Sevad The Revolution Review by Mr Topple for Pauzeradio.com.
Of all the artists to recently emerge from Reggae culture, Sevad is perhaps one of the ones to have shown the most artistic development. His album Black Man’s Government displayed real promise but lacked production finesse. Then, his next offering The Message EP displayed real growth in that area. And now, we have his latest project.
The Revolution, released via Sevad Music House Group, is perhaps Sevad’s seminal work. Unlike his peers, less is definitely more in terms of album length: eight tracks to be precise – bucking modern industry norms of 15+ but meaning that every song is excellently constructed. Production across the album is slick and well-focused, creating an overall sound that is intensely brooding with a focus on the lower Hz instrumentation; the final mastering accentuates these traits well and the sound is overall not dissimilar to a Trap (Drill in the UK) release.
The album’s opener, Nobody Cares, sets the tone for the whole project well: brooding, unsettling with an amalgamation of genres to create a rich yet haunting sound. It can almost be described as Alt RnB (or back in the day, Neo Soul). Trap influences are a plenty: from the rapid buzz rolls on the hi-hats, to the deep, resonant bass which meanders across semibreves across the track – albeit minus the distortion often used on modern Rap but with some pleasing glissandos. This lack of griminess on the bass brings in the more RnB elements that are in play. Keys, heavily dampened, run an almost walking arrangement across quavers in the mid-range of the treble clef.
But there’s an interesting nod to Reggae in Nobody Cares, too – as an electric guitar takes the genre’s signature skank and doubles it up to a constantly running pattern. There are some pleasing choral synths used, too – adding to the atmospheric feel. And what Sevad has done so well is to vary the layering of the instrumentation throughout – so the track ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs in intensity. It’s a highly evocative opening, and with its infectious main melody also very engaging.
Unite then expands on what Nobody Cares started. Here, the main influencers swerve between Trap-RnB and Dancehall; more Alt RnB you could say. But what Sevad has done so cleverly is to have broken them down into their component parts at different points in the track. At first, the Trap influences heard on Nobody Cares have been expanded upon. The hi-hat line is infinitely more rhythmically complex as it stutters and winds across the track; the snare does similar but the role of the kick is reduced to accentuating certain beats. Meanwhile, the bass is less dominant here, stretching generally across breves with occasional movement at the end of some bars – feeling more RnB. This theme follows through into the lilting electric guitar line and the gently meandering but dampened keys, both which run attractive countermelodies.
But then, Sevad smashes musical norms out of nowhere with a chorus grounded in Dancehall. The instrumentation doesn’t change, but its arrangement does. The bass, kick and keys all focus on that familiar Dancehall rhythmic clave (‘oneeeeee-twooo-and’ x2) bringing a sudden rush of urgency to proceedings, before the verse winds Unite back down again. It’s a clever musical trick, which enhances not only the aural interest but also the track’s lyrical message, too. Overall, Unite is smart and effective.
The previously-released Freedom sees Sevad tread a deft and emotive line between Trap and RnB. You can read Pauzeradio’s full review of the track here. The RnB keys juxtapose with the distinctly Trap bassline really well, and less in certainly more again as the sparse drum line finishes off this unsettling composition really well. It’s a rousing but thought-provoking affair, accompanied by a similarly stirring video:
The album’s title track sees Sevad up the BPM as well as the complexity of the instrumentation. It’s hard to pin The Revolution to a specific genre, as the influences are multiple – but it fits nearer to an Old Skool style of Hip Hop with some thoroughly modern twists thrown in. The sound driven by the driving bass and kick, running almost identical, dotted note-led rhythms. But Sevad’s use of the hi-hats and snare is slightly more detailed than would normally be found in Old Skool Hip Hop – almost following a Jungle-style, Two Step-led pattern, where the snare focuses on the two and four with intricate, stuttering rhythms in between from it and the hi-hats.
Then, there’s some gorgeous additional instrumentation, too. The string arrangement is particularly pleasing – using a cello as the main instrument which runs attractive countermelodies across the track, before broadening out into stabbing chords. Electric keys have been really high-passed to create a tinny, rasping sound as they tinker in the background. There’s good use of Sevad’s background vocals, too – which he’s distorted at points and engineered to give them a ‘next room’ sound. Overall, The Revolution marks a sea-change in the album’s style – and an impressive one at that.
The Truth sees Sevad stray into smooth, fresh, almost Slow Jam territory – a Dancehall-RnB cut but with wonderful nods to some dystopian Synthwave, too. The end result is perhaps The Revolution’s strongest track. It’s a fascinating composition – not least because the main beat is that Dancehall clave again, driven by the kick and at times the bass. But the latter smooths out during the chorus, creating something more fluid. The keys are firmly rooted in RnB, though, meandering across a mixture of chords and melodies, again with that lovely high-passing to create a stark tone. Guitars are back on a double-time skank, but fleetingly so. And the hi-hats are more RnB, too, running straight semiquavers the majority of the time – aided and abetted by claps in place of the usual snare on the two and four.
But it’s Sevad’s additional touches which really make The Truth stand out. First, and there’s some beautiful use of 80s synths. Across the first and third verses synth horns, dampened and compressed, come in running attractive melodies which immediately create an emotive and moving atmosphere, and set the verses apart from the main chorus. Also, what sounds like some kind of bell bottle synth flits in and out, too. But on the second verse the arrangement changes again – and sharp, semiquaver led string chords come in working just with the kick at first, before the bass enters too. The whole track has been beautifully constructed, with moving and emotive melodies as well – and The Truth stands as perhaps the album’s best cut.
I Will Never is a forward-moving cut which is hard to pin down – but borders on UK Grime meets RnB. The kick, snare, hi-hats and bass are fast moving but have got that half-time (musically 2/2) Grime feel, as they rush across complex syncopated rhythms while the track overall still feels slow. The sparseness of early Grime is there too, because aside from the main rhythm section the instrumental focus tends to limited to the keys, which run an RnB-like, attractive composition which heavily varies throughout. But Sevad has added flashes of something musically richer, including an ominous bridge which includes the keys running blue notes, the bass increasing the syncopation and an overall feeling of something building. But the end of I Will Never winds back on this, as everything fades away. It’s a strong cut from Sevad, and shows his ability to branch out well beyond even Trap/Dancehall and RnB.
Mr. Global stands as perhaps the most Alt RnB/Neo Soul track of The Revolution. Because Sevad has taken some rudimentary elements of Dancehall, Trap, Reggae, RnB and other genres from the album and smashed them together to create a unique sound. For example, the standard Dancehall clave is present – but the final beat of the rhythmic pattern is missing. Instead, he’s then inserted an almost drop-beat pattern (like a Reggae one drop but a beat behind) which is placed on the fourth beat – and then on this beat at every fourth bar there’s a near-complete musical break to accent this, too. Those buzz-rolling Trap hi-hats are still present, while RnB keys tinker high up the treble clef. Chipmunk vocal samples bring some nice EDM to the mix and The Truth’s Synthwave 80s synth horns also make a return, albeit lower down their register and more dampened than previously. Mr. Global really cannot be described as anything other than Alt RnB/Neo Soul – because by taking elements of all the genres that came before it, Sevad has not only encapsulated the album but also brought it full circle to a rousing denouement. It’s affecting and impressive work and lingers in the memory long after the music has stopped.
Revelation Time (Unplugged Live) closes The Revolution. The original track was a Roots-heavy affair: from its drop-beat bass to bubble rhythm keys via a mashed-up one drop on the drums. But here, Sevad has stripped the track back to some barer, and also somewhat different, bones. The focus is a strumming acoustic electric guitar as the main accompaniment, with a secondary line accompanying it as well as some occasional use of strings. Sevad’s backing vocals are well-placed and there is some engineering in terms of decay and reverb on his main line – but otherwise, that’s it. Unfussy, effective and well-executed this stripped back version of Revelation Time closes the album very well.
It should be noted that Sevad’s construction of the record as a whole is very well-executed. The musical complexity builds track-by-track, creating a gradual rise in intensity before it falls off at the end. It’s clear he’s thought about the album as a complete musical message, and it shows.
Across The Revolution, Sevad’s vocals are as strong as ever – marrying with the musical backdrop perfectly. There’s no question over his skill as a vocalist: a rich, rounded mid-to-upper tenor voice that’s capable of producing both straight vocal and singjay at proficient levels. When he delves into Soul-style vocals, such as on The Truth, he is particularly impressive – soaring high up into his tenor range with ease; employing pleasing runs and riffs with a well-controlled vibrato. But it’s his singjay which really stands out. It veers from an almost rap style on tracks like The Revolution, where Sevad employs extremely complex rhythmic stanzas which he then embellishes: at times going into that triplet formation across the beat that legends like The Notorious B.I.G. were famed for, and at others hitting dotted demisemiquavers with ease. But then, he also does a vocal-led singjay – like on Mr. Global where fairly complex melodies meet rhythmic intricacy perfectly. Sevad is a highly skilled performer overall, and The Revolution displays this perfectly.
Lyrically, and there’s no denying that the album is angry but also a veritable call to metaphorical arms. Sevad deals with the authoritarian nature of the system, and the increase of this since the coronavirus pandemic, across the majority of tracks. The Truth, again, is particularly effective in doing this, as is Mr. Global. But Sevad has also laced The Revolution with messages of potential emancipation and hope. You don’t walk away from the album feeling despondent. You feel Sevad’s anger – but you also are immersed in his hope for a better world, too. The lyrics are relatable and engaging, and the overall message of the album is strong and resolute: we have the power to enact a bottom-up, people-led revolution – if we could only all unite.
Overall, The Revolution is a triumph: musically exquisite and groundbreaking, lyrically damning and with the production and engineering aural aesthetics of a major label. The album is Sevad’s seminal work – elevating his status to one of the most exciting talents to appear in recent years. A force to watch – and an album to immerse yourself in.
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Sevad The Revolution Review by Mr Topple / Pauzeradio PR Services (24th March 2022).