The ‘Alpha’ and Omega of nu-metal

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By Tyler Davidson

By Tyler Davidson

Atlanta-based rock quintet Sevendust have solidified its status as one of hard rock’s most underrated acts with its latest release, “Alpha.” Released in early March, “Alpha” embodies a sonic attack that, even to the casual listener, proves to be just as toxic as the insecticide the band is named after.

The most notable attribute of the disc is its hypnotic melodies. Catchy as all hell and twice as powerful, they are only enhanced by the oft-haunting vocal range of charismatic frontman Lajon Witherspoon.

“Alpha” marks the second consecutive appearance of lead guitarist Sonny Mayo (formerly of Snot and Amen), one of the best kept secrets in contemporary metal. The veteran axeman stands out on the album, providing unforgettably heavy riffs on tracks like “Under” that will have listeners banging their heads without even knowing it. Mayo has a versatile style that few can duplicate; not to mention the fact that, when examined closely, there is something that demands respect about a guitarist that lent his talents to Vanilla Ice’s 1998 attempt at metal, “Hard to Swallow.”

Another element that has given the album a unique sound and feel is the unorthodox recording process the band underwent. Whereas most bands record each member’s part individually, “We did it differently,” Mayo said. “Morgan [Rose, drummer] would do a couple of tracks…then Vinnie [Hornsby, bassist], John [Connolly, rhythm guitarist], and I would all track to the drums together, so it would have…a real unified energy.”

Also contributing to the record was veteran producer Shawn Grove (Collective Soul, Edwin McCain.) “We call him a ninja…behind the board,” says Witherspoon. “He knows melody, he knows harmony…I look at him as another member of Sevendust.”

The liner notes of “Alpha” depict the album’s lyrics scrawled on blood-stained sheets of notebook paper, a fitting image for what can be described as one of Sevendust’s most lyrically aggressive efforts.

The disc’s angry motif is driven home on tracks like “Confessions of Hatred,” on which Rose recites eerie lines to the song’s helpless subject, angrily letting them know that “you helped me create this hate.”

“Alpha” will also see a first for Sevendust; the album is being called a concept record, with comparisons being drawn by Rose to director David Fincher’s 1999 cult classic, “Fight Club.”

Of the concept, Rose has said that he wanted to stray away from writing lyrics that were too personally exclusive, so he began to think on a broader spectrum, searching for words that could be applicable to a wide audience. “[The lyrical content] is something that…more people deal with than you might think,” Rose said, “and that is…something that you’re battling within yourself.”

In the story of “Alpha,” the anonymous main character starts in a sort of duality, trying desperately to contain two halves of his personality. He subsequently works his way through twelve rampant tracks of fear (“Clueless”), bitterness (“Feed”), hate (“Confessions of Hatred”), and ultimately, redemption in independence (“Alpha”), as he kills off one of his two halves. Which side he killed, however, is left largely up to the listener.

In support of this release, Sevendust have opted to keep alive its reputation of being one of the hardest working bands in rock music. Relentlessly touring after each of its five previous releases since 1997, the group has opened for such world-renowned acts as Kid Rock, Nickelback, and Disturbed, as well as the Jared Leto-fronted 30 Seconds to Mars. This time around, however, it finds itself playing the bride, rather than the bridesmaid, headlining a tour with relative unknowns Red, Diecast, and Invitro.

With “Alpha,” Sevendust brings fans of the group right back to the beginning of its career with what might be the best record the band has put out since its brutal self-titled release almost a decade ago. The album delivers nearly an hour’s worth of heavy, yet entrancing material that definitely proves the experienced fivesome still has the power to rock as hard as any new acts, and doesn’t plan on letting up any time soon.

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