Sevendust have long been one of the hardest working and most likeable bands in heavy rock. For the past ten years, Sevendust have maintained a very consistent and reliable schedule: play about a billion shows, take a brief break only once every other year to record a new album, and then hit the road again. And yet, for all their hard work, this Georgia-based quintet remain one of metal's most underrated bands too, because none of their records have ever reached platinum certification in sales.
Album number six, this year's "Alpha," is Sevendust's heaviest and most confident-sounding efforts of the several years (and maybe since their self-titled debut dropped in 1997). It's definitely a worthy addition to Sevendust's discography, because it's filled with the usual goodies: strong, hefty, churning riffs (from guitarist John Connolly), thumping drums, muscular, crunching rhythms, energetic, call-and-response vocals, and emotional lyrics. And the band members have clearly honed their musical skills quite a bit over this past decade, because "Alpha" boasts an increased instrumental acumen (for example, Connolly has started playing an occasional guitar solo), and matured lyrics (many of the lyrics were inspired by drummer Morgan Rose's personal suffering over the past two years.) Plus, a few of these songs even see Sevendust taking small experimental steps.
Unfortunately, "Alpha" does not have very many strong or memorable hooks, and almost no instantly catchy parts. Plus, none of these twelve tracks has the potential to be a hit single or a great mosh pit anthem (like, say, "Enemy," from 2003's "Seasons"). Thus, it will probably take more than one listen in order for the songs to stick with and leave a lasting impression on the listener.
That's certainly not a fatal flaw, though, because every song on here is a keeper. "Alpha" opens with a knockout one-two punch: First, the very heavy, visceral and punishing opener, ("Deathstar") immediately greets you with a powerful blow, and the energetic, equally-as-heavy "Clueless" leaves you almost totally crushed. "Beg To Differ" and "Story of Your Life," which boast pounding, machine gun riffs that fall like a ton of bricks, are also of note for being the two other heaviest tracks on here. Some of the album's more experimental songs include "Aggression," which is more-or-less a ballad that builds slow from a Nine Inch Nails-esque piano intro, and the surprisingly angry and thrashy set-closer (the title track). But track eleven, "Burn," is definitely the biggest departure. It's a nine-minute-long epic that segues from a restrained intro into a heavy mid-section with punching, blasting power chords, and fades back down again into a lengthy outro with tribal drums, cool piano keys, acoustic strumming, and dreary vocals. Other highlights include the prominent, beeping bass lines and nice, soaring, soulful choruses on "Driven"; the chunky, bullying riffs and two impressive guitar solos on "Feed"; and frontman Lajon Witherspoon's absolutely beautiful singing on "Under."
Due to the above-mentioned lack of hooks, it's highly doubtful that this will become the long-overdue breakthrough album that finally catapults Sevendust into hard rock superstardom. Nevertheless, "Alpha" is still a good, wholly solid album that ranks among the group's best and most consistent works), and all fans should be completely satisfied with it.