Long popular for their consistency and quality approach to heavy music, Grammy-nominated Sevendust have steadily persisted for the better part of 25 years, accumulating twelve full-length albums along the way. The quintet has shown an affinity for polished hard rock that flirts with the teeth of something even heavier, manifesting in a flair of ephemeral aggression among a more imploring soulfulness. “Blood & Stone” carefully balances this sonic fire and ice in the band’s well-practiced hands, in part a product of a lineup which has not wavered since the band’s inception in 1994. Intimate familiarity with one another’s strengths and a comfortable rhythm of songwriting have produced an album which is uniquely identifiable as a derivation of the band’s cohesion while still adopting the modern tendencies of the present music scene.
“Blood & Stone” starts strong, opener “Dying to Live” and follow up punch “Love” setting the mood for an album that is largely spirited and inspired. “Dying to Live” leads with a balance of distortion and infectious melody, pushing deep into the heavier reaches of Sevendust’s abilities with fervent abandon. There’s no fear or hesitation as vocalist Lajon Witherspoon asserts himself amongst the slight sheen of static and deep thunder of percussion. Holding at a decent tempo without the speed becoming to restless, the carefully measured intensity carries to the slower and more densely layered “Love.” Despite its name there is nothing overtly sweet or saccharine about this track, its beautifully layered backing vocals making its sound swell with a certainty of execution without losing the forward momentum established by the album opener. Both are steeped with vibrancy for a fleeting touch of metal’s power without losing the polished radio-single appeal that has garnered the band their greatest accolades.
“Feel Like Going On” is the first true foray into the more gentle intonations of rock on the album, teasing out something more grounded than the euphoria that comes from soaring along at the sharp end of a blazing riff. “Feel Like Going On” carries about it a certain melancholy, guitarist Clint Lowery matching Witherspoon’s soulfulness while drums pour down in a mournful rain. Witherspoon demonstrates an uncanny ability for imbuing his vocals with negative emotion in such a way that they invite the listener in rather than place himself on an isolated stage of misery, a vocal talent further explored in the ballad-like clutches of “Criminal.” Though love and heartbreak are the two pillars of songwriting that have stood the tests of time, Sevendust approaches such familiar tales with a mature grace, one which speaks to both experience as musicians and as human beings whose hearts bleed through the notes for a deeper personal touch.
As cohesive as “Blood & Stone” feels in its entirety, “What You’ve Become” is the album’s high mark before a slow decline. Up through the start of “Kill Me” the album is beautifully paced, melding together bright takes that balance the enthusiastic energy which Sevendust carries with an air of originality. Fearlessness and abundant creativity dominate with organic storytelling devices, but tracks such as “Against the World” do little to build the earlier established atmosphere without dipping into a tired ‘sameness’ of filler-oriented song profiles. The hooks become less tantalizing and Witherspoon is used more like an axe than a scalpel with choruses that border on the memorable. With the later additions such as “Alone,” it feels as though Sevendust counted on its listeners to be so intrigued by the former half they’ll simply hold on for the rest of the ride. The musicianship and it’s production quality don’t dip, but the latter creativity takes an slump. “Wish You Well” reclaims some of the initial spark, but it is a touch too matte, and a touch too late.
Though showing some mild structural deficits, “Blood & Stone” is unmistakably the product of Sevendust’s longtime creative chemistry and understanding between band mates. Lowery wrote the album straight on the tail of his debut solo release, perhaps adding to the artistic flair which dominated some of the album’s most tempting hooks. And after more than two decades at the mic Witherspoon proves himself indomitable, particularly with his skillful take on Soundgarden’s “The Day I Tried To Live.” As winter approaches “Blood & Stone” will be a welcome addition to any fan’s discography and has a few offerings for single-heavy radio fans as well. Though it may not be the crowning gem of their catalog, “Blood & Stone” shows a band that has yet to fracture in their quality after a storied career and decades on the big stage.
Released By: Rise Records
Release Date: October 23rd, 2020
Genre: Hard Rock
- Vince Hornsby / Bass
- Morgan Rose / Drums, backing vocals
- John Connolly / Rhythm guitar
- Lajon Witherspoon / Lead vocals
- Clint Lowery / Lead guitar, backing vocals
“Blood & Stone” Track-listing:
- Dying to Live
- Blood From A Stone
- Feel Like Going On
- What You’ve Become
- Kill Me
- Nothing Left to See Here Anymore
- Against the World
- Wish You Well
- The Day I Tried To Live (Soundgarden)
Unforgiving punches and stylistic grace coincide for a display of Sevendust's longstanding prowess, "Blood & Stone" serving as yet another opportunity for the practiced musicians to show their chops while diving into emotionally dense waters