REVIEW: SEETHER – “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. Translating as, “if you want peace, prepare for war.” The original, sexier sounding Latin serving as the title for the upcoming new album from South African rockers, Seether. For whom the ‘prepare’ sentiment has always been an inherent quality of the band and their songwriting. Seen again in ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’, as Seether continue to craft beautifully tormented anthems tailored to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. Anthems that when they’re good, they are very, very good indeed. But some, alas, aren’t always so good for being, arguably, a little bit too predictable.
Since their formation in 1999 under the name Saron Gas, Seether have never strayed too far from tackling raw subject matter often extracted from their own inner turmoil. An approach whose honesty and integrity has produced chart-topping and multi-platinum selling songs their fans continue to cherish, as well as hidden gems the true devotees adore. Whether it be the radio dominating “Fine Again,” or the understated sleeper track “Master of Disaster,” Seethers’ songs are as impactful as they are versatile. Showing the bold openness of a poet carving words into your heart with a switchblade.
‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ delivers both the radio popular and the private moment. “Buried and Bloodied” is an instant standout of the former, capturing the band’s sensibility for writing unrelenting heavy rock grooves with a chorus hook compelling enough to supplement a cocaine addiction. Indeed, ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ could easily have peaked early were it not for moments such as the aptly titled, “Can’t Go Wrong.” Here vocalist/guitarist Shaun Morgan, working closely with newest Seether member, guitarist Corey Lowery (Sevendust, ex-Saint Asonia) to create a modern Seether masterpiece. Featuring verses that find Morgan and Lowery achieving soul-stirring moments as graceful as they are heart-rending. Emotive junctures are further realized as plaintive cries in “Drift Away”, or erupt like anger clawing its way out in “Beg, and again in the viscerally charged “Pride Before the Fall”. All of which find Morgan eviscerating his emotional demons through distressing lyrics that somehow feel uplifting.
Where ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ doesn’t quite match up is in tracks such as the albums leading single, “Dangerous.” True, there’s no shortage of heart here, but it doesn’t beat as hard nor as deeply. Leaving a massive drought when it comes to memorability and an obese surplus of musical predictability. Songs like “Dead and Done”, “Wasteland” and “Liar” share many similar, predictable traits that leave them paling in comparison. Traits that include riffs typically repeated three times with a cheeky twist on the fourth, or solos both uncharacteristically stale and disappointingly unimaginative. Even the choruses sound about as enjoyable as listening to Bob Dylan mumble his way through reading Ulysses after getting a little bit too curious about what super glue might feel like on his lips. And if repeated riffs, downplayed solos, or understated choruses aren’t alien to Seether, in these instances they’re just not done to the Seether standard.
Seether have never shied away from embracing wherever they are, personally and musically. In marrying the two, Seether can create remarkable songs, many untouched by time or trend. This is partly achieved with ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’, with many songs being some of the band’s contemporary best. Yet others fall flat and are instantly forgettable. Some even hard to endure. Still, at its best and worst, ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ displays a raw honesty and wealth of musicality that fuses its finer moments straight onto your DNA. Transcending, if not entirely forgiving, those others that don’t quite live up.