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Sevendust

Sevendust displays maturity on new CD


Sevendust singer Lejon Witherspoon knows some fans may complain that his band failed to stay true to its heavy-metal ethics by showing a more melodic dimension — and gasp — including a ballad or two on its new CD,"Seasons."

Without wanting to express any bitterness for those who might hold that opinion, Witherspoon had a message to those who perceive this shift in Sevendust's music.

"People can say whatever, but Sevendust is still one of the heaviest hitting bands around," he said. "I just think it's foolish not to be able to do a ballad if you feel it, because at the end of the day, I don't care how hard and heavy you are, you're sad, you know what I mean. Sometimes you have to get those emotions out, and that's how we do it, through our songs. That's how we get our frustrations out as well."

The music on "Seasons" supports Witherspoon's assertions. It is true that Sevendust's grasp for melody has never been more obvious than on the new CD. Tunes like "Separate," "Disgrace" and the title song boast undeniable vocal melodies and guitar riffs that also have plenty of ear-grabbing power as well. On "Broken Down," Sevendust employs programmed rhythms and shifts easily between ambient and anthemic rock. And yes, "Skeleton Song" inescapably qualifies as a ballad.

That said, "Seasons" is far from wimpy. It doesn't rock as relentlessly as Sevendust's earlier CDs, but even the most melodic songs pack plenty of punch. And songs, such as "Enemy" — the CD's agitated first single — "Face to Face" and "Suffocate," have moments that deliver full-on fury.

While the more melodic side of "Seasons" is notable, the biggest contrasts, though, may not come in the music. As Witherspoon hinted, the lyrics display a broader emotional range and even a measure of vulnerability that's rare in heavy music.

For instance, the character in "Honesty" openly regrets his role in ruining a relationship, concluding "And now the only sound I hear/Is my guilty conscience/screaming out your name." For Witherspoon the emotional depth and range of "Seasons" is partly a function of the growth of the individual band members and a decision to tone down some indulgences within the band.

"In the beginning we were young and Motley Crue'd up," he said, acknowledging the role partying played in the band's lifestyle. "Everybody grows up and babies come into play and realizing that it's a really beautiful career and we can't mess this up, man.''

Guitarist Clint Lowery, in particular, openly has discussed his decision to quit drinking. But Witherspoon said the band's behavior never was out of control.

"I don't really feel that way, but I just know it was time to change," he said.

Sevendust's greater focus was apparent in its approach to the "Seasons" CD. Guitarists Lowery and Connelly dedicated many of their free moments to songwriting and had nearly 90 songs in various states of completion heading into the project. By the time the group members — Witherspoon, Lowery, Connelly, bassist Vinnie Hornsby and drummer Morgan Rose — got ready to record, they felt they had whittled the song stack down to the very strongest material and were fully prepared to start recording.

"A lot of times (on previous CDs) we were writing when we were in the studio, so there was a lot more pressure on the band," Witherspoon said. "But on this album, we went in and it was already there. It was like: 'This is what we have. That sounds good. Let's go ahead and record it.'"

Even though Sevendust may not have been as prepared for recording on its previous CDs, the group has had a good deal of success. In fact, all three of its previous CDs — Sevendust's 1997 self-titled debut, the 1999 CD, "Home" and the 2001 release, "Animosity" — each went gold.

That sales performance was nothing to be ashamed of, but considering that some groups that once opened for Sevendust — such as Staind and Nickelback — have gone on to enjoy multi-platinum hit CDs, Sevendust has good reason to believe it's overdue for a similar breakthrough.

Witherspoon acknowledged that it can be frustrating to see other bands enjoy such commercial success, but he's grateful to know that three gold albums have Sevendust firmly entrenched on the hard-rock scene. He's also confident that the group eventually will make bigger breakthrough.

And with a new CD in "Seasons" that Witherspoon considers the band's most realized effort to date and a more focused approach to their lifestyle and career, he believes Sevendust is ready for its turn in the spotlight.

"I really feel like everything is aligned perfectly. The planets are aligned," he said. "(Producer) Butch (Walker) coming back in, man, that's full circle for us. Once we started working (on "Seasons") the magic was hitting. It was a great experience."

Sevendust plays Jan. 23 at the Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show, which also features Ill Nino and Element Eighty, cost $22.50.

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