By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Sevendust and Eiffel 65 are forever linked for me, in a bad way. Thinking about Sevendust always taps into a massive amount of raging jealousy for a friend of mine.
Years ago I worked for 417 Magazine in Springfield, which was then owned by a company that also owned two radio stations and an Internet service provider. The Top 40 radio station was the moneymaker, so when it organized a concert, it was an all-hands-on-deck event.
Such a concert happened: The station booked Eiffel 65, the geniuses behind "Blue (Da Ba Dee)," and a bunch of other B-list hopeful pop bands to perform at a big family friendly concert.
Because all hands were on deck, I worked the concert. I took pictures like crazy, helped pass out T-shirts and put up banners, just like all my co-workers and friends.
My best friend from high school, who I helped get a job at the company's Internet service provider, got a special assignment.
He got to take one of the vans and pick up a band from the airport. It was Sevendust. They were playing in Springfield at the same time as Eiffel 65.
He came back with all kinds of stories about how awesome they were. "Dude! The lead singer was awesome! He found me and said, ÔWe're here to rock the hell out of this town!'"
Apparently, while I was suffering through "Blue his house, and a blue little window and a blue Corvette," he was talking to the guys that rocked "Denial," "Waffle" and "Black."
I'm still jealous of Terry for that.
New album outstanding
I have been a fan of Sevendust since its album "Home" from 1999. I've stuck with the band through the departure and return of guitarist Clint Lowery. The band's unique combination of hard guitar with Lajon Witherspoon's soulful, angry vocals has always made the band one of the most unique in the genre.
Fans could argue about whether the band's apex was with either 2001's "Animosity" or 2003's "Seasons." Both are great albums with a good mix of radio-strong songs and haunting, slower ones. Look up "Angel's Son" or "Skeleton Song" to hear what I mean.
It's that combination I've been missing ever since. The band has released five albums since "Seasons" -- the newest one, "Black Out the Sun," was released last month.
I really wanted to hear that combination again, and didn't get it. In fact, there really isn't an obvious strong single anywhere on the new album. "Decay," which has been playing on radio since January, comes close, but that's it. "Got a Feeling" comes close to that Sevendust-style power ballad I crave, but its weak introduction isn't up to the standards set in previous albums.
Despite that disappointment, "Black Out the Sun" is a phenomenal rock album.
The songs blend much better than any album before it. From the opening march of "Faithless" to the closing "Murder Bar," the album never loses intensity or focus.
High points include "Decay," which feature a surprising unison of guitar, bass and drums in the chorus; "Mountain," a powerful, driving shuffle; "Dark AM," which features an anthemic refrain; and "Picture Perfect," which features sonic creativity that would be trendsetting had Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine not blazed that trail so brilliantly.
The biggest surprise of the album is the guitar work -- Lowery and John Connolly provide some beautiful upgrades to their signature sound. Sevendust songs usually don't feature guitar solos, but the solos on "Cold as War," "Decay" and "Dead Roses" are spine-tingling.
Overall, "Black Out the Sun" is in the running for my favorite album of 2013. It's melodic, metal, massive and while it's not what I wanted, it's what I needed.