Seether follows in the tough-yet-sensitive tradition of Staind, Nickelback, and other grunge-aping power ballad hitmakers, although this band's road to the top may have been a little rougher than most. They have had their fair share of dues paying, touring solidly for over a year just to hit gold with Disclaimer in 2003 and then touring again in 2004 for the messy repackage Disclaimer II, which also only mustered gold sales. Add to that the fans displeased with the repackage and near-fans displeased that Seether were hard rockers and not a ballad machine as "Broken," the duet with Evanescence's Amy Lee that spurred the release of Disclaimer II, indicated. Their sophomore effort has been beset with its own pre-release woes, mostly label concessions that singer Shaun Morgan has been quite vocal about. The original title of Catering to Cowards was ditched in favor of the less biting Karma and Effect, the cover art was altered, and perhaps most troubling to the vitriolic Morgan, he was asked not to swear on the recordings. Despite all of this, Karma and Effect lives up to Disclaimer and perhaps even betters it with a stronger, road-tested band in permanent drummer John Humphrey and the addition of second guitarist Pat Callahan. Lyrically, the lack of profanity hasn't dulled this butter knife at all. It's stuck in the same ambiguous and inwardly tortuous morass as Disclaimer. Is that a bad thing though? If Seether was mining a different tradition, maybe, but more often than not the lyrics in neo-grunge are a vehicle to which the music is the release, and by that definition they at least are keeping in line with recent standards. There isn't any sign of Amy Lee this time, except in boyfriend Shaun Morgan's thank you list, but ballads like "Plastic Man" and "The Gift" should satisfy anyone hoping for a repeat of "Broken." Those more appreciative of Seether's fierce moments will prefer the explosive album opener, "Because of Me." Karma and Effect doesn't widen the scope of post-grunge but stands up well as a standard-bearer for modern hard rock. Diligent listeners will find a studio jam added as a bonus cut that shows a bit more depth to Seether and reps the band's South African roots as well with lyrics sung in Afrikaans.