Seether is considered to be a household name in South Africa. They are home-grown heroes who made it big on the international scene. They are our golden boys and despite their relocation from South Africa to the USA, they continue to champion the Proudly South African brand. The band stands ready to release their sixth studio album after emerging from a spate of Europeans tours, a stint on the Zippo Encore Stage at Download and even playing alongside Avenged Sevenfold at the Rise Above This Festival, which lead singer Shaun Morgan organised in remembrance of his brother Eugene Welgemoed and also to raise awareness regarding suicide.
Not content with being alternative rock heavyweights with two albums going platinum, another two going gold and their previous album debuting at number two on the Billboard chart, the band decided that they needed to reboot their sound. They stripped their melodic hard rock/thrash hybrid down to its gritty and raw core for this particular album. Seether takes the unbridled fury contained in their earlier work and combines it with the smooth melodies from their 2011 release of Holding On to Strings Better Left to Fray to create a fearsome beast armed to the teeth with melodic hooks, hard-hitting lyrics, snarling guitars and crashing drums.
Lyrically, Morgan has always been one to be introspective and confront his darkest demons. Isolate and Medicate plays out like a diary with him confronting whatever situation he faces and pouring his feelings into each song. Each person within the songs present on the album faces the truth of reality with a sense of controlled rage that gives them the fuel to live. It is an album that deals with relationships and life situations.
Isolate and Medicate opens with the fearsome and striking “See You at the Bottom” which opens with a deep bass riff courtesy of Dale Stewart before launching into snarling guitar riffs and crashing drum riffs. Morgan’s voice shifts between a strong, melodic vocal style and a screeching semi-shouted style as he spews venom about somebody who screwed him over. The instrumentals back up the anger contained within the lyrics as they shift between simmering bass lines and restrained guitar until it explodes into riffs that scream anger and pounding drums.
“Same Damn Life” is an interesting gem as it is, for the lack of better words, pop metal. The song opens with a guitar riff that immediately hooks you as Morgan’s Kurt Cobain-styled vocals drawl from behind this riff before being juxtaposed by a falsetto that is reminiscent of John Lennon. The song flits between melodic and catchy riffs and grungy, snarling guitar riffs which inject a fearsome sense of anger into the track – especially as Morgan spews the lyric “You’re the one who needs a fucking intervention.”
The lead single off the album is “Words as Weapons” which is an alternative metal song to its heart as it blends the loud anger of metal with the soaring melodies of alternative rock. The guitar sounds like a snarling beast that has been restrained by chains as it softly growls beneath Morgan’s voice. There are moments when that beast is let loose and surges up to provide a brief sense of fury before being wrestled back into control by Morgan.
“Crash” sees Seether revisiting the softer blend of alternative rock they explored on “Master of Disaster” in their previous album. Soaring guitar riffs form a towering landscape of sound as it shifts from melodic, clean strumming to more distorted and snarling guitar riffs. This accompanies a shift in vocal sound from Morgan as he performs a Dave Grohl and changes from melodic sounding vocals to louder, grunge-inspired vocals. In a way, “Crash” is Seether’s “These Days”.
“Suffer It All” is a monster of a song as Seether loosens the beast that stalks beneath the rest of the album. It is a blatantly heavy song with thundering bass-lines, snarling guitar riffs and crashing drums. Morgan’s voice shifts between a powerful scream and a melodic hard-rock vocal style which pierces through a sonic wall of latent anger. The song closes with a devastating chugging guitar riff that leaves your ears ringing and begging for more.
The album swings from strength to strength before closing with a song (“Save Today”) that is a throwback to their emotionally devastating “Broken”. Morgan is accompanied by an acoustic guitar and low-temp drumming as he pours his heart out about, I assume, his brother Eugene whom he lost to suicide. This is a song that is probably Morgan’s way of still coping with his death. Midway through the track, the electric guitar thunders through and adds to the emotional weight of the song. It is no secret that I adore it when a band closes with a slow song, and this is no exception to the rule.
What Seether has created here can only be described as a true masterpiece. Just like Da Vinci and Picasso worked timelessly to create brilliant works of art, so did Seether. With over 15 years in the music scene and five previously critically acclaimed albums, in Isolate and Medicate these South African-born rockers have produced an album that is practically flawless. There is a saying in South Africa: “n Boer maak ‘n plan.” This translates to: “An Afrikaner (or person) makes a plan.” In this case, it is a plan to prove that South Africa has got the goods to produce some brilliant bands.