Thursday, June 14, 2012
I love Sevendust. I mean, I really, really love them. I consider them to be massively under-rated, which I attribute to them being lumped in with the nu-metal crowd when they emerged in the late '90's/early '00's. But hey, people called Deftones nu-metal as well. All I know is that I associate that particular genre tag with a certain pretty terrible band whose lead singer (if you can call it that) spazzes out when someone touches his hat. Anyway, Sevendust are a hard / rock / metal band, and a very good one at that.
However, Last Parade is not a Sevendust album, and possibly it's unfair that I've begun this review with a spiel about how great Sevendust are. But, if not for my love of Sevendust, I'm not sure I would've discovered this particular gem. You see, Call Me No One is the lovechild of 7D guitarist Clint Lowery and 7D drummer Morgan Rose. Lowery released a couple of solo acoustic EPs under the guise of Hello Demons Meet Skeletons, and this was originally envisaged as a more electric version of that, with Morgan on board.
Reading between the lines conveyed on social media, at some point fairly early in the creative process the project seems to have taken on a life of its own, and the end result was that Clint and Morgan wrote, recorded, produced and mixed an album's worth of material in a very short period of time - under a month.
My initial reaction to trying to get an album done in that sort of window was, oh god, I hope it doesn't turn out like One By One, which the Foo Fighters mostly recorded in two weeks, and which was mostly filler.
Thankfully, I was way off the mark there. Not even close.
Last Parade is a very finely-crafted piece of hard rock, and the best album I've heard so far this year. It's melodic, accessible and catchy, but still quite clearly hard rock. To put it simply, 7D fans will enjoy it, but at its core this is a great rock album irrespective of the other band the members happen to be in, and it's got a huge amount of crossover appeal. I guess a potential analogy here is that CMNO is the Queens of the Stone Age to 7D's Kyuss.
What really sets this record apart isn't Morgan's drumming (outstanding), or Clint's guitar work (ditto... and some great solos too), or even Clint's vocal work (which was largely unheralded and fits the songs extremely well) - it's the quality and variation of the songwriting. And maybe we should've expected that from a pair who have combined on many of 7D's greatest moments, but the songwriting here is a noticeably different beast.
Many of the songs here have an instant infectiousness to them - they catch your ear and refuse to let go. But when you look past that immediacy and listen a bit more carefully, you notice all sorts of clever things happening, like the vocal harmonisation in The World is Dead, the guitar layering in Thunderbird, the way the groove in Pleased to Meet You is so effortless because of the notes that Morgan Rose isn't playing, the way guitar and drums dance around the vocals to emphasise the post-intro build in closing track Last Parade.
And that neat balance and attention to detail isn't just on individual songs - it's also true of the album as a whole. There are direct, 'fuck yeah!' rock moments like Biggest Fan and Hillbilly, but they're balanced with more introspective moments like Broken Record. There are some sweeping, massive-sounding songs like All's Well, Soapbox and Last Parade which unfold beautifully, but also enhance the immediacy of the more catchy songs that they sit alongside.
2012 is only half done, but it's going to take something pretty special to dislodge Last Parade from the top of my charts. Great stuff.