October 21, 2020 Sevendust – Blood & Stone (Album Review)
Atlanta Heavy Metal powerhouse Sevendust has been around since the ’90s and has made a career out of doing the unexpected. Despite not always receiving the kind of fanfare their colleagues have over the years, the band has come to be well respected in the Rock world. Consisting of Lajon Witherspoon (vocals), John Connolly (guitar), Morgan Rose (drums, backing vocals), Clint Lowery (guitar, backing vocals), and Vince Hornsby (bass), the guys of Sevendust have been fortunate to avoid the litany of lineup changes that have plagued some of their peers.
It is because of this fortified bond, forged in the fires of over 20 years in the music business together, that Sevendust has been able to create and maintain a sound that is tight and recognizable. In a world currently plagued by a literal plague and in a climate of social unrest, any distraction from the chaos is a welcome sight (or sound). This is what makes the release of Blood & Stone that much more fortuitous.
Set for release on Friday, October 23, 2020, Blood & Stone is Sevendust’s 13th studio album and the band’s second release with Rise Records. For this album, the guys returned to the studio with notorious producer and musician Michael “Elvis” Baskette, who has worked with other Metal heavyweights such as Alter Bridge and Slash.
From the start Blood & Stone ignites a fire in the listener. The opening track “Dying to Live” features the crunchy riffs of Lowery and thundering percussion of Rose which, paired with Witherspoon’s charged vocals, commands attention. Something that is immediately clear about this album in contrast to their others is the marked difference in the composition that demonstrates the depth of the band’s growth and maturity. Over the years Sevendust has made their bones on being a workhorse in the Rock and Metal community. These guys are often referred to as some of the hardest working and most underrated musicians in the scene, and the hallmark dedication to their craft is evident here.
On this album the men of Sevendust build a full narrative picture within the first three songs. The ability to paint a picture with your music -when done correctly- is a rare gift, and within a matter of moments on Blood & Stone listeners are submerged in this world of emotive expression and vulnerability. “Feel Like Going On” is a great example of the ways in which the band plays with different orchestral vibes to create an ambiance that is significant to the emotional conflict within. It is sweeping and hauntingly beautiful. This is followed by the cutting edge and intense honesty of “What You’ve Become.” It’s both a plea of honesty and a searing critique of hidden intentions.
The band’s most admirable quality is their ability to replicate their own sound without recreating the same albums time and again; when you hear a Sevendust album you just know it. The relentless string work of Lowery and Connolly, alongside the impeccable percussive duo of Rose and Hornsby, and topped with the vocal dynamics and emotional conveyance of Witherspoon is what makes their work so consistent and engaging. “Criminal” displays these dynamics beautifully with the vulnerability in the lyrics and vocals over the top of the smooth ebb and flow of the chords and the building percussive heartbeat. It’s a lush and entrancing track that highlights some of the best attributes of the band. “Against The World” is a bouncy and infectious track that is both uplifting and catchy in the chorus before breaking down into the crunchy and vicious break that hammers itself out to the end.
Originally written by the late Chris Cornell, “The Day I Tried To Live” was made famous by Soundgarden in 1994 when the band released it as the second single from their fourth studio album, Superunknown. The tribute to the late Audioslave and Soundgarden frontman takes on a new sheen under the vocal prowess of Witherspoon. The soft grit on his vocals coupled with the sharper guitar sound in Sevendust’s version adds an aspirational quality to the song that shakes things up. Fans of the original will hopefully find the wakefulness and attentiveness ingratiate throughout the track where it’s obvious the band was mindful to be respectful of the original. Closing with the cover song on Blood & Stone, and the final words of “one more time around,” leaves much up for debate and interpretation, but the main takeaway should be that of the original which is that tomorrow is a new day and therefore a new chance to start over. Every day that you wake up is “one more time around.”
Overall, the men of Sevendust have once again delivered with consistency, dignity and talent, and a signature sound that is easily distinguishable from their peers. While Witherspoon’s vocals are unmistakable, it’s the way they meld into and bolster the work of Lowery, Connolly, Rose, and Hornsby that has made Sevendust an industry staple since 1994. Blood & Stone presents a pleasant problem for fans in that it dares them to have a favorite song from its arsenal of melodic and transformative tracks. So, for consistency, growth, and unpretentious demonstration of skill, Cryptic Rock gives Sevendust’s Blood & Stone 4.5 out of 5 stars.