Seether Has Somehow Raised the Bar Even Higher

Poison the Parish is the seventh album in South African band Seether’s repertoire. One may think that, after this long, a band would start to lose their steam; tensions grow high, the music is compromised. With this album, it’s as though Seether set out to be the prime example of why that is not the case; it’s fantastic. First off, front-man Shaun Morgan’s voice has aged like a fine wine, which is shocking considering his singing style. He sounds better than he’s ever sounded and the rest of the band is no exception. Seether has raised the bar even higher by staying true to themselves, and fans are loving it.

Right off the bat, “Stoke the Fire” is a strong start – it sets the mood of the album. The track evokes the characteristic sound you’d expect from Seether, with a purely instrumental intro presenting a perfectly in sync band. The band even challenges the listener with its chorus: “Promise not to fight if you say you don’t like it/I’ll bet you can’t, I’ll bet you can’t.” Basically, they exclaim that it’s impossible to dislike this album, and I’d have to agree. Moreover, the transitions into the metal-sounding chorus are well thought out, with either the echoing of the singer’s voice, or of the lead guitar. The band clearly understands every element of their craft.

As such, Seether quickly informs their audience that they are not just a one trick pony and have timeless references throughout the album as well. The second track, “Betray and Degrade” has a melody that is a throwback to 90s alt rock with a bulky bassline and an extremely raw vocal delivery. Morgan almost comes off as lifeless, which works perfectly with a song whose narrator describes happiness as “A fault of [his].” “Count me Out” has a similar vibe, almost like a more enunciated Nirvana song.

“Let You Down” is the album’s first single, and as is the Seether way, it comes with a amazingly trippy and creepy music video. At this point in the album, this song has some of the most cutting lyrics “Beat down in fear and paralyzed/You’ve got me feeling like I have no other hand to hold/In this assisted suicide.” However, the song has generated a lot of controversy for it’s eerie similarity to Tool’s 1996 song “Stinkfist,” which ironically was nominated for a Grammy for its music video. One can’t deny the similarities between the two songs but I encourage you to take a listen to both and come to your own conclusions. Nevertheless, Seether’s single seems to be what fans have wanted based on the online reception of the track and the views it’s received.

“Against the Wall” is a vocal experiment for Morgan, sounding beautifully sincere and vulnerable. Interestingly, rather than going for the typical acoustic accompaniment to go with his vocal sincerity, he is backed by an increasingly intense electric guitar riff. This choice ends up making the song more emotional and triumphant for the protagonist. Somehow, even more so than the acoustic-heavy tracks like “Something Else” and “Let Me Heal.”

A great strength of this album is that it takes risks in all the right places, be it vocally or instrumentally. However, when there is a more expected choice that is made on a track, it is executed expertly, like on “Saviours.” Even though the arrangement is more typically what you’d expect from an alt rock group, Seether pulls it off masterfully. Their delivery is a testament to how united they are as a band and how well they understand what they want to convey with their sound. Therefore, the band has the privilege of being able to stick to a more classic sound when they want their lyrics to stand out; this is the case on “Emotionless.”

One of the things I appreciate most about Seether is that they can produce hard and heavy tracks without having to compromise articulation. As a listener, you can understand every lyric. While this may seem like a minor detail, it is a large problem for many bands because it’s a waste of great writing. Seether’s lyrics are very poignant, and there is a clear message being sent. Therefore, hearing the lyrics is a necessity. An example of their self-awareness is the song “Nothing Left” – one of the hardest songs musically thanks to extensive use of the double-bass peddle and guitar distortion. The lyrics are just as heavy: “The thirst has woken/And nobody seems so aware/The fakes and liars/Are newly elected as heirs.” Having their words be inaudible would be such a waste, and they know this.

The last few tracks of the album allow for a strong ending to the work. “Sell My Soul” and “Feel Like Dying” are standouts, especially because they lead into one another. The former starts as an allusion to classic rock using acoustic guitar as a rhythm tool. Overlaying the rhythm is an emotional, drawn out electric guitar riff. However, it is the solo that stands out, ends the song, and makes this my favorite track. After this rather slow track enters the immediate guitar riff on “Feels like Dying.” The band builds on the guitar with a faster drum and bass interjection atop eachother and even the vocals are overlapped. The entire feeling is that the two songs are one and build up tempo-wise but still keep the amazing guitar lead as the star that everything else is built upon.

Poison the Parish offers everything you love about Seether: thought provoking lyrics, first-rate guitar riffs, and a cohesiveness within the band. It raises a solid, flowing theme within the album, and some great experimental choices as well. Seether has shown that after 15 years of making music, they are at the top of their game.

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