Sevendust is ranked among the top groups in new metal (“nu-metal”), a rock hybrid that combines traditional heavy metal with elements of industrial rock, pop music ballads, hip-hop, R&B harmonies, and lyrics that alternate between life-affirming and nihilistic. Almost-constant touring as both headliners and as openers for bands such as Creed, Megadeath, Godsmack, and Metallica, combined with increased airplay and participation in the Van’s Warped Tour, Iggy Pop’s R.O.A.R. Fest tour, Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest tour, and the Tatoo the Earth tour, have raised Sevendust’s popularity and sales to levels approaching other nu-metal acts such as Powerman 5000, Staind, and Slayer. Like other nu-metal bands, Sevendust is noted for its socially conscious lyrics and musical accessibility, the latter often credited to lead singer Lajon Witherspoon’s vocals, which have been compared favorably to Living Colour’s Corey Glover and the Doors’ Jim Morrison.
The band formed as Crawlspace in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1995. Drummer Morgan Rose told Jason Bracelin in CMJ New Music Monthly that his father was a guitarist and his mother, who followed the Raspberries in the 1970s, took her young son to see David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust tour, which he witnessed while sitting on the shoulders of a security guard. He credits his father with teaching him guitar and claimed that he was able to play Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9” when he was three years old. Rose teamed with Lajon Witherspoon, who has been performing in a variety of soul-music oriented bands.
The group almost didn’t get its big break. When they discovered that an Atlanta industry showcase gig they had booked was obscure and difficult to locate, they almost cancelled. Luckily, they played anyhow, and some executives from the record company TVT got lost looking for another club and saw Crawlspace’s set instead. The group signed with TVT. By 1996 the band had a manager, former Twisted Sister band guitarist Jay Jay French, and had contributed the song “My Ruin” to the soundtrack of the film Mortal Kombat: More Kombat.
Sevendust recorded their self-titled debut album with producer Toby Wright after changing their name in 1997. Sevendust earned gold record status, helped along with a half-hour television concert entitled Sevendust: Live and Loud and plenty of touring. The band’s follow-up effort, Home, released in 1999, also went gold. Sevendust members, however, dismissed it as unrepresentative of the group’s abilities. “We got a few really good songs out of it, and there’s some songs on there that’ll never get played again. Never,” Rose told Bracelin.