Seether – Si Vis Pacum Para Bellum (2020)

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I had KFC for lunch after a ride through the bush. It is a guilty pleasure, but I know what to expect, with some occasional evolutions and elaborations. I get an Ultimate Zinger box, because even though it’s pretty much the same as it has been for a long time, I am comfortable with its offerings, enjoy it and it’s appropriately spicy, without being ridiculously so.

More on that later…

Seether hail from South Africa, before moving to the U.S.. They have been around in some form as a band since 1999, but came to world attention with the album “Disclaimer” in 2002.

“Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” contains 13 tracks that tip the scales at 54 minutes.

“Dead and Done” opened in a way that was undeniably Seether. It was like coming home. The riff was intense and somewhat menacing, soon taken to yet another level by the overlaid guitars. Shaun Morgan’s vocals had their trademark clarity, with occasional screams used to add to the mischief. Harmonies were used to great effect. This track was heavy, but it also had an element of restraint that made it even more effective. The instrumental sections had a high level of musicianship and as usual, the engineering was of sublime quality. This continued throughout this album.

“Bruised and Bloodied” had a pulsating bass opening that gave this track a different feel, whilst maintaining the intensity. It was catchy as hell… The guitar riffs had an enigmatic and engaging quality, which served to add to the disturbing emotions that were laid bare by the lyrics. The bass surfaced from time time more obviously to anchor this track and stellar production was used to combine the range of musical elements to the greatest effect.

“Wasteland” had undistorted electric guitar blowing in, which served as a prelude to the usual thickening of sound. The vocals were cool and calm, which was an effective counterpoint to the strength of the instruments. This was a track of heartache and pain, of “this teenage wasteland of ours”. A clever guitar solo and occasional guitar flourishes added intrigue and a fantastic scream from Morgan late on the track conveyed abundant frustration.

“Dangerous” utilised the safe ground of a clean and clear guitar opening. Whilst this track had a calm exterior, beneath it lay some dangerous subject matter – “I hear the cries of the souls you have eaten”. A fabulous tempo and sound change, utilising more fuzz, saw the track take on a more dysfunctional character, that amped up even further! Another lyric grabbed my attention – “God, I hope you choke on the hate and stomach bile.” Then, “I feel like I am watching a tumour grow.” Crikey…

“Liar” – yes, yes, restrained guitar to open. But, this track had a heavier feel, with the lead guitar doing more of the heavy lifting. It ebbed a flowed from restrained to heavy and it had an anthemic feel – in terms of sound, it was quite pretty and cathartic. The guitars were the stars, with it being easy to get lost in them.

“Can’t Go Wrong” opened with a heavily distorted and modified guitar sound that was amazingly cool. A simple, punishing guitar riff was used, before the sound fell away, becoming simple and reflective. It had me waiting for the muscle, which arrived on cue. I think it might have been on steroids from Russia…

“Buried in the Sand” had Morgan showing his versatility, as he sang about rage and using the bottle to help him to waste away. To mix things up a bit, the opening was percussion based, before falling away to simple bass. This sound was added to over time, resulting in another robust offering.

“Let It Go” had distorted guitar and vocals front and centre from the outset. Rough and ready guitar was partnered by sanitary and clean vocals. The expected progression of sound occurred, with it swelling over time. The rough sounding guitar element was used cleverly – always present, but only coming into clear focus occasionally. Morgan’s vocals were delivered fiercely, with a slight syncopation that was attention grabbing.

“Failure” succeeded in following the template, opening with simple, yet interesting guitar. It was a track about self-loathing, delivered in a disturbingly polite and pretty manner, before becoming much more intense. The track shifted between these two palates, having a life of its own, ever evolving. My heart broke a little at the line, “Live my life like a broken-hearted failure.”

“Beg” opened with one distorted guitar, with clever engineering that had it switching from centre to right to left like a possessed mosquito. The muscular sound was again paired with clear vocals and the lead guitar was overlaid to great effect. This tracked stepped up considerably in terms of the instruments, but this was partnered by a similar ramping up of the vocals. Morgan’s screams were emotion charged and they made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. This intensity lasted all the way to the end of the track, even when things were less complex.

“Drift Away” flowed forth with more subtle guitar and vocals. However, the inevitable transition of sound showed some restraint, as the lyrics spoke about being ugly on the inside, of self-loathing, of feeling irrelevant. The sound intensified and the lyrics became more plaintive, asking, “Let me be – Who I am.”

“Pride Before the Fall” proudly used the attention grabbing centre-left-right engineering again for the guitar opening. The tempo shifted effortlessly, with guitar interjections adding to the atmosphere. At one point I was somewhat irritated by the sound, as that and the tempo were just… odd. However, this was intentional, conveying a sense of madness.

“Written in Stone” was quite relaxed in nature, featuring beautiful acoustic guitar. Brilliant lyrics shared some really dischordant imagery… Very clever track progression soon had me humming. This was a fabulous way to end this beautifully disquieting journey.

“Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was quite a journey. The topics of each track were challenging and they were often delivered vocally in calm manner, making them even more disturbing.

You could accuse Seether’s music of being formulaic. Reading the above will also give you that feeling. Simple instrumentation to start, calm and clear vocals, toughening up of the sound, flicking back and forth between those, embellishing from time to time.

Like going to KFC, this is not a bad thing. You know what to expect, you like it and that’s why you go there. Seether is comfortable in this space and they do it well. There is also some evolution in their sound, the product of experience. There’s a calm confidence in their work, which manifested itself in the tightness of their music.

Their sound was strong and precise, with all instruments blending together brilliantly, woven amongst each other by clever engineering.

I was often in awe of the lyrics, as on one level they were engaging and powerful, but on another they were heartbreaking and confronting. Morgan’s voice was the iron fist in the velvet glove.

Corey Lowery joined the lineup on this work as the lead guitarist. He has slotted in perfectly, showing flexibility and bringing his own pinch of flair.

This album had me traversing a broad spectrum of emotions, which is why we engage with art in all its forms in the first place. When I saw that it was 13 tracks and 54 minutes long, I did a quick eye roll, expecting to get a bit lost from time to time. This didn’t eventuate, surprisingly, particularly given the structure of Seether songs. At no point did I write “Bored” or “Hurry up” in my trusty notebook – this often happens with other albums of similar lengths. This album was cohesive, despite its length.

 But, a word to the wise – with its underlying nastiness – be careful what you sing along to… And who hears it…

This album was an Ultimate Zinger box, because even though it’s pretty much the same as it has been for a long time, I am comfortable with its offerings, enjoy it and it’s appropriately spicy, without being ridiculously so.

9/10

Oh, and, “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” means “If you want peace, prepare for war”

-Greg Noble

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