Now veterans of the the hard rock / metal scene, Sevendust has proven that syncopated riffs, huge hooks and sincere vocals, when crafted by the right people, are damn near bulletproof. Indeed, when Clint Lowery departed the band for a few albums, they forged ahead on the songwriting strength of the remaining members. Lowery’s eventual return for 2009’s Cold Day Memory was seamless.
While it’s easy to hear the talent level whenever you listen to a Sevendust album, it wasn’t until 2012 that we were able to finally see just how much Sevendust has the deck stacked. In June, Clint Lowery and Morgan Rose released their Call Me No One side-project debut, Last Parade to critical acclaim. The record features Lowery on guitar and vocals with Rose behind the kit and on backing vocals. The resemblance to Sevendust was hard to miss, but the album certainly was solid on its own merits.
Three months later, another side project has come from the Sevendust camp; this one features guitarist, John Connolly and bassist, Vinnie Hornsby. The band is called Projected and it is rounded out by drummer, Scott Philips and guitarist, Eric Friedman. Their debut is called, Human and the album is one of the most pleasant surprises of 2012.
Let’s cut to the chase; is there anything John Connolly can’t do? He started his music career as a drummer before assuming a guitar role in the pre-Sevendust act, Snake Nation. In Projected, he also handles vocal duties and writes all the material. Listening to Human is a lot like listening to a Sevendust record. The riffs are very familiar. And, while his vocal timbre is distinct from Sevendust vocalist, Lajon Witherspoon, the sense of melody is very much the same.
Where Human really shines, however, is in the songwriting. Each song is imbued with a sense of dynamics that are at once mature and polished, but also packed with a youthful assertion. The dynamics of busy riffing under soaring vocals in a track like “Watch it Burn” display a complexity that is almost unnoticed because of the powerful sing-along-ability of the chorus melody. It’s masterful and it’s just one example (of many) that could be cited on Human.
The real treat, however, is that this sense of dynamics extends beyond individual songs. The entire album pulses and moves like one full musical statement. This is notable for two reasons: 1) This is a side project and side projects often tend to sound like a collection of songs tossed together, and 2) We live in an age of singles and individual song downloads that are often prized over full album coherence.
While the album is full of all the bombast you’d expect from musicians that play in Sevendust, Alter Bridge and Creed, there are unexpected moments of tenderness that really add depth to Human. Perhaps the best example is the song “12804,” which is Connolly’s tribute to his friend, Dimebag Darrell (Pantera/Damageplan), who left this world on 12/08/04. While written for Darrell, the lyrics surely resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one too soon.
In total, Human is everything a contemporary rock record should be. It brings together each player’s strengths to achieve a sum that is greater than the individual parts, which is usually the downfall of the “super group” concept. Each musician buys into Connolly’s songwriting and delivers performances that serve the song perfectly. From start to finish, Human is engaging and appeals to listeners on many different levels of cognition. Frankly, it’s one of the best albums of the year, regardless of genre.