Eleven albums now and SEVENDUST is still rolling with the same band of brothers, which says plenty in an industry that devours musicians and regurgitates new lineups monthly. Only for three years between 2005 and 2008 did guitarist and heavy-duty songwriter Clint Lowery depart. Otherwise, the band has remarkably retained the same core, co-founded by John Connolly, Vince Hornsby and Morgan Rose, fortified by Lowery and, of course, their impeccable frontman Lajon Witherspoon. SEVENDUST’s latest album “Kill the Flaw” doesn’t wholly soft soap, but it sure does swing a chancy step over the line. As Witherspoon has stated about the record, the band has “taken time off from the heavy side,” and he’s not kidding. There are plenty of hard cuts on the album, but “Kill the Flaw” will challenge even the band’s most devout at times.
Opening with “Thank You”, which dropped as a preview single in late July, the song minces crunchy metalcore riffs with Kurt Wubbenhorst’s swaying keys and pop-driven choruses. Morgan Rose’s tappity rhythm gives the decidedly lighter track a sense of urgency as Lajon Witherspoon divides his time between growls on the rougher parts and softer croons. “Death Dance” is likewise on the lighter side even with the slowly cut agro chords dishing up the verses. Fans aren’t going to be too miffed by the aromatic choruses since Lajon Witherspoon dishes them gorgeously. Still, the intended toughness behind the breakdown on “Death Dance” is unconvincing. The song establishes an easygoing identity and works best in that mode.
SEVENDUST gets heavier with some nasty chops and clubbing rhythms on “Forget”, but the rippling choruses keep the track from getting downright mean. If Lajon Witherspoon wasn’t such a powerful singer, “Forget”, would be easy to do just that, which is where the band is at with this album. SEVENDUST has grown progressively leaner and hook-driven over the years; one nearly forgets their snaggletooth nu-metal days. Albeit, the album’s projected second single, “Not Today”, makes the most of the band’s heavier grains with ramming riffs and rainy choruses. This is one of the album’s strongest and most sensible tracks.
When you have blatant pop nuggets like “Letters”, “Cease and Desist” and “Death Dance”, it’s nearly shocking how tamed down SEVENDUST has become. The band reserves its full strength for the muscular closing number “Torched” with its pounding rhythm, riff barrages and mixed-in barks. It’s been no secret that SEVENDUST has embraced a more tuneful (if predictable) identity, serving them well on seventh track “Chop”, which would’ve been a so-so proto pounder without its peppered acoustic shakes and chirpy guitar solo.
“Kill the Flaw” is going to become an instant favorite for SEVENDUST’s latter year following. You could drop Lajon Witherspoon in with a Kidz Bop ensemble and it would still be an absorbing enough listen. He’s that great of a singer. Thus, no matter how much SEVENDUST changes up their methods, he’s going to lure listeners for his silky lilt. For those who want more of a mash to the band’s sound (“Silly Beast” serving up plenty of that), “Kill the Flaw” has some, sure, but most of it gets pushed behind backdrops of occasionally shaky pop suspensions.