Let's get one thing out of the way right now: A few of my fellow reviewers have said that anyone giving this new album from Sevendust five stars is only doing so because it is new material from the band. While that may be the case with some folks on here, it certainly is not with me. I just happen to think that Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow is excellent and my new personal favorite of the last four they have released. In due time, it just might replace Animosity as my favorite of all of their albums. (I know, I know...blasphemy!) Thinking that does not make my review any less "honest" than someone who gives it three stars for the opposite reasons. If you don't like the new record as much as 7D's previous releases, that's fine, but implying that anyone who gives it a perfect rating is misguided somehow only makes you look like the musical elitists that you aren't.
That said, onto reviewing the album. I apologize in advance for how long this will be.
Chapter VII is, without a doubt, a progression from the band's previous release, Alpha. Much as I love that album, it had too many songs that tried to be heavy just for the sake of being heavy. In other words, they had very little melody and what melody there was didn't help make the song very listenable. I'm talking about songs like "Deathstar," "Beg To Differ," "Story Of Your Life," and most definitely "Alpha." The same can be said for a handful of tracks from the Next record, including "Hero," "Pieces," "Silence," and "The Last Song." Now don't get me wrong, I love a heavy Sevendust song as much as the next guy. But it seemed like on these songs the band tried a little too hard to emphasize just how heavy they can be, and personally I think it didn't do them any favors outside of performing them live, where heavier songs always sound better. If anything, Alpha was more or less "Next Part Deux" to me. The way I see it, Sevendust are at their best when their albums strike that perfect balance between beauty and brutality, and this new release does just that, not unlike the nearly seven-year old Animosity.
The album kicks off with "Inside," one of the many songs on the record that I consider to be absolutely perfect in every respect. It is followed by "Enough," which although good doesn't quite stack up to its predecessor. "Hope" and "Scapegoat" are next, and they pick the album right back up on the note that "Inside" left off at. The chours and guitar solo (courtesy of Alter Bridge's Mark Tremonti) on "Hope" are particularly noteworthy; the chorus being one of the most powerful of Sevendust's career in my opinion. Probably the best and most passionate screaming I've ever heard Morgan do, and that's really saying something. "Fear" is my least favorite track on the album. I'm not saying it's bad, but there's just nothing really special about it. "The Past," a song which Chris Daughtry contributes his powerful pipes to, is in a word incredible. Definitely one of the better collaborations the group has done. (I think I'm the only person I know who DIDN'T like Chino Moreno's guest vocals on "Bender" from the Home album. Sorry guys; I think his voice just sucks.)
"Prodigal Son," the song chosen as the album's first single, is the funky and soulful side of Sevendust we have all come to know and love over the years. I defy any of you to not have the chorus stuck in your head after listening to it a couple of times (or to at least to not start saying "I'm comin' on like an elephant gun!" at the most random times). "Lifeless" is another stunner, especially in the pre-chorus when the music tones down and Lajon sings beautifully. "Sorrow," the group's collaboration with Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy (another one of the most powerful voices in rock today), is right up there with Aaron Lewis' performance on "Follow" in my opinion. He definitely has a better range and sense of melody than Lewis. "Contradiction" reminds me of what "Rumble Fish" from the Home album would sound like if the band wrote it today, and that certainly isn't a bad thing. The closing track on most copies of this album, "Walk Away," is the true epic here. Over six minutes in length, and while it might not be as diverse in composition as "Burn" from Alpha, it is just as good. I say most copies because I bought mine at Best Buy, and it includes two bonus tracks, "Lucky One" and "Heart In Your Hands." The former doesn't do much for me and I don't rate it any higher than "Fear," but the latter is classic Sevendust through and through. Melodic, soulful, and heavy in all the right places.
Everyone in the band is in top form here, particularly Lajon and Morgan, whose drumming is somewhat, dare I say it, Vinnie Paul-esque this time around. The man continues to impress me more with every new album Sevendust puts out. And while this recording might be Sonny Mayo's swan song with the band, he certainly does not disappoint, contributing the best riffs and solos of his near four year tenure.
So, to sum up, an "out of 10" rating for each song:
6) "The Past"-10/10
7) "Prodigal Son"-10/10
11) "Walk Away"-10/10
12) "Lucky One" (bonus track)-8/10
13) "Heart In Your Hands" (bonus track)-10/10
Thirteen tracks, nine of which I consider perfect and some of the best in Sevendust's entire catalog. I can't be much more honest than that.