Stepping Stone: Seether // Disclaimer II

I’ve talked before about some of the music that got me where I am today, with the likes of Linkin Park and Ministry. At an earlier time than my forays into Ministry and industrial music, however, there were a certain key groups that I immediately latched onto, mostly because my friend let me rip his CDs onto my crappy little Sandisk MP3 player. I’m talking bands like Linkin Park, but, also, a not-so little group from South Africa called Seether and their sophomore album Disclaimer II.

Past:

Unlike LP or most of the other bands that I was into at the time, Seether didn’t interest me much outside of their Disclaimer II album, which (if I have my facts straight) is a remix/re-recording of their debut Disclaimer. There were, if I remember correctly, a number of tracks on this album that took me a long time to even stand, mostly because they were slow or pretty melancholy. (I couldn’t really be bothered with slow, sad jams, aside from the track “Broken” with Amy Lee on vocals; I wanted my tunes to rip through my ears.) However, the tracks that I did like on Disclaimer II had a sense of aggression that I really hadn’t experienced in music until that time, complete with lyrics that at the time challenged my perceptions of the world. (This isn’t intended as praise towards Seether’s lyrics, as you’ll see later; I was raised in a relatively pious Christian household, and Seether served as one of the first entries for me into the “outside” world.)

Although I didn’t see it a whole lot, I really liked the artwork for what it was; hell, I even like it now. I liked how the two figures were at least partially made out of trees or roots or something, and the positioning of them (touching, but not quite kissing) was well thought-out, as if paradise was right around the corner, but we can’t turn that corner. The coloring, too—the figures being a coral/fuchsia color, on a black background—is still pretty cool.

No matter what I thought of Seether or Disclaimer II at the time, I listened to it like crazy. I can remember spinning it while taking my finals for gym, walking to classes, and pretty much any time when I wasn’t required to take my headphones off. (Side note: why the hell would anyone bother to make kids take gym finals?)

Eventually, I grew beyond it—my interest in Metallica reared its monstrous head right around that time, with Rage Against the Machine and Lamb of God, among others following suit soon after. I think there was a time near the end of high school that I couldn’t even be bothered with it anymore; I preferred to instead put on some Nine Inch Nails or Deftones.

Nonetheless, though, Seether’s always been a little special for me since that time I listened to “Gasoline” all those years ago. It doesn’t reside in my heart, but it deserves some respected nonetheless.

Present:

I couldn’t even tell you the last time that I’ve actually listened to Disclaimer II. It’s just been that damn long. The fact that I’m listening to it now as I’m writing this is sort of weird, considering it’s been nearly a decade, if I’m correct, since I first tried it out.

Honestly? It’s not great, overall. Musically, I can definitely see why I loved it (and part of me still loves the music)—tracks like “Gasoline” and “Out Of My Way” have some great guitar work, and Shaun Morgan’s vocals overall contain a grungy, aggressive tone, almost like Kurt Cobain’s did in the later Nirvana albums. The overall feel created in a song like “69 Tea”—one of dirt, filth, but also some pretty heavy hatred—is something I gravitated to in my teens, and even now I still have a bit of a tender place for it.

But as good as those tracks were, the more downtempo tracks are still not great. “Fine Again” just sounds like it deserves its own brand of eyeliner because, you know, feelings. Hell,there are even some tracks that are heavy that don’t work with me. Morgan’s vocals on the chorus in “Needles” are just bad, in my opinion. I’d say the majority of the album just feels pretty whiny.

Again, that isn’t to say there are good parts. Along with the tracks I mentioned before, there are some parts that are pretty heavy for a hard rock band with significant radio popularity. The riff to “Pride” is rocking, to say the least, and again Shaun Morgan’s vocals are fantastic, raspy and angry in all the right places.

But, beside a couple tracks that I wanted to just snooze on, the real problem that I have with Disclaimer II nowadays is the lyrics. This isn’t to say that every song is lyrically horrible, but none of them really wow me. Even the lightest offenders—tracks like “Fine Again” and “Sympathetic,” and even “Broken”—are of the “look-at-us-being-so-emotional-and-in-touch-with-our-feelings-yet-playing-heavy-music” school of douchebaggery that I can’t say I’m much of a fan of (obviously).

The heavy offenders, though, are just stupid and, quite honestly, pretty redundant. Take the track “Gasoline,” for instance:

Last night I saw that beauty queen

Watched her paint her face on

I wanna be that magazine

That she bases life on

Now, this isn’t too bad, except for being pretty trite. Reaction against the modern “Beauty Myth” has been around, arguably, since the sixties and the second wave of feminism, and even the transgressive tone that the above lyrics take have been said a million times by authors like Palahniuk, Ellis, and Welsh long before this album (or its predecessor) came out.

And that’s just the first track. There are twenty tracks on Disclaimer II, and most of the lyrics are of this variety, with very few exceptions, like “Fuck It,” which I just find funny, though I doubt that was the intent.

So, overall, this isn’t a bad album. I owe a lot when it comes to the music, but really couldn’t care less about the lyrics. I’m glad that this album was around for me to listen to, but now that my tastes have grown, I just don’t see any point of bothering with it anymore. I can think of a hundred other albums I’d rather listen to.

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