Long Live Nu-Metal

"Next", the fifth album from multi-million selling Atlanta natives Sevendust, was created during a period of turmoil in which the band switched management agencies, gained a new guitarist in the shape of Sonny Mayo and found themselves without a record deal. This new LP was recorded on their own dime while they waited to see how things would pan out. Via their website the band claim that this situation inspired them to create their heaviest and angriest album yet. They may have a point, but be aware that "Next" is only heavy in relative terms: it's got more teeth than your average chart-bothering nu-metal act, but it would look decidedly weedy stood next to the last Bathtub Shitter LP, for example.

Now that the wheels have fallen off the nu-metal bandwagon and it's lying burnt out and covered in 'police aware' flyers on the metaphorical council estate of the metal scene, you'd be forgiven for imagining that Sevendust might have decided that now was a good time to change tack. But the band themselves obviously saw little need to tinker with a formula which has won them 4 million record sales and counting in the US alone: "Next" is a traditional nu-metal record through and through. There's the usual staccato riffing on a single detuned chord played over vaguely funky beats and the standard lyrics angrily lashing out at everything and everyone who has raised the band's ire. Nu-metal only ever had two strategies when it came to the dynamic range of individual songs: the juxtaposition of heavy, distorted verses with clean, melodic choruses, and the counterpoint of this formula, the ever-popular quiet verse, loud chorus. Examples of both of these clichés are provided by the first and second tracks on the album respectively, although Sevendust do have the vision to break out of this rut as the LP progresses.

Despite this adherence to genre rules, however, there is enough individuality and ability in evidence to make Sevendust stand out somewhat from the decaying heap of nu-metal acts. Lajon Witherspoon's (predominantly clean) vocals have a touch more character to them than the average nu-metal mouthpiece (although they're occasionally weak on the actual singing bits) and the melodies are strong enough that you'll find yourself humming them subconsciously. Produced by the band themselves, the album is clear and polished but still packs enough of a punch to keep it from becoming a pop metal record. The stop-start guitars are suitably weighty, the bass throbs as it should, and the drums are sharp. Sevendust have definitely got more balls than the likes of Linkin Park (but then, so has a particularly under-endowed eunuch). They only really set a foot wrong with 'This Life', a song dedicated to guitarist John Connolly's newborn baby daughter. It's a ballad of such saccharine, scrotum-shrivelling sickliness that it made even this confirmed, lighter-waving Bon Jovi fan sneer in disgust. If you've managed to resist the nu-metal invasion this far then there'll be little to interest you on "Next"; if, on the other hand, your eyebrow is pierced, you have interesting facial hair and the only things more ill fitting than your hat are your jeans/combat trousers, then you might want to give this LP a try.

Initial pressings of the album include a DVD which features 5.1 surround sound mixes of four tracks ('Failure', 'Ugly', 'Never' and 'Silence'), a photo gallery, and footage of the band twatting around. My puny home entertainment system can't handle surround sound so I can't comment on whether the songs benefit from the audio tweaking or not, but I can say that the 'candid' film is as arse-numbingly dull as this type of thing usually is - why on earth do bands presume that anyone is remotely interested in this stuff? Surely even their biggest fans (and duty-bound reviewers) will never sit through it more than once?