One of the hardest working bands in the metal genre, Sevendust returns with their eighth studio album in 14 years. “Cold Day Memory” is a triumph of precise musicianship, memorable lyrical explorations and pulse quickening tempos in a cohesive, well produced effort. This album will be of no help to those who want to classify the band’s music. Labeled anything from Alternative Metal to Nu Metal to Heavy Metal, Sevendust is a band that often defies categorization because their style shifts so often within a single song. The album ranges between melodic and  hard-hitting but is always well matched to the song’s needs.

Lajon Witherspoon — the frontman with the golden voice — is backed by one of the most cohesive set of musicians working today: guitarists John Connolly and Clint Lowery (returning to the band and part of the original line-up), bassist Vinnie Hornsby and drummer/primary lyricist Morgan Rose. The seeming ease with which they play together is a testament to the fact that they are seasoned artists who are experienced in recording and touring as a band.

The production value on this album is excellent. Each instrument is clearly heard in the mix and never drowns the other out. When the band plays one of their signature backbeats together, the result is a pleasurable, monstrous wall of sound. One minor complaint is that too many of the songs follow the pattern of establishing the beat, building to a peak, removing most of the instruments for a softer vocalization and finishing at the aggressive peak once again. Although they use this formula as a base at times, each song on the album sounds fresh and the album is an overall success that should bring well-deserved notoriety back to the band.

The Tracker

Track 1: Splinter (3:54). A superb song to start the album and a dazzling instrumental performance, Splinter is the most fascinating song on the album. Featuring a driving, syncopated groove in which the guitar, bass and drums often play together, the song is powerful and provocative throughout. A four bar instrumental gem awaits fellow musicians at the song’s 2/3 point. Sevendust sets the bar high with this song.

Track 2: Forever (3:26). Showcasing strong instrumental arrangements highlighted by powerful and precise drumming, the raw energy continues with Forever. An industrial tone introduces direct lyrics that chronicle a nasty break-up and include, “So go, now find yourself / You’re selfish, condescending / You and me are now forever…dead.”

Track 3: Unraveling (3:58). This mid-tempo tune — and the album’s well-received first single — expands upon the theme of heartbreak with lyrics that combine anger and sadness such as, “I want the world to see / You sold a broken dream / You were not there for me / I was unraveling.” While not up to the musical distinctiveness of the rest of the album, the song is still interesting and engaging and will serve as a good starting point for new fans.

Track 4: Last Breath (3:48). A subtle Wes Borlandesque guitar riff opens and closes a song about the effort wasted in attempting to salvage a hopeless situation. The song includes some of the albums strongest lyrics, including, “Now I’m out of time / And full of hate / Nothing changes / Nothing will ever.” Although the lyrics sound dour, Witherspoon infuses the song with a hint of optimism when he sings, “I’ll take my last breath now / I hope I find my way.”

Track 5: Karma (3:52). Another of the album’s standouts, Karma showcases instrumentation that blurs the lines between measures with melodic figures that invoke those of Tool. Sevendust has perfected the musical build-up and pay-off within a song and this one delivers again. The song features some of the album’s most accomplished musicianship — particularly the wistful interplay among Lowery and Connolly’s guitar work and Rose’s drumming.

Track 6: Ride Insane (3:15). A song that takes listeners through short, staccato passages to long, melodic stretches, Ride Insane is a satisfying tune overall. Why the Tom Morello inspired guitar riff is wasted in the final seconds of this song perplexes me; it would have been interesting to hear how the band would have incorporated this direction into more of the song.

Track 7: Confessions (Without Faith) (4:06). The song with the most inspirational message: “Just have faith / We’ll go on, we’ll get closer / To everyone whoever tried to hurt you / Say ‘Goodbye. It was nice to know you’ ” is unfortunately a lackluster performance. As expected, Sevendust spoils the listener with intriguing arrangements; as a result, this conventional song never manages to engage on the same level as the remainder of the album.

Track 8: Nowhere (3:29). Fortunately, Sevendust quickly recovers and returns to form with Nowhere. Soaring guitar work is complemented by a driving, rhythmic pulse that grows with intensity throughout the song. Although the lyrics are not necessarily unique, the delivery is sound and the musicianship is top notch.

Track 9: Here And Now (4:07). Tasteful and intricate drum work is the star of Here and Now, another inspired work on “Cold Day Memory.” From unexpected high-hat work to a corps-laced march, Rose lays down some of the album’s most memorable back beats. Backed by grungy, crunchy guitars and a forceful bass line by Hornsby, the song quickly builds momentum and sustains the hard hitting pace.

Track 10: The End Is Coming (4:34). A song that’s sure to be a favorite in the mosh put, it builds into a driving song in typical Sevendust fashion. While the lyrics lack the intricacies found elsewhere on the album, they are delivered with passion. The song’s lyrical shortcomings are salvaged by a passionate performance by Witherspoon that showcases his dynamic range — from gentle whisper to snarling growl.

Track 11: Better Place (4:21). A relaxing guitar piece sets up a song that is one of the most successful on the album. The song’s melodic interplay between aggressive music and lush, relaxing vocals mirrors many of the feelings one endures when trying to move past a painful situation or relationship. The lyrics, “Can I just give it all away / Just to get back to that better place / That better place today” are played again and again as if being used as a healing mantra.

Track 12:
Strong Arm Broken (3:39). Closing the album, Witherspoon channels Pantera’s Phil Anselmo’s guttural delivery at times while he delivers another powerful effort. The band goes out strong with a track highlighted by dueling guitars and an almost shuffle drum track that moves the song along nicely. While not lyrically rich, the band finished the album with a strong metal song without too many frills.

A very satisfying album and their best in recent years, “Cold Day Memory” will reignite the passion within their fan base. The effort made on this terrific album is apparent and Sevendust has made a dramatic statement for the metal genre with this rewarding effort.

Overall Grade: A-

If you enjoyed this album, you might also like: Godsmack, Living Colour, Disturbed, Pantera and anything by Mike Patton.

Sevendust’s Official Web Site: http://www.sevendust.com/