Review Summary: If you want peace, prepare for war.
Coincidentally, at the turn of Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
’s announcement I was in the midst of listening to Seether’s back catalogue again for the first time in years. What instigated my efforts in going back through their discography was founded on hearing “Words as Weapons” on my iTunes Shuffle; after the song in question had finished I sat there for a moment, bemused by why I didn’t listen to Seether more often – after all, this is a band with some really great songs under their belt. However, by the time I had finished Poison the Parish
it all made sense to me again: Seether are, and always have been, in an eternal loop which sees them repeating the exact same pros and cons with an unflinching ignorance. To some degree their consistency with these perfectly preserved raptures and frustrations is impressive to behold, but then it’s also extremely obtuse when you sit and study the untapped potential being squandered here. Every single one of their albums has an equilibrium within itself: a harmony that presents their typically engaging alt-rock style – tweaked a little bit with every passing iteration, as age and experience engulfs them – with an equal portion of prosaic imitation, and a short attention span that corrodes any of the cohesion to be had.
The really impressive part about Seether though, is even with these issues they still haven’t actually made an outright bad
album (even though Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray
dances very close to the fire) but then, it can’t be understated that Seether have an awful track record of losing focus halfway through an album, resulting in a finished product filled with as many vacuous, humdrum rock jingles as there are authentic ones. As is the case with every album they’ve released in the last ten years, I’ve sat here hopeful that one day they could break the perpetual cycle, and fortunately for Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
’s first single, “Dangerous” displayed that promising prospect. It’s not that “Dangerous” completely redesigns the framework or anything so brash, but one subtle element caught my attention: Shaun’s vocal approach. Underneath the bouncy, chorus-lathered bassline and the creeping guitar passages, Shaun’s typical baritone and grit sounded a touch more benign than normal – a little softer on the ears. In turn, this nuanced approach encapsulated a fresh perspective and a new way of going about the way they’d usually presented their writing style. On the whole the track was bloody catchy, heavy and more importantly, engaging; although, in hindsight not entirely indicative of the album.
With “Dangerous” promoting this thing I was actually really looking forward to seeing the album’s release. Yet, with baited breath the question lingered – will Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
break their longstanding dance with repeated mistakes? Well, I can confidently say that this is the most consistent album they’ve ever produced. Though it’s a little jarring to hear most of the songs opening up with the watery, isolated twanging of guitar, there’s an ethereal tone that’s ubiquitous with the record, and it’s all the stronger for it. Concern reared its head when I saw the album had a string of thirteen songs to plough through, preparing myself for a roller coaster ride of patchy moods, but I was pleasantly surprised by how cohesively pieced together the album was. Even the record’s proceeding singles – which initially failed to pique my interest to the same degree “Dangerous” did – fit snuggly in the context of the record. There’s a number of transparent influences, namely the use of Chevelle’s dense The North Corridor
sound, and the ceaseless support from the Nirvana blanket, but these influences are actually overshadowed this time by some really solid songwriting. The thick instrumentals and vocals on “Beg” bring a really raw Ænima
quality to the table, while “Dead and Done” and “Let It Go” come from the lineage of Poison the Parish
and its adulation for the aforementioned Chevelle sound. However, these influences are never used into being a detriment. In fact, this is probably the first time Seether have used their inspirations with auspicious results, and that’s because they had a solid foundation to build upon.
Overall, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
does a nice job of handling the heavy stuff here, but I can’t help but gravitate towards the slower, more poignant jams. As good as the elasticated alt-rock grooves are, and Shaun’s bellowing screams, it’s ultimately the moody, mid-tempo numbers that do the heavy lifting. “Written in Stone” is not only a fantastic closer, it’s crafted so competently it could well be remembered as fondly as “Broken”. It’s a combination of full band instrumentation and acoustic guitar, chocked full of punchy melodies and a well-executed vocal performance that hears Shaun lamenting “It’s like it’s written in stone”
for the closing seconds of the album. While the mournful and emotive offerings of “Liar”, “Failure” and “Can’t Go Wrong” deliver an excellent balance of mood-building and heavy-soft dynamics. I have to admit, I’m in awe by how Seether have actually met the expectations of my pipe dream. It’s not a perfect album (“Pride Before the Fall” is quite forgettable, bar the excellent interlude), but it’s a gargantuan leap in quality from anything prior to this. Where all their previous efforts failed to maintain a firm vision, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
is entirely focused on its goals. At nearly an hour in length, this LP’s run time actually feels justified for once, and for the first time, actually offers all of the band’s best qualities in abundance and on one album.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: