REVIEW: SEVENDUST – “All I See Is War”
‘All I See Is War’ serves as the twelfth full-length release from the gold certified and Grammy nominated hard rock outfit that is Sevendust. Since forming what would become one of the strongest familial ties in the game in 1994, on each record Sevendust have ruthlessly tackled both personal demons as well as the state the world around them finds itself marinating in. At a time when we need unification the most, ‘All I See Is War’ takes a hard and honest look around while weeding out the hope the band are adamant underlies.
Opening track “Dirty” is a pummeling and weighty offering that recalls the much beloved sound of Sevendust back to the forefront and, as a whole, underscores much of the record as vocalist Lajon Witherspoon sings, “I’m no stranger to this thing called war”, both a recurring theme among the record as well as the lyrical greeting card. Things only get better as the direct follow up “God Bites His Tongue” produces a blistering, groove driven track with infectious gang chants, all of which bring a strong close to the albums opening moments.
The writing process for ‘All I See Is War’ did not happen as it does with so many, meaning it wasn’t a case of hopping into the studio and producing a record in a month. Instead, during their year and a half break, Sevendust allowed for an eight-month writing process, possibly their longest according to guitarist John Connolly, that would ensure they could take their time and bring their A-game to the finished product. And in some places it shows.
The Stranger Things inspired “Not Original”, a song that almost didn’t make the final cut, though luckily it did for it highlights a peaking moment for the record. As the cinematic guitars from Clint Lowery and John Connolly lift the beautiful and Bluesy vocal performance by Witherspoon to another level, “Not Original” explores some new territory for the band and it pays off wonderfully. As does the ruthless “Medicated” which, if it doesn’t quite brave any new ground, it recalls a very poignant Killing Joke influence both musically and vocally that feel primitive, calling all to the pit.
If a rather tame deadline allowed the band to extricate themselves from the confines of time and pressure, it may have also come at a price. While ‘All I See In War’ exhibits some of the benefits the band were hoping for, it struggles in others. With on point performances and some obvious venturing into the unknown, at times it also comes across as somewhat overthought and laboured with songs such as “Life Deceives You” and “Descend” feeling quite feel laden as opposed to their desired execution.
It would be fair to suggest, whether it was their intention or not, that ‘All I See Is War’ may act as a transitional record for the band, ushering in a new and exciting era of Sevendust. Taking the time to meticulously flesh out songs and delve into their own uncharted pastures has been evidently beneficial across the album, while other areas suggest there was almost too much freedom for deliberation to the point that at times it can actually feel almost calculated.
‘All I See Is War’ offers something old, something new, something borrowed and something else entirely. It is a powerful record that struggles in part, but still excels on more than a few occasions in true Sevendust fashion.