Review: Sevendust – ‘Chapter VII: Hope And Sorrow’

Posted: March 29th, 2008
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: April 1, 2008 via 7Bros./Asylum
Sevendust is:
Lajon Witherspoon (Vocals)
Clint Lowery (Guitar)
John Connolly (Guitar)
Vince Hornsby (Bass)
Morgan Rose (Drums)

Overview: Back in 2001, Weezer made a roaring comeback with their ‘Green‘ album. The following year, they dropped ‘Maladroit‘. When asked about the brief span between successive releases, front-man Rivers Cuomo stated they would put out a new album each year for at least the next few years; nearly six years later, and ‘Maladroit‘ is still the most recent Weezer fashion. Why would I bring up Weezer you ask? Because a band out of Hotlanta, Georgia seems to have adopted Cuomo’s thinking, whether intentional or not. Yes, it was a little more than one year ago that Sevendust released their sixth studio effort ‘Alpha‘, and proceeded to rigorously tour in support of the record for months. While former axeman Clint Lowery was busy desecrating hotel rooms on tour with Korn, Sevendust began writing for their next album, announcing a new album was to be released before 2007 waved goodbye. No, it’s not a bird, it’s not a plane-it’s the roaddogs of Sevendust back for another go ’round with their seventh album fittingly entitled ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘, complete with a handful of cameos from esteemed contributors. With six days before the albums release, original guitarist Clint Lowery announced his return to the band.

The Good: For Sevendust, ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ throws out all the rules and serves to help redefine the band. You might be accustomed to a track leading off a Sevendust album to step up to the plate and deliver a bludgeoning welcome, but “Inside” sees no such fate. The song carefully gets the gears of ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ churning with a big, brooding introduction, segueing into punchy riffs and pummeling drums that are more graceful than they are catastrophic; throw in a towering chorus for good measure, and “Inside” is a bold statement from Sevendust, a disclaimer if you will to the intrepid and inquisitive nature of ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘. The band follows a tough act with “Enough”, a song dripping with ‘Animosity‘ inspired vibe that astutely harnesses a potent blend of harmony and melody, and culminates in bombastic fashion with the guttural belts of Morgan Rose. The first ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ alumnus, a guitarist by the name of Mark Tremonti, arrives on “Hope”, a hell of a song to happen so early on the record by anyone’s standards. “Hope” levitates gracefully from Tremonti-led ethereal and majestic verses to brutal bursts of chorus, but what about the track makes it far too epic for the infant stages of ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘? Venture about three minutes and forty seconds into “Hope” and you will find you answer-an orchestra driven, power metal tirade pulled off with precision, making it seem as though it were already Sevendust’s signature trade. ‘Animosity‘ fans rejoice, because the band once again taps into their 2001 release as they churn out “Sccapegoat”, a would-be standard fare rock sermon that ends up getting under your skin, utilizing the guitar savvy of John Connolly and Sonny Mayo and the tug-of-war vocal attack from Lajon Witherspoon and Morgan Rose. “Fear” keeps you on your toes, for what begins as an everyday Sevendust concoction of disjointed riffs and urgent vocals flutters angelically into a melodic powerhouse before being ignited for a bruising finale that ices off one of the most thorough tunes of ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘. Guest number two makes his presence felt on the sensitive “The Past”, as Lajon and Idol vet Chris Daughtry team up for a heartfelt and sincere combination of extraordinary vocal capabilities that will send chills running down your spine. ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ picks up the pace a bit with its first single and well-positioned “Prodigal Son”, a throwback anthem singed ever-so-slightly with stoner rock grooves that stands out as one of Sevendust’s strongest singles in recent time. “Lifeless” is its own entity, a venturesome dynamic rollercoaster that proves how cognizant Sevendust are to their craft. The trinity of guests featured on ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ is completed by the perfect fit of Myles Kennedy’s vocal contribution to “Sorrow”, a ruminating and impassioned piece caressed by humble doses of orchestral elements in one of Sevendust’s more soulful offerings. ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ has its glib side as well, emanated by the nu-metal flashback “Contradiction”; while the dreaded thought of nu-metal poking its head out of the grave is enough to make one shudder, who could be trusted more than Sevendust to sculpt something refreshingly nostalgic out of a genre better left in the dust? The final showdown arrives suddenly with “Walk Away”, a track scripted like that of a hurricane. The song gusts in the early going with incisive guitars and combative vocals, exalted by ‘Seasons’ era expansive choruses. The eye of the storm beckons during a brief moment of tranquility before being evaporated by a vitriolic Sevendust frenzy of an eye wall, nuking everything in its path; the storm that was ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ passes soon after, lingering the final stages of “Walk Away” with a phantom and placid outerlude for you to catch your breath, sit back, and come to a realization-you just got Sevendusted.

The Bad: Raking ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ over the coals at any degree seems tragic, but it must be done to some extent. A bulk of the songs begin with intros that clock in around a minute and change and quickly lose their desired effect after the first few attempts. Although Daughtry’s “The Past” and Kennedy’s “Sorrow” are nearly flawless, they are very similar in nature, and it would have been nice to have heard Sevendust use one of the two for a heavier, more energy-packed song. ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ is not the balls to the wall Sevendust you may have become accustomed to hearing on albums like ‘Home‘, ‘Next‘, or even ‘Alpha‘, relying more on sultry and meditative patterns and favoring growth and maturity over copious attacks on the listener; is this a bad thing for Sevendust?-not in the slightest, but could it possibly deter those listeners seeking the band they have become used to ripping them to shreds from fully appreciating what ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ has to offer?-sadly, yes.

Bottomline: Oh, before I go any further I want to make a point about ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘. Morgan, love the screams man, always have, but it was clear with ‘Alpha‘ it had gotten out of control. ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ sees Rose taking a much needed backseat, his screams implemented modestly to squeeze extra angst out of certain parts and rightfully allowing Lajon to have the floor and paint his provocative vocals across the remainder of the band’s instrumental genius. With that out of the way, there really is not much else I can say about ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘, because not only was “The Good” section long winded enough, but I am also left speechless each time I play the album front to back, a feat which no Dust album has been able to recreate for me since ‘Animosity‘. I must say, I am really happy for Sevendust, because it finally sounds as though they have recorded the album THEY wanted to make and hear, not the balls to the wall rock entendre a majority of their fans have become accustomed to hearing. Selfish desires fulfilled or not, ‘Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow‘ is arguably Sevendust’s most honest and complete works, and proves why they seem to stand stronger and stronger as time soldiers on. A truly magnificent album.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10