December 19, 2005

CD Review: Sevendust - Best of (Chapter One 1997-2004)

My history with Sevendust has been spotty at best. I was first introduced to them on the Strangeland soundtrack. I remember, shortly after that, having the money to pick up one CD, it came down to the first Sevendust or Coal Chamber albums, Coal Chamber one that battle for a reason I don't remember (probably eenie meenie minie moe). Anyway, I picked up the next two disks, Home and Animosity, then nothing until the most recent release of Next. Now they have a greatest hits disk set to hit the shelves.

It seems like odd timing for this type of collection. The disk covers the first seven years of the career, spanning 4 albums. It does contain 12 rocking tracks from those albums, plus a few unreleased B-sides, so there is plenty here to listen to. I do have a theory as to why this release is timed as it is. Their latest album was released on a new label, Winedark Records, while all of their prior releases were on TVT Records. This must have been the album that got them out of their contract and allowed them to change their label. Anyway, back to the album at hand.

The album opens with a trio from their 1997 debut album, "Black," "Bitch," and "Too Close to Hate." Three songs which demonstrate that talent they had, and the promise of what was still to come. My favorite here would have to be "Too Close to Hate," it has an incredibly heavy vibe and that clipped, sing along style.

Next are four songs from the sophomore release, and my first true introduction, Home. The selections are "Denial," Waffle," "Assdrop," and "Bender," the latter featuring Deftones' Chino Moreno. First thing you may notice is that you may not recognize the name "Assdrop," it was formerly known as "Rumblefish." Why the name change, I could not answer. The other thing to notice is that "Waffle" is not the original album, version, it is an alternate mix from Tom Lord-Alge. These songs a big step forward over their first album, the mix is better, the sound is heavier, and Lajon Witherspoon's vocals are more forward in the mix and overall more aggressive. I would have liked to pick a favorite from these, but they are all excellent songs, I guess if pressed, I would have to go with "Waffle," from its mellow opening to its sludgey riffs, it is a great package.

Following that are three songs from 2001's Animosity, "Angel's Son," "Praise," and "Follow," the latter featuring Staind frontman Aaron Lewis. The first puts the softer side of Sevendust on display, and in particular Lajon's strong, soulful voice, which is capable of conveying that softer side as easily as displaying the aggression which is their trademark. "Praise" keeps the rock heavy and the aggression high during this cycle which resulted in some great songs, and wider range, as the soulful Sevendust is more evident. That brings me to my pick of this trio, "Follow." It has that aggressive undercurrent, but has the soulful trappings of the softer side, it plays up both sides well. This album helped round out the band, expanding their repertoire, yet remaining true to their heavy roots.

Closing out the "Best of" portion of the proceedings are a pair of songs from Seasons, released in 2003, "Enemy" and "Face to Face." I believe these are the first songs I've heard from this album, and they are pretty good. Both of them play up the combination of the heavy and the mellow shifts within the same song. Both are also noticeably heavier than the entries of Animosity. I would have to take "Face to Face" first of the two, it has an overall feel that is incredibly aggressive and induces an involuntary head rock to the beat.

The last four tracks are B-sides and bonus tracks from the Seasons sessions. The first two are original recordings. The initial offering is a heavy rocker called "Coward." It is followed by the more mellow "Rain." Both of them a good tracks, and easily match up to those that originally made the album proper. The final two are cover tracks. First up is Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues," which, if you didn't know, might think is another original as it certainly doesn't sound like Marvin Gaye. It is rocked up, yet retains a soulful core, this is an excellent cover track. Finally we have "School's Out," originally by Alice Cooper. This new Sevendust version was produced by Jay Jay French and Mark "The Animal" Mendoza of Twisted Sister fame. This has an old school feel, but is definitely heavier, with a slightly punk sound to the chorus. Another good cover.

Bottomline. Overall, this is a good collection. Fans probably already have most, if not all of these songs, but it is great to have them collected like this. On the other hand, if you are not familiar with Sevendust, and have a thirst for some straight up hard rock and metal, none of that nu-metal stuff, this would serve as an excellent introduction to one of the most consistent and hard rocking acts on the planet. Plus, they put on one hell of a live show!



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