When did Nickelback, with a revamped rhythm section, release a new album?
It's the strangest phenomenon that a vocalist who depended solely on a post-grunge delivery on his band's first two albums would want to emulate Chad Kroeger. What's to blame for this dramatic change? Or, maybe it's not a question of what, but a who. Perhaps ex-girlfriend Amy Lee of Evanescence messed up Seether frontman Shaun Morgan so bad with "Call Me When You're Sober" that she inspired him to drop his nasally whines and grating, hideous shouts that made him unlistenable at times. What she should have done is had a more amicable break-up and taught the South African frontman how to write a good song.
With Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces, that's the rub: Morgan is consistently awful, just as he's been throughout Seether's existence, even dating back to when the group was known as Saron Gas. While the Kroeger-style vocals complement the music found on this album a lot better, all that shows is in inability to stabilize one's musical personality and identity. In short, Morgan has a stranglehold on the award in active rock for Most Uninventive Songwriter. For those who watch The Sopranos, Tony Soprano, in an uncharacteristic bout of introspection, informs Dr. Melfi that he's "Like King Midas in reverse: everything [he touches] turns to ****." This statement precisely describes Morgan's influence on Seether's music. As the vocalist and primary guitarist, he constitutes about half of the essentials of an active rock act, but his influence is so disastrous, it turns nearly every Seether song, to continue the Tony Soprano simile, to ****.
With the departure of lead guitarist Pat Callahan in 2006, Seether dropped to a three-piece outfit, with Morgan assuming both rhythm and lead guitar. However, his technically-weak, drab style of songwriting negatively impacts the band's music, even more so than the hideously-digitized sound this album emanates, which leads to one of the biggest disappointments on the album. To clarify, Seether's rhythm section is more than above-average, especially for a radio-ready group. The improvement that drummer John Humphrey and especially bassist Dale Stewart exhibit between this album and 2005's Karma and Effect is hard not to notice. While the two musicians are elevated in the mix, courtesy of the renowned Howard Benson, it was probably a conscious decision in order to save the album, if such a thought can be entertained. The bass parts on lead single "Fake It," "Fallen," "No Jesus Christ," and opener "Like Suicide" gives vibrant life and bounce to the tracks, which would otherwise flop without their presence. The same could be said for every track on the album, but it is on those three tracks in particular where the bass plays an integral role in the songs not being too grating.
Not every single track is a pity. As aforementioned, the new Kroeger-esque persona plagiarization is more helpful rather than being a hindrance on Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces. "Fake It" is a resilient effort, with an animated bassline and solid percussion in support of Morgan's vocals and steady riffs. "Who's to know if your soul will fade at all, the one you sold to fool the world?" he asks, before concluding, "You lost your self-esteem along the way," which leads into a sturdy chorus. In terms of guitars, the best track on the album is album closer "Waste", which is significantly aided thanks to Space [AUS], whose influence can be heard instantly right from the opening arpeggios. Beginning on a somber note, the Space-Morgan collaboration turns to one of the numerous heavier moments on the album, with Morgan singing, "So find me a way to leave this wasted life behind me; find me a way to leave this wasted life behind me after all." The solos on this track ooze with Space connotations as well, again exemplifying how his influence can dramatically improve the instrumentation from a guitar standpoint; basically, those familiar with the Aussie-born musician will recognize his unmistakable style of play and commanding presence on the guitar easily. Album opener "Like Suicide" is also a notable number instrumentally and vocally, despite having an unimaginative introduction and obtuse lyrics, while "Rise Above This," with the agreeable lyric that "Regrets are better left unspoken," is a surprisingly optimistic, heartfelt track ideal for active rock radio.
Unfortunately, a tight rhythm section and random spurts of above-average guitarwork can't save Seether, as Morgan's lyricism once again negatively affects the trio to an unrecoverable, impossible degree. There are manifold instances, but here are a select few: (a) "Your verbal defecation I can't wash away despite myself" and "Put the gun in my mouth and pull the trigger; I feel so alive here" ("No Jesus Christ") are hilarious and laughable, (b), the entirety of 'FMLYHM,' an acronym for **** Me Like You Hate Me," is a lyrical trainwreck, (c) "It irks me when I get burned and I realize I don't get hurt" ("Eyes of the Devil") is one mere example that sees Morgan once again return to the theme of pain to drive his pathetic writing. "6 Gun Quota" shows the despondent Morgan ("Did you ever think to ask my opinion, did you ever think to ask if I'm okay?"), while "Walk Away From the Sun" is a return to pseudo-suicidal form for Morgan ("This smile is so hard to wear, but I have no gun"). It is extremely difficult to listen to a rock vocalist sing lines like this, or singing lines where he feels he's been raped, and take him seriously, no matter how solid his rhythm section is and how many guest musicians he has on the album to help him write a song.
This album, Seether's third (counting Disclaimer and Karma and Effect here), is more of the same from Shaun Morgan: he can hardly handle a guitar without resorting to drab chord progressions and lifeless solos, and his vocals are still something to be desired despite sounding a whole lot like Chad Kroeger all of a sudden. This failure to forge his own identity in rock and resorting to blatantly copying another vocalist's style is absurd and uninspired. Further, the abysmal digitalized sound on this album is a terrible strain on the ears - the Morgan Effect is intensely strong on the album, seeing as how he is solely responsible for the guitars and vocals on the record. Essentially, he's everything but the rhythm section, and his impact on the music is devastating. While songs like "Fake It" and "Rise Above This" are total-package tracks that will undoubtedly enjoy radio success, and the guidance of Space on "Waste" improves that particular track immensely, Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces is nearly all negative space with very little beauty.
S t r a w b e r r y. (D)
“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”