Music industry success is a lot like winning the lottery. It can arrive in one big windfall, or it can be spread out over years.
Atlanta heavy metal act Sevendust has wandered down the latter path. The band's first three albums — 1997's Sevendust, 1999's Home and 2001's Animosity — all went gold. During those years, they paved the way for numerous nü metal jokers who opened for them and quickly went platinum: Powerman 5000, Staind, Static-X, Nickelback, Incubus, Godsmack, Drowning Pool, Disturbed.
"We did help a lot of those bands go do it," agrees Lajon Witherspoon, Sevendust's soulful lead vocalist. "But what's funny about it is, half of those bands, where are they now? A lot of those bands had maybe one song, they went platinum, and then they disappeared."
Now, almost two decades in, Sevendust has shown that slow and steady isn't such a bad business plan. The band, which currently boasts all five original members, is currently out on the road supporting their ninth full-length album, Black Out the Sun, which in April topped the Billboard's Hard Rock charts, their first No. 1 of any sort in their career.
"Very cool after all these years," says Witherspoon. "It's good. With that being said — without those people out there that support us — we wouldn't have a job in the first place."
Black Out the Sun manages to be Sevendust's most hard-charging release to date, even though it's not necessarily their loudest. There's only one real ballad, but the band still injects plenty of dynamics into every track, from the screamo-tinged throb of "Till Death," to the supple slither of "Cold as War."
The stand-out track ended up being the single "Decay," a driving rocker that balances a slicing metal lead and a powerful vocal melody. The song was actually a leftover from the last album that the band happened to rediscover toward the end of the recording process. "We just started playing it," recalls the singer. "We recorded it and it was done."
Another factor in the album's success, notes Witherspoon, was the group's decision to take some time off after touring 2010's Cold Day Memory.
"We needed to take a break," he acknowledges. "Everybody got to work on their projects. And not only that, but the most important thing was to get back to our families."
When it came time to get back together and record Black Out the Sun, the band decided to try a different approach than usual. "What we wanted to do was go into the studio and not have any music. Just us go in and do it, like we did when we started."
They worked on the album 12 hours a day, six days a week, for five solid weeks. They also set up additional recording rigs in the studio and practice room. That way, if anyone came up with good ideas while someone else was recording, they wouldn't have to wait to lay down tracks.
Through it all, the five musicians knew they were onto something, but weren't sure what.
"Even in the middle of it, we felt, 'Oh my god, this is crazy,'" says Witherspoon. "But it went great. All the planets were aligned."