Morgan Rose: “Decay” By Sevendust

One album’s castoff can be the next record’s hit single. That lesson was reinforced for metal adventurers Sevendust as they wrapped recording for their ninth studio album, Black Out The Sun, only to find that an additional track was needed.

Like the rest of his bandmates, drummer Morgan Rose was mentally spent from the creative blowout of making Black Out – a grueling process that saw the record completely written and recorded at New Jersey’s Architekt Music Studios in just 31 days. When one more tune was necessary to round out the collection, Rose and his bandmates rallied around a song section that didn’t make it onto 2010’s Cold Day Memory, built it out, and named it “Decay.”

Lo and behold, the label locked onto Sevendust’s dying breath for Black Out and dubbed it the album’s first single. “We’re kind of notorious for that,” Rose laughs, talking from a tour stop in Indianapolis. “When we get to the end of recording the pressure is gone; we don’t have anything left to prove; and it takes the edge off.”

Tense and intense, “Decay” displays plenty of Rose doing what he does best. After the otherworldly wash of the song’s first 18 seconds, he starts in with a halting kick drum part moving in unison with the bass, backed by an arm-killing sixteenth-note ride on his China cymbal. “We do a lot of that calm-before-the-storm stuff – something’s pumping, and you can just hear the frenzy start to build,” he says. “That beat there was the biggest pain in the ass of the whole song. Its kind of a tribute to a lot of metal stuff out there. Trying to play sixteenth-notes for that long with one hand, on a 23" China that’s really far to my right, gave me the damn rock arm.”

After 20 full seconds of that challenging intro, Rose switches to a patient but driving rock rhythm that powers the verse’s vocals while mirroring the chugging guitars. “Something that defines the band more than anything is mimicking the guitar riff and covering it with the bass drum,” Rose says. “This was the last song on the record, and I had used up my quota of challenging parts. I’m not ever trying to do anything that’s going to make everybody turn their head.”

Nonetheless, prepare for a double take during the tricky sequence at 0:54, where a fast volley of double kicks and flams caps the verse. “It’s the way I’ve learned how to end phrasings is a little tippy-tap flam, ending to go into a stop,” he notes. “There’s more power within the flam – I play it harder. It’s just a little bit of tension before the song goes to zero, then goes back into the chorus and starts moving again.”

The moment of silence at 0:56 has its musical message, but the highly experienced touring drummer plans puts it to work for something more than that. “It’s no secret that I like to play visually – that’s a good place for a stick pop,” explains Rose. “Either I’ll catch the stick, or send it flying somewhere. It’s a nice spot for a trick.”

From 0:56—1:18, the dark verse powers forward on Rose’s tight integration with Sevendust guitarists Clint Lowery and John Connolly. Meanwhile, he’s gone from keeping time on the hi-hat to riding eighth-notes on his 19" crash. “Anytime we’re doing something that’s cohesive between drums and guitars, I’m always just following what they’re doing,” Rose says. “I do make a conscious effort to use all of the cymbals in my kit, mainly because the stuff is there. There’s nothing that bothers me more than when a guy has a Bozzio-like jungle gym of drums to play, but he uses nothing more than a snare and two rack toms. I try to incorporate everything I’ve got.”

A second verse/chorus sequence follows, this time consciously capped off with a quirky off-time fill that’s noticeably different from Rose’s earlier endpoint. “It’s important to do something different, so it doesn’t get monotonous,” he says. “Usually the first one’s really simple, then the next one will add a little bit. Radio people say, ’Keep it simple. You’re not the singer. Just do the groove.’ So I’ll throw something in like that just to make it complicated!”

When the bridge kicks in at 2:08, you can hear Rose toughen up – the beats digs in harder, with more aggression and some additional double kick tricks sprinkled in. “That’s usually where the guys look at me and say, ’Okay, it’s your turn: Let’s build something Morse-code—like here that we can have fun with,” he says. “I won’t derail the train, but I will do something tricky. It sounds like there’s a lot of space around the snare because, instead of a true half time of kick/snare/hat, I’ll fill a space with a kick pattern but leave the snare half time. It makes it feel like you dropped the bottom out of it real quick, but it doesn’t completely shut the song down.”

At 2:26 a prechorus sans drums begins, segued back into the action by an atypical two-strike count on the hi-hat. “It was an old-school mentality,” Rose says of the decision. “We do a lot of two-count stuff, and very little four-count. My mindset was, ’I’ve been sitting out for a while; I don’t want to wait any longer. I’ll just announce my presence with two hat hits here before going into the chorus.’”

And it’s a section worth waiting for at 2:35, as the double final chorus leads to an ultra spare churn at the close, all of it packed with a bouncing battery of extra-tight double bass licks. “When we get to the end, it’s just a straight groove, and there’s nothing that’s getting in its way. When the last vocal scream of ’Decay!’ comes it’s announcing, ’This is the heavy that we’re going to bring right now.’ We’re ending with authority – everyone on the same page and all playing the same groove. It feels strong.”

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