The word next conjures a lot of images: the next step, the next chapter, and the next level. Sevendust has achieved all of these on their aptly titled fifth studio album, Next, set to be released on October 11, 2005 on Winedark
The 11-song collection finds Sevendust at the peak of their powers, eight years after they released their hard-hitting eponymous debut. During that time, they have perfected their unmistakable brand of melodic heavy rock over the course of four albums, played every stage between Los Angeles and New York (usually many times over), built up one of the most dedicated fan-bases around, having sold nearly 4 million records in the US alone and become one of the most respected, well-loved and enduring bands bred in the US. But if you thought you knew Sevendust, guess again, because Next finds the Atlanta, Georgia fivesome delivering the album of their career, not to mention more than a few songs that will become modern rock classics in the days and months to come.
"I think it's the most honest and the most learned work we've done,"declares charismatic frontman Lajon Witherspoon. "Next goes back to our roots and showcases that heavy side of us, that side that wants to rip everybody's head off. This is a level that no one has heard us at before though, because we were able to let loose and not be afraid." "We didn't try to reinvent the wheel," adds guitarist John Connolly." But what we did do is take everything we learned over the last ten years and squeeze it into 50 minutes."
Over the past decade, Witherspoon and Connolly, along with bassist Vince Hornsby and drummer Morgan Rose, have not only honed their skills as songwriters and performers, they've also overcome more than their fair share of hardships. However, the last two years have been monumentally challenging, even by their standards.
In 2004,the band severed their longtime relationship with TVT Records and decided to strike out on their own, recording what would become Next before they had a label to put it out on. "There were people who were saying 'Oh my God, the ship's taking on water,'"remembers Witherspoon. "Our ship never took on water. We were a stronger force than that." Rose expands, "We have been on a roller coaster ride since May of 2004. We replaced our management company with MG Management, dug out of financial despair, watched a record deal dissolve, and replaced a guitarist all in the course of six months. This left us in the position to do things one-way, our way. In January of this year, we locked ourselves away and shut out the outside world and began writing, recording, and selfproducing or fifth studio album entitled, Next. For the first time since very early in our careers, we had no outside interference, no one telling us how to sound, no one telling us what to look like. The end result is truly gratifying. It was amazing to see the reaction to what we created from such a large percentage of the record industry. After weighing many options we decided to sign with WineDark Records who subsequently offered us our own record label imprint, 7Bros. Records. The excitement that we feel from these individuals is something we have never felt before."
Enter close friend and former Snot guitarist Sonny Mayo, who the band had known since their early years. "It was a dream come true," Witherspoon declares enthusiastically. "Working with him was an inspiration, considering the things that he's overcome in his own life and career. To see his passion gave us a lot of energy again. "
The band started hammering out ideas in Connolly's dining room in January of 2005 they knew that they had found a direction for the album when "Hero" came together. Far
heavier than anything the band has written in a while - maybe ever - the song is bound to be a Sevendust classic, with its bone-crunching riff and driving chorus.
Another heavy slab of Sevendust came together soon after that in the form of "Ugly," which Connolly explains by simply saying, "Yea, it's a break-up song, but it's our take on it." "It's a pissed off record as a whole," Witherspoon notes. "But there's a lot of melody on it, despite all the aggression you'll find on there."
However, everything in this world has a polar opposite and the same is true of Next. "We try to push the boundaries every time we step into the studio," proclaims Witherspoon. "So, since we pushed the heavy side so far, we knew it was equally important to push the opposite direction." "This Life," inspired by and dedicated to Connolly's
newborn daughter, is the closest song on the record to a ballad. "That was written on the day my wife and I went for the first doctor's visit when I could hear the heartbeat," recalls
Connolly. "That was an inspirational day. In the middle of all our angry songs, I thought it would be cool to have one song that's a little more experimental and a little more positive."
"'Angel's Son' let us know that we were capable of doing mellower, ballad-y stuff," asserts Witherspoon. "And we all started out jamming on acoustic guitars, so this kind of
stuff is in our roots."
"Shadows In Red" is the other quieter moment in the midst of the raging storm, an all-acoustic song that features a live string section and one of the band's most daring moments on tape. "As we grew up, things started changing: new babies were born and people passed away, so the songs had to change," Witherspoon says by way of explanation. "Not everything was the heaviest thing in the world and I wasn't always mad at the world. That song came out of me realizing that."
Since Witherspoon had several months to play with the words before recording began, he crafted what is undoubtedly Sevendust's most lyrically honest and confessional album yet. "It's about relationships, life, loneliness, overcoming the fear of being alone, and getting to know yourself," he confides. "I feel very blessed to be able to write what's on my heart on this album and that came through."
With the songs honed and the lyrics complete, the fivesome decamped in February 2005 to a house-turned-studio outside of Orlando, Florida where Creed had laid down Weathered. There was a pool table, Jacuzzi, jukebox and an empty pool to
provide distraction, but the point of this location was to solely work on the recording process. "It made for a few late nights, but a lot of camaraderie," reveals Rose. "You can spend
$1500 an hour on a studio or you can buy a ProTools rig and set it up anywhere,"proclaims Connolly. "It was definitely a challenge, but this record sounds better than any we've ever done." The band chose to self-produce the sessions and spent two months in hardcore work mode, perfecting the songs that would make up Next.
After two months of non-stop recording, in the spring of 2005, without a record to promote or a single on the radio, Sevendust did what they do best: they hit the road. Unsure of what fans reaction would be, the band were more than pleasantly surprised when every date sold out and the fans gave them rave reviews over the pair of new songs they slipped into the set lists each night. "It went so well, I didn't want to come home," admits Witherspoon with a laugh. "I don't give a damn who has a bigger crowd than us, we have the most loyal people ever," Rose adds. "I can't even call them fans. I know people think they have the best fans; well, screw you, we've got the best friends."
And we know that their friends are going be excited to hear Next. It's the sound of an unstoppable group going somewhere above and beyond all they have already achieved. "Peoples' jaws are going to hit the floor," predicts Connolly. Prepare to pick yours up.