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  • As a preview of what is to come: This album is not a bad one. It IS however a bad example of Sevendust’s musicianship, and if you are just getting introduced to this band, a better place to start would probably be their self-titled album for a heavier introduction or “Seasons” for a more mainstream but still excellent album. Now on to “Next”…

    Walking into the record store to buy “Next” on October 11th was absolutely nerve-wracking. With all of the factors building up against Sevendust prior to the recording of this latest effort, it seemed that the good old southern boys might finally stumble after providing us with almost ten years of being the “most” (please excuse a rabid fan’s superlative) talented and reliable source of heavy rock music. I am not sure if “stumble” would be the best word to most accurately describe what has happened with this album, but it certainly has not been a completely smooth transition for Sevendust. Granted, they have had a lot to overcome in the recording of “Next”, what with the loss of an integral member of the band in Clint Lowery and a turbulent change in labels; to overcome all of this speaks to their longevity and solidarity as a band. But what we have here is not an evolution of the band, as would have been the best result of the new addition to the band in Sonny Mayo and the freedom of self-production, what we have instead is a step backwards in complexity and content to something… below (I shudder to use that word) what this stellar unit of musicians should be producing.

    Before going on, I am going to add a disclaimer. The three stars I am giving this album is only in context to Sevendust’s potential. I would still consider this one of the best albums of 2005. With that said, here is why this Next step in Sevendust’s evolution has proved to be a mildly disappointing one. As much as the band and we the fans assert that Sevendust will not notice the absence of Clint Lowery in the band, it shows on the album. I do not know that much about guitar besides what I can hear, but background vocals provided by Clint in past recordings were a key layer to any song that was not a total thrasher, and a part of many that were. For evidence of both, see Skeleton Song from Seasons (or even better, them covering Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” on Southside Double-Wide) and Face from their self-titled debut. More importantly than what was in the past is what we can hear, or not hear, on “Next”. Sorry boys, but Morgan’s scratchy scream can only go so far. As much as it works perfectly in some songs, it is most effective when used in moderation, and we’re getting way too much of Morgan’s voice on “Next.” So we either need to let Sonny or John or Vinny try singing or change things up , because the band just doesn’t have any backup vocals anymore, and their style did not change accordingly on “Next”.

    Self-production may be the right way for Sevendust to do things. I am not convinced by “Next”. In interview after interview, Sevendust vouches for their needing to self-produce something after TVT (their old label) had been breathing down their necks for so many years. I am not questioning that happening or that being wrong, and if they had been telling Sevendust to make their music less heavy to please fan or make music, that was obviously wrong and not in the spirit of authenticity and “music-for-the-music” that Sevendust has embraced and tried to project as their image. So if going into the studio and producing the album the way they wanted to on their own is something that they felt like they had to do in order to restore authenticity and “heaviness” to their style, then more power to them. My theory, however, is that Sevendust may have taken the self-sufficiency bit a little too far. The whole album feels a little bit MORE produced than anything they have ever made and OVER-heavy to the point where it is no longer “heavy” and becomes a stuttering mess. It seems as if they were so reluctant to take any input from the outside after being pushed around by TVT for so long that they didn’t take any criticism from anyone. At least that is what I hope happened, because on this album we have an overabundance of sounds and effects produced via computer (see intros to most of the first eight songs, most notably “Ugly” and “Pieces”) and a HUGE mistake has been made with synthesizers on “This Life,” which is a prime example of cheesy 80’s style synthesizer being brought back from the dead in an ugly and unaesthetic manner. “This Life” along with “See and Believe” and “The Last Song” are all outstanding examples of Sevendust running out of things to say. Oops. The maxing-out on “heaviness” which apparently the band felt was robbed from them on past records, can at some points be extremely effective and stirring, as the best of Sevendust’s work is, but at other times, it falls completely flat, much as Morgan’s screaming is often used too much (for the best example of Sevendust heaviness, see their self-titled album, which has all of the raw and “heavy” musical power and grit that the boys were trying and to capture on this album). The best situation is that this album got all of their “heavy-jones” out and they can move past that to making the music that comes naturally to them out without worrying about being the heaviest band ever and considering more the content of their lyrics and the music itself.

    That is ALL of the bashing and negative criticism i can bring myself to make of this band, which remains my favorite band(if you would begrudge me such a petty designation). The boys’ spirit and heart for performance still presumably remains intact, and that is what really makes them great. There are some moments on this latest effort that really do shine and brush the levels to which we have seen these guys rise before. See “Failure,” “Ugly,” or “Silence” for evidence of truly soaring choruses, and the bridge of “See and Believe” to get a taste of Sevendust can do when they do “heavy” right. Once again, the mediocrity of this album can only be noticed when listened to in context of Sevendust’s past material, and this very slight stumble has not shaken my faith in this excellent band. Hopefully with the next album, the band can actually grow musically in their exciting and promising new circumstance rather than worry about becoming some kind of heavy monster of a band…

    Posted on February 22, 2010