In my opinion, the overall purpose of Black History Month is to take time to remember and honor the achievements of blacks throughout history while recognizing that we are all equal, which is what people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. fought so hard for. I'm glad to see that the efforts of Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, every slave or passive resistor, and countless are others are paying off, as we are finally seeing a society where, for the most part, people can be admired for their achievements regardless of skin color.
It seems that in the world of rock, this notion comes through surprisingly strongly. Jimi Hendrix, for example, is rarely regarded as a "black man who thrived in a predominantly white industry." Instead, he is simply known as a "legend" or a "guitar god" with no reference to his race. Not that his race should be ignored, but it's nice to see that people these days think of him in the same light as they do other great musicians.
This brings me to Sevendust. When I saw them at the Warped Tour in 1999, I had only heard them; I had never seen any pictures. When they took the stage, I had a moment of surprise at seeing that the lead singer, Lajon Witherspoon, was black. That moment was followed by a quick thought of "hmm, cool" before I ignored the fact altogether and just rocked out to the great music. It didn't matter to me what color he was so long as he could rock, and rock he did.
While their latest effort Animosity demonstrates the band's range much more, their self-titled debut is still and excellent 48 minutes of hard-hitting rock. Sevendust contains lots more raw aggression than Animosity, making it better to crank up when you're in need of something volatile.
Sevendust yielded two singles: Black and Bitch. Both are heavy yet melodic, easy to sing along to and just as easy to mosh to. In both songs, the lyrics describe evil and insanity. In fact, many songs here have violent messages: "I'm a terminator determined to end your life" (Terminator). Hard to believe these words after hearing some of their more recent material.
Not all the hostile lyrics are directed outwardly though. On Will It Bleed, Witherspoon yells, "I'd rather kill myself/ Than put you through the pain." And Face is an emotional, well-penned song told through the eyes of a remorseful rapist.
Witherspoon has a very cool voice. He doesn't exhibit his whole range on this album, but he does belt out some nice loud verses while shifting to deep growls at certain points. Sometimes the growls sound overdone, like a guy trying desperately to sing death metal. Other times, Witherspoon nails that growl with a perfect balance of hostility and melody (on the closing track Born to Die, for example). For most of these songs, his style could be categorized as rap-metal, but it definitely weighs more on the metal sound and exhibits more talent than a lot of rap-rockers out there.
The rest of the band backs him up nicely. Drummer Morgan Rose and bassist Vince Hornsby keep the beat as intense as possible while guitarists John Connolly and Clint Lowery provide some amazing riffs. Most of the time, the guitars launch a crunchy, pulsing assault. But they change it up in certain spots, providing many memorable sounds, some of which even resemble Metallica or Alice in Chains but most of which are all their own. Rose and Lowery also contribute backup vocals that become crucial to the overall effect of nearly every song.
While most of the tracks are very heavy, the slowest one is still one of the strongest. My Ruin is by no means soft rock - it's dark and deliberately-paced but climbs to a powerful chorus and a great guitar solo. It gives a nice contrast to the rest of the songs while still fitting in with them perfectly.
I believe that Sevendust deserves much more recognition than they get. Not because their lead singer is black but because they can rock with the best of them. And isn't that what really matters?
For all the rest of the Black History Month write off participants, check cletta1201's profile.
Also from Sevendust:
Home ::: Animosity ::: Seasons ::: Next ::: Alpha ::: Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow
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