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Album Review: TBA

Friday, January 2, 2009

Album Review: Seether - Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces

This very week I may have suggested that bands from South Africa don‘t often reach these shores - in fact I said, and I quote, ”It’s not often you hear of bands from South Africa causing such a stir overseas.” As I write, I have in front of me a rather natty looking trilby and I’m tucking into it after every sentence. The reason? Seether are a South African hard-hitting rock trio that have been… er, how shall I put this… causing a stir overseas. They’ve notched up a jaw-dropping two million album sales so far.

After parting company with lead guitarist Pat Callaghan and vocalist Shaun Morgan going into rehab for cocaine and alcohol addictions the band have thrown themselves into the new album with Morgan admitting, “Because it was just three of us there were fewer minds to stymie the or halt the whole process. I wanted to write songs that were more melodic this time around. I didn’t feel the need to scream as I might have in the past and I felt I could have used sitars if I wanted.”

With ‘Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces’ completed it becomes their sixth studio album (if you include the one they recorded under their original name, Saron Gas) and has finally reached the UK after amassing 400,000 sales following it’s October 2007 release in the States. I imagine this has a lot to do with the extraordinary vocal of Shaun Morgan which flits between the croak and croon of Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger and the biting snarled delivery of Machine Head’s Robb Flynn. However the intricate roll and batter drum patterns of John Humphrey and Dale Stewart’s walking bass are just as bright in the mix - and with so little instrumental clutter you’d expect them to.

The fuzzed vocal opening and guitar of opener ‘Like Suicide’ is pure Nickelback, soaring into double-vocal bridge and chorus before bursting out into a red-raw scream of such intensity that lifts it to a whole new level. Its pure single material, catchy as fuck, warped enough even to dip it’s toes in nu-metal theatrics. Utterly monumentally and way beyond anything the first few bars promised. ‘Fake It’ kicks like a mule but ultimately fails to inspire trying out a few new wave effects over the rock groove that don‘t quite fit.

‘Breakdown’ and ‘Fmlyhm’ are awkward ballads and are evidence of the band’s more melodic approach. The grim out-of-place chorus of “fuck me like you hate me” on the latter proves that they haven‘t quite found a suitable home for the style. In fact it’s not until ‘No Jesus Christ’ that I find myself absorbed fully, ears popping as I gawp at the furious volley of bile spewing forth from my speakers. The didgeridoo and wobble-board opening are overlapped by Morgan’s “verbal defecation” and a screaming guitar but when we hit the chorus its grungy riffs decide that stripping skin from bone whilst the vocal slaps murky angst into our maws is best - and it is! The ever-changing nature of the song delights and troubles in equal measure. It’s a restless thing, lacking structure and eventually trickles to a listless conclusion.

This track sums up the album as a whole for me. There are moments where I truly believe it to be a possible album of the year only to find a ‘Breakdown’ or a ‘Waste’ hiding round the corner to drag it all towards a radio-friendly pile of mediocrity. Listen to ‘Rise Above This’, a song Morgan wrote about his brother before he died tragically last August. If you like that, you’ll find this new more melodic direction a revelation. The rest of us can glory when Seether stick to screaming and shake our heads disappointedly when they reach for the sitar.

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