Believe it or not, there was a time when there was a hierarchy of quality in the much-maligned nu metal genre. During the 90’s, nu metal acts such as Coal Chamber and Limp Bizkit caught flak for what was generally perceived as an horrible blend of tone deaf heavy metal and laughably bad pseudo-macho hip-hop influences. The latter’s frontman, Fred Durst, is still known today as one of the most iconic of his ilk in nu metal… and not for good reason.
On the other hand nu metal was a spectrum, and the hip-hop influenced brand just happened to be the loudest, most obnoxious, and highest earning end of it. Other bands emerged from all over the United States, inspired by groove metal popularized by Pantera half a decade earlier. These bands, like Nothingface, Mudvayne, and Sevendust made themselves stand out quite a bit with their much more serious presentation of a much more balls-to-the-walls, dissonant brand of nu metal. Gone was the rapping, instead replacing it was a vocal style that combined the angsty screams of death metal with the clean singing of previously-established alternative metal bands. Such a style resonated much more with the heavy metal community, and as a result these bands dated themselves much less in their heyday, earning much more respect in the long term as “nu” bands that, in short, didn’t sound like shit.
Either way the pendulum swung, these nu metal bands would eventually see a fade-out from pop culture, regardless of how they presented themselves.. Unless your name was Korn, you could guarantee a drop off in your popularity as the 2000’s progressed. However in recent times it appears these alternative metal and nu metal bands of old have re-emerged supposedly to reconquer a bit of their spotlight they thrived under back in the day by furiously releasing albums every two or so years and touring relentlessly with one another.
This is where Sevendust come in. Sevendust styled themselves along this more serious nu metal approach back with their self-titled debut in 1997. Groove metal and hardcore elements permeated this album, cementing it as one of the more impressive of it’s kind. Even as Sevendust progressed, releasing their sophomore Home in 1999 and dropping the nu-metal pretense for a much more by-the-books alternative style, they still retained a certain sense of musical maturity and competence you wouldn’t see in many of their peers. But twenty years have passed since this era, and Sevendust don’t exactly sound the same as they used to.
All I See Is War certainly sports the Sevendust name, but showcases a very different band than the one whose songs appeared on a gauntlet of racing video games fifteen years ago. For the most part this album could be seen as a continuation of 2015’s Kill The Flaw, as it is much more in line with the melodic metalcore sound the band’s been developing for the past few years. Frontman Lajon Witherspoon, although very talented, has entirely ditched the brutal scream-singing used on the band’s first several albums for a much more unembellished, sonorous vocal style. Backing Witherspoon is generally standard and painfully milquetoast instrumentation, such as a thudding double-kick drums, dual guitar chords and barely noticeable bass guitar. Basically, everything you’d hear on Chimaira albums like The Age of Hell except about as edgy as an amorphous blob of Play-Doh. Much of the tracks on All I See Is War follow roughly the same format replete with poppy guitar hooks and melodic vocal choruses and Jesus-cartwheeling-Christ, if you’ve heard a single one of these choruses then you’ve basically heard the rest. I’ve heard these vocals described as “emotional” and, although they might the first two times you hear them, they certainly don’t the eighth or the ninth. The only track that does a bit of standing out for me is ‘Risen’, and I’m not quite sure why myself. It’s just one of the very few times this new Sevendust formula lands an actual hit.
Sevendust have prided themselves on this album, as they see it as an experiment in style in order to avoid becoming stale. In that aspect, I suppose what they’ve done with this work is somewhat commendable, as it doesn’t sound like the Sevendust I was introduced to years back. Commendable or not though, the new brand of Sevendust doesn’t sit well with me and doesn’t seem like one that has room to evolve or will sound anything other than dated a decade into the future.