For many rock artists, music isn’t just a fun way to make a living, see the world and become rich and famous. There can be an element of therapy to it, too: For fan and musician alike, sometimes nothing helps get you through a bad day better than an angry song played at high volume.
The South African rock band Seether incorporate elements of metal and grunge into their melodic, confessional tracks, and on Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces, their occasionally formulaic approach is offset by a palpable sense of catharsis. Even if Seether closely adhere to the conventions of radio-friendly hard rock, they use them effectively to craft a personal statement about the struggle to overcome emotional pain.
Drama Behind the Scenes
While knowing the background of an album’s creation shouldn’t be mandatory for enjoying the finished product, several tumultuous events that occurred since the band’s last studio album, 2005’s Karma and Effect
, have clearly had an impact on Finding Beauty
’s makeup. The departure of guitarist Pat Callahan, frontman Shaun Morgan’s stint in rehab and breakup with Evanescence
singer Amy Lee, and Morgan’s brother’s suicide all contribute to Finding Beauty
’s sense of confusion and frustration. But even if the listener isn’t aware of those real-life events that inspired the album, the songs’ intensity comes through immediately.
Resorting to Conventions
Of course, intense songs aren’t necessarily the same thing as great songs, and Seether sometimes fail to turn their discontent into memorable tracks, instead falling back on clichéd sonic approaches. On “Eyes of the Devil,” the band – which consists of Morgan, bassist Dale Stewart and drummer John Humphrey – resort to a very standard soft-verse/loud-chorus structure to limited effect. And while the seven-minute “No Jesus Christ” strains to be appropriately sinister and epic, neither its nihilistic message nor Morgan’s enraged howls evoke much drama.
Embracing Their Pop Instincts
Ironically, while Seether mostly perform hard rock, on Finding Beauty
they are strongest when sticking closer to pop. “Rise Above This,” which speaks directly to Morgan’s desire to thwart his demons, is undoubtedly aimed at commercial radio with its catchy guitar riff, softer dynamics and sparkling chorus, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still mighty successful at conveying hard-earned optimism in the face of uncertainty. The songs' dark surfaces often give way to rousing choruses, and producer Howard Benson
makes sure that each of the album’s 12 tracks caresses the ear with perfectly polished hooks.
Looking for the Light
Although Finding Beauty is thick with angst, Morgan still manages to show a sense of humor and even allow a few moments of grace to shine through the gloom. The satiric “FMLYHM” details an unhappy relationship held together by good sex, while “Fake It” mocks plastic surgery with a light touch. On the closing track, “Waste,” Morgan doesn’t yet know if he can fully escape the sadness of the last few years, but he’s determined to try. It’s a hopeful note on which to end the album, suggesting that despite a few missteps here and there, Seether have turned their trauma into music that’s therapeutic for them and galvanizing for their fans.
Release date – October 19, 2007