Back in late 2013, Atlanta-based band Sevendust partnered up with PledgeMusic for a direct-to-fan campaign to help fund the creation of a brand new album. Over the course of the first few days of the campaign their goal was not only reached, but smashed out of the park. Time Travelers & Bonfires, the bands tenth studio album was turned from possibility to reality. The album is a mix of new songs and re-recorded classics which were decided on after a large amount of input from Sevendust’s fan base. This band/fan relationship Sevendust has created seems to continue to be of the upmost importance, proved only more so by the fact they have now reached 225% of their original target, and the speed at which that goal was realised. It was these fans have been eager for Sevendust to record an Acoustic studio album for years and Time Travelers & Bonfires is the answer to those calls. So lets see what it actually sounds like.
The album is one of two halves. The first introducing us to six brand new tracks. After a career spanning music nicely lying on the heavier side of the spectrum, it was always going to be interesting to see how Sevendust adapted to writing with acoustic guitars in mind and adapting their back catalogue to suit. There are some bands this comes naturally for. Alice in Chains and Nirvana are both good examples of re-working their material for unplugged concerts, the former even at times writing acoustically too.
When Come Down rolls over our ears, its clear Sevendust has the knack for it. Everything has been stripped down, as expected. The drums begin raw, the acoustic guitars ring out with a certain organic feel, and Lajon Witherspoon’s vocals sit comfortably in the mix, not overpowering at all, as one could be forgiven to expect. As far as the writing goes it’s classic Sevendust. Strong yet catchy choruses, progressive arrangements and clever guitar work throughout. The Wait is perhaps the most unplugged new track, but blossoms into one of the biggest with the help of classical instrumentation to add some fairly epic soundscapes. Bonfire rounds out the new music rather well. It’s jumpy, rocky and includes great guitar work from Clint Lowery and John Connolly. It perhaps showcases their transition from hard rock to acoustic fretwork the best we’ve heard so far this listen.
The second half of the record is built up on those old classics stripped down and re-recorded. Songs like Gone, Karma and Black have been re-worked and draw attention to the bands writing and arranging rather than focusing on big productions. It’s a familiar listening journey for fans of Sevendust, and definitely an interesting take on their old material that will keep fans entertained.
At times the album isn’t 100% acoustic. A number of guitar solos scream around here and there, often drowning out everything else and taking attention away from the unplugged vibe. What would be a chugging riff on an electric guitar is just played with a harsh synthesizer instead and produced to sound pretty similar to that of an overdriven electric guitar. This can leave you thinking the band haven’t completely committed to the acoustic cause, and at times the sound sits in between the two genres, and not entirely comfortably.
Regardless, there is enough new material to keep fans thoroughly interested. It’s a good effort at writing acoustically and seems to be a good fit with the band, which is why the second half of the record was always going to work. Classic tracks re-visited with a stripped back approach was what fans have been wanting for years. Throw in some new music and Time Travelers & Bonfires has well and truly delivered.