. Even though the band never achieved the massive commercial success of acts like Korn and Slipknot, Sevendust has maintained a powerful presence over modern rock.
With the band’s latest release, Black Out the Sun, it is apparent right from the get-go that Sevendust has perfected their trademark alternative metal sound. The record opens with the soothing acoustic piece “Memory”, giving the listener a false sense of security before lurching right into the heavy metal gallop of “Faithless”. This track instantly brings to mind the opening song “Splinter” from the band’s previous album, Cold Day Memory. However, while “Splinter” sounded disjointed and awkward at times, “Faithless” rocks consistently throughout and never loses its direction. Many songs on the record follow in similar fashion, and feel more like a refinement on Sevendust’s past studio works as opposed to a complete reinvention of the wheel. For instance, a pseudo-thrash number like “Till Death” would have no problem being placed on the band’s self-titled record, just as the Middle-eastern influenced lead single “Decay” would work fine on either Animosity or Home. While for some bands a return-to-roots can lead to a boring rehash of past glories, Sevendust manage to do it in a way that sounds both passionate and fresh.
Almost every member of the band shows growth on this record, both in terms of their writing and playing abilities. There has always been chemistry between the guitar work of John Connolly and Clint Lowery, but this time around on songs like “Dead Roses” and “Mountain”, the riffs and solos take a larger presence than ever before. They step out of the stereotypical role as nu-metal guitarists, focusing instead on being a highlight of the song and not just another layer mashed on top. Drummer Morgan Rose gives his best drum performance here, providing the main groove for the songs and integrating some impressive double bass drum fills on “Till Death” and "Nobody Wants It". He and bassist Vinnie Hornsby lock together perfectly as a rhythm section, and make each song hit harder and more aggressive than the last.
The vocals, as always with Sevendust, are absolutely stunning. Lajon Witherspoon proves once again why he is one of the best singers in modern rock, constantly delivering emotional and memorable choruses, especially on the standout track “Dark AM”. Both Morgan Rose and Clint Lowery back up Witherspoon with intense screams and shouts that mesh perfectly with his melodic croon, and Lowery even steps up for a solo vocal performance on the ballad “Got a Feeling”. Lastly, the lyrics on Black Out the Sun show a huge jump in maturity for the band. Gone are the days of the goofy machismo of songs like “Enemy” and “Rumblefish”. Now, Witherspoon sings more personally than ever before, with a notable lack of profanity for the first time ever in the band’s career.
When guitarist John Connolly said that Black Out the Sun was like “a greatest hits record of songs you’ve never heard before”, he was spot on. Sevendust have created a record that takes all of the best moments of their nearly two decade long career, and develops them to their full potential. The album never gives into modern trends to stay relevant (*cough*KORN*cough*), and showcases a band feeling truly confident in themselves as musicians. With Black Out the Sun, Sevendust shine brighter than ever before, and have created their best album to date.