ALBUM REVIEW: Seether – Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
It has been three years since Seether released ‘Poison The Parish’ which was undoubtedly a marking moment in their career, with stadium hits like ‘Stoke The Fire’ and ‘Betray And Degrade’ it was interesting to see what they had planned for their eighth studio album. Seether were not messing around with their eighth studio album ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ it has everything that we have become accustomed to with over their twenty-year span yet unleashing a vulnerability and maturity within its composure and lyrical content. This is backed by massive guitar riffs that run through stadium anthems which dwarf both its predecessor and their back catalogue.
‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ translates to If You Want Peace…Prepare For War, it describes the symphony of music throughout the record perfectly, taking the listener on a journey which can only be described as a ‘coming of age’ moment for Seether. From the angst, pain and suffering within Shaun Morgan’s lyrical delivery which sits amongst both slashing and driving riffs of ‘Beg’, ‘Dead and Done’ and ‘Pride Before The Fall’ to the delicate moments of ‘Written In Stone’ and ‘Drift Away’, I believe this is Seether’s best record to date. To sum this album up I’m going to quote Seether directly from track Six, ‘….my reputation proceeds me, I’ve got a feeling this can’t go wrong’ and in my opinion it didn’t.
The opening track ‘Dead and Done’ is by far the heaviest opener we have heard from Seether since ‘Karma and Effect’, the sludging guitar riff attacks the album instantly defining the sound of what is to come. Whilst all material is written by Shaun Morgan, this is Corey Lowery’s first appearance on a Seether studio album and his edge and heavy style is instantly noticeable, his energy is felt amongst these angrier tracks. Morgan wears his heart on his sleeve with lyrical content, he is raw within his literary attack and can back this up as the angst of moments are paraded vocally in a style that is unique to him.
The tracks seamlessly intertwine throughout as Dale Stewart slams in a distorted heavy bassline that introduces ‘Bruised andBloodied’, it’s catchy, it makes you jump around, and I can already see this being a crowd favourite at shows. It hones in vocals that give us a reminder of ‘Karma and Effect’ reminding a listener of the post grunge era that Seether was formed in.
‘Wasteland’ is catchy, it has the guitar riff and hook that we saw in earlier releases, after the first two blinders on this album, it’s a calmer song and whilst it moves along at its own pace, I felt there was something I had missed with it. That was until toward the end of the guitar solo when the vocals repeated ‘say something, say something now’ and Shaun let out the most soul gripping scream which is riddled with pain and suffering. The anguish within the scream I haven’t heard since the harrowing performance of ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance. Its raw, exposed and after hearing that anguish I listened again with renewed vigour.
‘Dangerous’ which is the first single released from this record, starts with a funky riff, it’s a difference to what we are accustomed to, crossing a few genres and showing off the talents and adaptability within Seether. It has been impeccably produced, beyond the other musical aspects of the track the highlight of this is how well all levels sit. When producing ‘Dangerous’, Shaun Morgan has not been afraid to let the track have its quiet moments and at times silence, the precise timing of ring out on instruments is perfect, no one has over played, even during the height of the build-up there is still a subtle calmness within its chaos.
A ballet runs throughout ‘Liar’ as the bassline and guitar riff chase and tantalise one and another, as the listener is taken through the flirtation and enchantment of the song. As the two meet amongst the chorus, the vocals and drums meet to amplify the fascination of the ballad. The affair continues throughout the track as the guitar solo amplifies, the bassline holds its place amongst the rhythm section, once more the track entices the listener to watch the passion intensify as the song finishes in an abrupt finale.
As I said earlier in the article, there is a line within one song that sums the whole album ‘my reputation proceeds me, I’ve got a feeling this Can’t Go Wrong’. That is a bold statement, but this is a bold album, and this feels like the title track for me. ‘Can’t Go Wrong’ may make you feel it’s going to be another ballad as the verse kicks in, but that chugging heavy riff from the intro, runs through the chorus with Morgan reminding you that this album is both about Peace and War.
‘Buried in the Sand’ has a sound reminiscent of the ‘Disclaimer’ Album, Seether have not forgotten their roots, this is a band who remember that fans still want to hear the earlier style but are able to give a new lease of life. They have grown and learnt what works for both themselves and a growing fanbase. Within their growth and maturity, we are treated to ‘Let It Go’, this track brings home a prog metal feel with its tempo changes and structural differences. This showcases their ability to create music and not be afraid to play around with an algorithm that has served the band well over the last seven records.
We are then brought to the masterpiece that is ‘Beg’, this is an anthem, there is no apologies in this track, this is your mosh pit and wall of death moment. Whilst undoubtedly the heaviest track from the album, the lyrics are again a timely reminder of how the band has grown within production and content. ‘Beg’ is hard, its unrepentant, its everything you want and need in a hard rock track, the vocals smash along thanks to impeccable engineering from Matt Hyde (Deftones, AFI).
The tempo is reduced drastically as the subtle chords of ‘Draft Away’ echo through coercing a haunting vocal performance, Shaun Morgan has stated he created this album to show a vulnerability and that he’s ok with that. I feel this is one of those exposed moments that allow a subtle glimpse into the emotions and experiences that have shaped this album. The delicate solo from Corey Lowrey is reminiscent of rock ballads we fell in love with throughout the eighties, it enhances an already captivating song.
‘Pride Before the Fall’ is a sneaky crescendo, it begins as a catchy rock track showcasing the talents of John Humphrey on drums, varying structure and tempo. We reach the midpoint and a harmonising breakdown between vocal and guitar is taken aback with the angst and guttural screams of Morgan before we return to a chorus finale.
This is where the ‘peace’ of the album sends us away in what musically feels like a love letter to listeners, I interviewed Corey Lowery regarding this and he described ‘Written In Stone’ as ‘….it’s one of those where at night you sit in the back lounge or sit in a dark room and put some headphones on and just lose yourself.’ It’s truly one of those songs that just gets you, you feel what Shaun is singing and it ends the album perfectly.
For me, I feel ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ is the best album to date from Seether, its raw, vulnerable, mature and edgy, the musical and lyrical content is sublime. I do not feel this is the peak album for them either as I believe that they have honed their skills over the last twenty years and have now found that writing component that gives them the ability to experiment within musical style whilst still remaining loyal to the heartbeat and soul of Seether.
I score this at 9.5/10 with the added extra of this possibly being my favourite album of 2020.
Dead And Done Bruised And Bloodied Wasteland Dangerous Liar Can’t Go Wrong Buried In The Sand Let It Go Failure Beg Drift Away Pride Before The Fall Written In Stone
Review conducted for The Rockpit, Australia 23 September 2020