I’m one of the rare Sevendust fans who doesn’t buy the Cubs/White Sox-like dichotomy that you can only like Sonny Mayo’s or Clint Lowery’s guitarwork. This is Sonny’s final album with Sevendust, and it is for the most part excellent.
That said, too much attention goes to the Sonny/Clint thing. John Connolly is an excellent guitarist by any standard, and Vinnie Hornsby on bass is utterly insane in the best bassist kind of way. While Morgan Rose’s powerful drumming and backing vocals and Lajon Witherspoon’s sometimes-raging sometimes-gentle vocals often take center stage, John and Vinnie together form the solid sinews of each song, whether with Sonny, Clint or any of their guest instrumentalists. That kind of flexibility for a rhythm duo should not be passed up.
To the album itself:
“Chapter VII” is the most brooding and mood-changing album since “Animosity”. It reflects the band’s maturity and that they are consummate artists – something that may not be appreciated by fans who stopped listening after the viciously good “Home” or who didn’t tune in until the mainstream-friendly but deliciously experimental “Seasons”.
Where “Alpha” was pure aggression (listening to the title song is like kickboxing on four shots of espresso), “Chapter VII” remains agitated but is consciously brooding and sometimes defiant.
“Inside” is an awesome opening track (though I would have put “Enough” later in the album, since it shares the same energy and made me wonder whether they were two movements on the same theme). I can picture the lights slowly coming up as Morgan’s drumming agitates further to the driving guitar crescendos, followed by Lajon’s terse argument and his more melodic self-rebuttal as John, Vinnie and Sonny blend into a tempo change that at once foretells and anticipates the complex harmony at the core of the song.
“Hope” is, ironically, the darkest song on the album, though Mark Tremonti’s guitar work adds a stunning narrative that makes me wonder if the band will tap him if Lowery takes on another project. There’s something in the pacing of “Scapegoat” that doesn’t seem to mesh as well with other tracks; “Prodigal Son” is the opposite – strongly driven by Lajon’s own vocal rhythm. “Lifeless” and “Walk Away” are both masterful and let each member of the band shine – blends of minor and power chords, alternatingly intense and soulful drumming, shifting bass lines that both lead and drive the melody, and Lajon’s incredibly expressive range.
In short, “Chapter VII” is an excellent album that, while not as singles-friendly as “Animosity” or “Next”, holds together in a cohesion that good albums should and rare albums do.