Funny how rock music trends come and go. When I came to town 10 years ago, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a nü-metal band. Alas, no more. In hindsight there were some superb acts. A friend turned me on to the best, Atlanta’s Sevendust, who plays The Joint at the Hard Rock on March 12 with Korn, Disturbed and In This Moment with the all-ages “Monster Energy Music As a Weapon 5 Tour.”
Within the shitstorm of heavy acts evacuating from the ass end of late-’90s Alternative Nation, only Sevendust remains consistent in terms of releasing good albums and performing live. Not a feat when your peers include Fred Durst, but if you dig bulldozer-grade riffs and emotional, melodic vocals, Sevendust delivers.
Quality wasn’t always a given. The band endured upheavals, from nearly going bankrupt because of bad distribution deals, to enlisting pop-rock producer Butch Walker for 2003’s Seasons, to losing guitarist Clint Lowery in 2004. Lowery was replaced by Sonny Mayo, but when Mayo left to reform his old band, Snot, the Sevendusters recruited the guy who’d written their earliest, most memorable songs.
“My goal was to put the band back where we started in terms of sound,” says Lowery from a hotel room in Corpus Christi, Texas. “For me, Sevendust is about heavy music married to soulful singing. I write around Lajon [Witherspoon]’s vocal style because it’s just so easy to work with. I contributed a lot this time—so many lyrics and song ideas—because I’d been gone for four years.”
Those ideas shine throughout Sevendust’s eighth full-length, Cold Day Memory, released last spring on the band’s imprint, 7Bros. Records. There’s borderline-thrash metal “Splinter,” with crushing time changes led by drummer Morgan Rose, followed by savagely soaring “Ride Insane,” with bassist Vinnie Hornsby hammering out grooves.
Not just a return to form and an original-lineup reunion, Memory showcases Witherspoon’s tenor, particularly in “Unraveling,” co-authored by Lowery and Dave Bassett, who has written hits for operatic superstar Josh Groban.
“Our manager suggested we team up. I thought it would be cool to collaborate,” reveals Lowery. “I met Dave at his house in Malibu and we worked on some songs. I swallowed my pride with the goal of writing something commercial. But I went in with an open mind and had fun.”
The band recorded in Chicago with producer John Karkazis (Disturbed, 3 Doors Down). Inclement weather helped the band choose an album title.
“Our lyrics have always been negative, darker. But the cold, somber weather of that time in the studio helped shape the music’s overall tone.”
He loves playing newer material from Memory because it reminds him of Chicago, but he prefers Vegas’ climate.
“We absolutely love it there,” he says. “People seem connected to what we do. They inspire us to put on a great show.”