April 27, 2018
Godsmack has always been the one artist that voiced the feelings that I locked away beneath a smiling façade. As the band grew, my appreciation for their work grew.
I called it “canned” Godsmack. I demanded something more, something better, than revisiting a past that no longer held relevance. I wanted the grrrr and the soul. I wanted the contained release of fury tempered by experience.
I admit, I avoided listening to the new album, When Legends Rise. Disappointment feels the same as heart break and I don’t have enough heart left to afford it.
But Godsmack delivered this time around.
Is it gritty? To a degree that it blends the old with the new and drops bombs of nostalgia (bitches). There’s still a few growls, riffs, and groovy rhythms left in the ol’ fellers.
Is it pop? Eh, for those snobs who act like Godsmack is the Yanni of the hard rock/heavy metal genre, maybe (may you rot in your self-importance along with your testosterone-poisoned idiocy).
Was it meant to appeal to a wider audience? Yes.
Was it manufactured or “canned?” I’ll give that a no.
“When Legends Rise,” is a perfect front-load song. It felt like a nod to power metal, rather than an attempt to be heavy. There is an epic quality to the lyrics and the cleanness of Erna’s vocals showcases the range and depth of his voice.
Of course, there’s “Bulletproof,” another pleasing front-load that was issued as the first single with an interesting video accompaniment. I’m still trying to figure out if Pasquale’s leisure suit was ashes of lime green or ashes of goldenrod in color, but I digress.
Once we get past the hit-makers, things get interesting. You can see the formula. Every good composer has a formula and it’s one that works. It gives a frame work, but it isn’t an excuse to stick to the tried and trope.
Frameworks give the freedom to experiment, and what I really enjoyed about the remainder of the songs were the sudden changes, unexpected changes, in the melodies, especially demonstrated by Rombola’s guitar.
I enjoyed the addition of hand drums without going overboard. I enjoyed how the children’s choir kicked off the song “Unforgettable.” A ballad in “Under Your Scars,” no less? (And I loved it??) These risks may be calculated but still frightening as hell if you wrestle with the continuity of a career.
I’m a lyrics person. I want to know every word that is sung. I want to know what it means, and while familiar themes of Erna’s past efforts are present, they are coupled with new imagery that is deeper and burns a hell of a lot more because no one shakes mortality or loneliness.
I think the only song that didn’t quite fit the album was “Eye of the Storm.” It felt like an add-on, and that always bothers me. Perhaps a few more listens will warm me up, but I am very pleased with the album overall and glad I spent my cash on a preorder.
Treading a path of authenticity is an evolution. Sometimes it devolves into mimicry and many times it opens a doorway into unexpected creativity and fulfillment. If you’re in a group and they’re on board, ready to deliver solid musicianship, then you’ve got a platform for artistic integrity.
©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Images may be subject to copyright.