Ghost Cult’s Keefy caught up with John Connolly of Sevendust to chat about their new album, Blood and Stone, releasing on October 23rd, 2020 via Rise Records. We discussed the making of the new album, releasing new music during this uncertain time, the more adult themes of the band’s music these days, how the band approaches songwriting, working with producer Elvis Baskette, the decision to cover Soundgarden’s “The Day I Tried To Live” and how they almost didn’t go through with it and more. Purchase the album here and listen to our chat right now.
Sevendust is teasing an announcement for this Friday, June 26th, 2020. The band shared a new image to their social media channels and had it shared by its members. The band is expected to release a new album this year, produced by their frequent collaborate Elvis Baskette. Continue reading
Sevendust has entered the recording studio, according to a post on Instagram by drummer Morgan Rose. The band is tracking the follow-up album for their new label Rise Records/BMG (Five Finger Death Punch, Of Mice and Men), and the album is due in the first half of next year. Sevendust released their Grammy-nominated album Kill The Flaw in 2015, featuring the hit single ‘Thank You’, which has tallied over 5.25 million plays on Spotify.Continue reading
At one point in time Sevendust seemed poised for superstardom. Well, the point in time was the early 2000s as they were riding high on a string of Gold certified albums and solid tour packages.
Then as we were approaching the mid-aughts the floor collapsed. Suddenly bands who were regularly playing small arenas and collecting major label royalty checks were out of favor. Sevendust and countless others were lost in the Nu-metal shuffle. Which is a damn shame as this Georgia collective was never really a Nu-metal band and had better songwriting chops than many of their contemporaries.
And the years went by and the various popular hard rock styles (garage rock, emo, metalcore, etc…) came and went with their respective enduring acts and others left on the decline. But as the musical landscape changed Sevendust remained musically consistent as their tenth and latest studio offering Kill the Flaw (7Bros, Asylum) can attest to. The sales haven’t remained as good, but the music has.
The main reason for this musical stability is that much like Deftones, Sevendust rose to prominence during the Nu-metal gravy days, but never really fit that mold. Sevendust was always about working behind Lajon Witherspoon’s strong singing (one of the more underrated vocalists working in rock today), Morgan Rose’s busy drums and John Connolly and Clint Lowery’s crunching guitars.
Look no further than the sweeping choruses of ‘Thank You’ and title track ‘Kill the Flaw.’ It’s still the Sevendust we loved in the 90s, yet we refuse to give them another Active Rock hit while Avenged Sevenfold makes a killing by aping Metallica’s self-titled. But it’s not all nostalgia since they’re adding new facets to their sound as Lowery and Connolly tap into that palm-muting style the kids love so much on ‘Death Dance’ and ‘Chop without sounding like their pandering to what younger generations like (i.e. Korn’s The Path of Totality).
Those who have stuck with Sevendust will have much to enjoy on Kill the Flaw. And even those who have hitched their wagons to other passing genres are always welcome back home.
Like spaghetti bolognese, it is hard to dislike Nuclear Assault, a thrash metal band who released a three well regarded albums in the mid-to-late 80’s, before internal combustion and some lesser offerings. Like spag bol, they were no nonsense, popular and easy to digest to the taste buds of all who liked their metal fast and thrashy. However, to over-extend the metaphor to the length of a string of tagliatelle, they weren’t as flavourful or complete as others, lacking the depth of ingredients in comparison to their contemporaries, and it’s very unlikely many would call NA their favourite dish.
Since announcing his impending retirement from live playing Dan Lilker has been a machine, blurring (sic) at the pace of his picking hand, bringing each of his projects to a concluding fruition, which has included the Lazarus act being applied to Nuclear Assault once again. Setting out to intentionally write “four killer old-school thrash songs”, the Pounder EP (Sidipus) is the band ramping up to a “Final Assault” tour and album in the second half of the year.
Achieving the majority of their pre-conceived idea, they have written four old-school thrash songs (well, three, and one, ‘Died In Your Arms’, that sounds as if Alan Averill was wailing along to a Metal Church outtake but not able to hear himself through noise-reducing headphones), though they’ve failed to live up to the “Killer” part of that promise. With what could kind-heartedly be called a “raw” lo-fi and DIY production, Pounder displays uncultured punky, chromatic thrash, a dearth of songwriting ideas and John Connolly’s once distinctive yelp having clearly seen better days.
One hopes this is merely the itching to get out of the blocks, let’s get something out there, false-start that serves as a irrelevant pre-cursor to a gold medal winning final sprint, but the portents don’t look promising for the final assault to do anything other than flounder and perish meekly.
Coming from the melodic end of thrash, and with eight high-topped feet planted in speed metal, Helsinki’s Ranger impress with their (rising) force, and don’t mistake the proliferation of melody for any indication that there is to be any let up in intensity or intent. With nods to pre-pirate Running Wild, and ploughing a similar furrow to Enforcer, albeit with a less rocky overtone and more of a heads-down-see-you-at-the-end vibe, Where Evil Dwells (Spinefarm) may be the band’s debut full-length, but this is an album forged in furnaces that have been burning for 35 years.
Using Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends (Combat) as a template (7 songs, sub 40 minutes, track 6 being a lengthy 8 minute plus thrashepic, track one being a lesson in extended thrash and the second longest track) is not the worst prototype any band could use, and musically the band pull from the melting pot some nice Di’anno era Maiden twin leads, especially in ‘Defcon1’, amongst the thrashing Sodom-y. Elsewhere there are enough variance of thrash and speed metal and melodic refrains to maintain the interest; ‘Phantom Soldier’ along with a nice Eastern-tinged solo and good movement between solid chugging, and riffing and all out thrashing, borrows very heavily from Kill ‘em All (Megaforce) and in particular ‘Seek & Destroy’ (as well as lifting more than a lyric from ‘Disposable Heroes’), while closer ‘Storm of Power’ is a relentless 3 minute thrash battery to bring things home. Dimi Pontiac provides yelps and squawks as if possessed at random intervals by John Connolly – a “thing” that bands do that personally grates a touch, but are a staple trope of the speed metal oeuvre – but otherwise delivers with confidence, reminiscent of So Far, So Good… So What (Capitol) era Dave Mustaine, sneer and all.
All in, though, a very solid first outing for Ranger that will do more than satisfy those whose tastes are this way inclined. It is nothing new, but here’s where I have to leave my retro-hang ups at the door and buckle my bullet belt on instead, cos it doesn’t just do what it says on the tin. Ranger, with their melodic breaks and mid-tempo deviations, do go some way to standing out and honing their own identity.
And who can argue with a hand-drawn logo and an album cover with big fucking skulls on it!
At this point in the career, Sevendust knows they have achieved a certain status as the elder statesman of modern heavy rock or active rock, whatever industry buzzword is trending this week. They are still hungry like a new band, putting out quality releases and always putting on a fine show. At the same time, they don’t play it safe artistically. This is why in spite of my love of music that is progressive, extreme, harsh, and thrashy; I still come back to this band that I have always respected. They have been a part of my many musical journeys for a long time. Whether seeing their first tour in New York at a long gone tiny club, to watching 300,000+ people jump up and down to a song they never heard before (‘Rumblefish’) at Woodstock `99, to their recent record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, I am proud to say I was there.
We were in for a treat tonight, with no opening act and just “An Evening With” format. I didn’t even realize the show was long sold out and there were a ton of people waiting to get inside, when I arrived at The Paradise. As evidenced by my earlier show this year with Carcass, this venue should not host really extreme bands or their fans. However for some lighter, more relaxed concerts such as Crosses or the unplugged show tonight; it’s a solid choice. The first really hot day of summer in Boston meant the AC was on full blast so we were feeling chilly in the dark rectangular room. Meanwhile the stage sat ready for a while with some LED candles adding to the mood of the stage filled with guitars, bar stools, and music stands.
Sevendust finally came on stage to their intro music, and the packed crowd approved. As the band took their seated spots for the night and checked their gear, Lajon Witherspoon welcomed the crowd and promised a good time. Drawing on their new album Time Travelers & Bonfires (7Bros.) The immediately launched into ‘Trust’ and the band sound great. Playing acoustically, and only augmented by their touring piano player Kurt Wubbenhorst, they played a flawless evening of music. Even if they were just doing straight up acoustic versions of their heavier songs note for note (which they are not) it is a challenge to play electric acoustic live in a large venue. The rub is even the best acoustic guitars sound too thin at times. It’s also unforgiving for mistakes, but then again, I heard none tonight. The second song of the night was my personal favorite since their first album, ‘Prayer’. I think this song works even better given this treatment than the original. ‘Crucified’ is one of their older songs they have given a slightly new arrangement to on the new album. Known to be a hard hitter behind the kit, Morgan Rose thrashed around and smashed his drums like any other time I have seen the band. Maybe just a touch softer. The entire band also sounded great singing together, not just Lajon and Clint Lowery either. ‘Under It All’ was the first of the new songs played and it fit right in with the oldies and deep cuts too. The gems they pulled out tonight were especially sweet if you were a long-time fan.
Ever the performer, Lajon got out of his seat, prowled the stage, and connected with the crowd as much as possible. It was cool to hear the entire room sing hits like ‘Denial’ just as loudly as a new cut like ‘Gone’. Lajon told stories about the songs, and the making of the new album, thanking the fans for the support. The band left the stage briefly only to return a little later to play some more. The second set had another new song ‘Come Down’, their well known cover of ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails. ‘Karma’ is a song the band has never played live and it still sounded fiery in this format too. Before closing out the night with a fitting 1-2 punch of ‘Angel’s Son’ and closer ‘Black’, Witherspoon talked about the late Lynn Strait of Snot for whom ‘Angel’s Son’ was written for as well as Dimebag Darrell. It’s nice how the band have kept their perspective all these years. Whether or not you are a fan, if you have a chance to see this tour, do yourself a favor and go get a ticket.
Sevendust Set List:
Under It All
Hurt (Nine Inch Nails cover, Johnny Cash version)
Got a Feeling
WORDS: KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES
PHOTOS: ECHOES IN THE WELL