Review Summary: Kill me.
Two years ago, I publicly voiced my disappointment in Sevendust’s All I See Is War
. I may have been in a larger minority, but the problems with that particular record were numerous and consistent - relying on Sevendust’s vocal prowess to carry a listener from beginning to end. As seemingly inoffensive as autopilot Sevendust is, the affront was multiplied by the album’s ability to force every ounce of hook, beat and bland riff into an effortless money making machine - cashing in on the sound that varied with the production values. Two years and a “Covid filled 2020 later” I’m glad I didn’t promise anyone I’d eat my hat if they returned to form because Blood & Stone
is that, and more. Frankly, Sevendust’s thirteenth record, rivals the band’s glory days. It’s a statement I don’t exactly want to understate. With a preference to the bands prior works, namely Seasons
, Cold Day Memory
and newer works such as Black Out The Sun
, Sevendust has a tendency be acceptably middling - or in the case of their stale 2018 record... underperform.
2020 sees the Atlantean five-piece rise well above the average, releasing what could very well be, their best album to date.
The album’s opening track, “Dying To Live” hits with the same gusto as Seasons
, taking the cutting rhythms that had carried the band thus far into Lajon’s typical melodic vocals and immersing them into a world of natural hooks, catchy rhythms and poignant contextual concepts. More importantly, are the musical inclusions of Clint Lowery. It could be said that the guys behind Lajon’s towering vocals were guilty of middling, lack-luster, mundane but completely acceptable instrumentals - occasionally self-plagiarizing to the point of excess but Lowery’s Blood & Stone
efforts border on inspiring guitar interplay, a vast improvement from previous efforts. The title track is especially definitive of this point. Surging riffs slam through melancholic notes, linking melody into deliberate pauses where Lajon’s typical power centers the group’s efforts before returning to familiar riffs.
Despite the new album’s strong start, Blood & Stone
is arguably stronger in its second half. Whether it’s the somber, yet triumphant “Criminal” or the pensive, somehow hopeful lyrics of “Kill Me”, Sevendust reaffirm their place amongst Atlanta’s most recommendable music groups. Understandably, the group centers around Lajon’s talent with the microphone, but there's subtle nuance here that couples with the strong chorus hooks, melodic verses and hitting rhythms from Vince Hornsby (bass) and Morgan Rose (drums). Take the chorus sections from “Nothing Left To See Here Anymore” for example. The hook runs secondary to the song’s emotive lyrics, instrumentally lifting on the chorus lines without falling into the trap of bludgeoning the listener with the track title over and over again. Sure, the lyrical hook dominates the end of the song, but for the most part it's latent, sitting in the background as a reminder rather than a feature. “Against The World” continues the record’s tendency to be a treat to long-time fans, taking to cutting through the more somber aspects of the album’s atmosphere. Both the song’s lyrical and instrumental phrasings are more abrupt, sharper - but returns to the band’s tendency to crawl back into a hook driven anthem.
“Wish You Well” helps close the record on a high, taking a hopeful, defiant stance delivered in a message transferable and relevant to the fans who hear it. Whether it’s a charge at critics, life’s challenges or toxic situations, Sevendust closes the album with a strong message: we were born to be bold
. Most listeners’ first taste of the record however came in the form of “The Day I Tried To Live”, a Soundgarden cover to offer tribute to the late Chris Cornell. The track itself doesn’t offer too much in terms of individuality, but personally I’d like to think that’s the intended effect. Sevendust doing Soundgarden as Sevendust
is right what was needed when compared to such a prolific face in music gone by.
As a whole, it’s both easy and difficult to see how All I See Is War
could transform into this magnificent piece of mainstream metal but two years later. Sevendust, for the most part simply turned a switch and hopped off autopilot. Sure, there’s no mistaking just how “Sevendust” Blood & Stone
actually is, a quick look through the best of the band’s back catalogue highlights their modern day enjoyability while releasing approachable, accessible and even radio friendly forays into modern metal.