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Maniacal metal and sonic soul combine for Atlanta, Georgia-based SEVENDUST, a quintet that could sound ANTHRAX or MINISTRY one minute, LIVING COLOUR, the next. Okay, there were more chugging molten riffs on board than most of their metallic compadres, but with Lajon Witherspoon, an intense, industrial metal-loving black-skinned singer poached from his brother Corey’s band (a subsequent STUCK MOJO member), the angst-ridden SEVENDUST had all the identifiable elements and charisma to make it among the top guns.
1994 was the year Snake Nation, as they were originally billed, got together; Messrs Morgan Rose (drums), Vince Hornsby (bass) and John Connolly (rhythm guitar), duly recruiting the aforementioned Nashville-born Lajon and lead guitarist Clint Lowery to boost their chances of success. Swapping Rumble Fish for the Crawlspace moniker, the quintet’s inaugural opener, `My Ruin’, found its way on to the various artists/soundtrack set “Mortal Kombat: More Kombat” in 1996 and was to subsequently surface on the SEVENDUST debut album. Under the wing of manager, Jay Jay French (ex-TWISTED SISTER), the band signed to TVT Records, although it was by sheer chance as the label’s A&R men were detoured by a hard-of-hearing cab driver who took them to one of the band’s gigs, and not a strip club as requested.
Their label insisted they change their original moniker to SEVENDUST, rather than paying a 5-figure sum to obtain the rights to the already in-line Crawlspace. Their bruising, aggro-rock was soon being given needed airplay via a near excellent eponymous set: SEVENDUST (1997) {*7}. The record embodied the spirit of grunge and thrash metal, while addressing such socially conscience subjects as racism (`Black’), compliant S&M bondage (`Face’), heavy drug use (`Wired’) and schizoid behaviour (`Too Close To Hate’).
When sales of their debut grew beyond initial expectations, the band’s sophomore set, HOME (1999) {*7}, repeated the riff-laden formula, only this time it paid off with a Top 20 placing, beating off the foreboding curse of the always-difficult second album. As angry and brutal as it was intensely melodic, metal fans would appreciate the likes of `Denial’, `Licking Cream’, `Crumbled’ and `Feel So’. Morgan, meanwhile (who’d married COAL CHAMBERS’ Rayna Foss), was possibly up for a bit of paternity leave following the subsequent birth of their new baby.
Third set, ANIMOSITY (2001) {*5}, offered up little in the way of artistic progression. Their standard electro-enhanced, pile-driving formula, complete with dogged determination, resulted in another Top 30 chart placing. Had their rapid-fire growls of discontent hit a brick wall, or were the likes of `T.O.A.B.’ (aka “Tits On A Boar”), `Crucified’, `Trust’, `Damaged’ and the searching `Angel’s Son’, able to propel them above their plateau of pentamerous polyrhythms.
2003’s SEASONS {*7} earned SEVENDUST an even better chart placing despite its coruscate brutal grooves and bleak subject matter. The Butch Walker-masterminded set benefitted from the latter’s proven pop production chops, bringing an accessibility to proceedings without diluting the album’s dark power. Pick of the bunch were for most punters, the title track, `Disgrace’, `Broken Down’ and `Skeleton Song’, all of which featured on their homecoming in-concert CD/DVD package, SOUTHSIDE DOUBLE-WIDE: acoustic live (2004) {*7}. Having handled covers of MARVIN GAYE’s `Inner City Blues’ and ALICE COOPER’s `School’s Out’ for previous outings/B-sides, their ill-advised attempt to re-vamp NINE INCH NAIL’s `Hurt’ (a hit for JOHNNY CASH), was somewhat off the mark.
The aftershock of Lowery’s subsequent departure in the fall of ’04 (to Dark New Day) was somewhat appeased when the seasoned Sonny Mayo (ex-HED PE, ex-AMEN, ex-SNOT) was drafted into the band a few months later. Self-produced on their own Winedark imprint (but overseen by Universal), NEXT (2005) {*5} unfolded chapter two of SEVENDUST’s alt-rock tome. Raging against the machinations of everything asunder, their wounded-hound approach (however head-bangingly cathartic) on the likes of `Hero’, `Never’ and `Distertion’, was becoming a little grainy and grating.
Signed to Asylum Records offshoot, 7Bros, studio set number six, ALPHA (2007) {*5}, still managed – like its predecessor – to reach the Top 20. Fuelled by noise and melody in equal measures, SEVENDUST expanded their range somewhat with bits of funk and hip-hop here and there, but on the gist of their barrage of acerbic blasts – despite the pummelling of `Deathstar’ to the title track, via the epic, 9-minute `Burn’ – this set was no classic.
CHAPTER VII: HOPE & SORROW (2008) {*5}, was a transitional album in many aspects, evened out by the tracks (`Hope’) featuring Mark Tremonti of ALTER BRIDGE and CREED, (`Sorrow’) featuring Myles Kennedy of ALTER BRIDGE and (`The Past’) starring American Idol finalist, CHRIS DAUGHTRY.
Finding their niche among the mainstream nu-metal elite, SEVENDUST re-introduced Lowery back into the band for the Top 20, COLD DAY MEMORY (2010) {*5}. Plodding along, rather than touching on anything fresh and exciting, there were plenty predictable FM-friendly fixes for fans of melodic metal; but they just couldn’t buy a hit with `Unraveling’, `Forever Dead’ and `Last Breath’.
On the back of Lowery and Rose’s splinter project, CALL ME NO ONE (their FOO FIGHTERS-meets-NiN-like LAST PARADE {*5} was released in 2012), the long-awaited BLACK OUT THE SUN (2013) {*7} saw the soulful Lajon and crew respectively growl and grind through dark passages such as the riff-tastic `Faithless’, `Till Death’, `Decay’ and the dynamic closing piece, `Murder Bar’.
Returning to their roots bloody roots of gut-wrenching rawk, SEVENDUST secured yet another Top 20 admission through KILL THE FLAW (2015) {*6} – their 11th all in. Scattergun guitar licks and deafening drumming empowered a band who could easily match KILLING JOKE or other industrial acts (example `Death Dance’), but on the surface, Lajon kept it strictly for the alt-metal/power-metal brigade on `Cease And Desist’, `Thank You’ and `Not Today’.
A dozen albums into their lengthy career, muscular metallers SEVENDUST were searching within their souls for identity and perspective on ALL I SEE IS WAR (2018) {*6}; a Top 30 entry. Whether their tortured brooding was anything to do with today’s political chaos was conjecture, but in the polished production of Michael “Elvis” Baskette, the quartet swept up any shrapnel once fired out by their peers; acerbic cuts `Dirty’, `God Bites His Tongue’, `Medicated’, set the ball rolling.
© MC Strong 2001-2004/GRD / rev-up MCS Apr2013-May2018

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