Godsmack are one of those bands who have been around forever.
Well if forever is classed as 1998 being the starting point then #1, Godsmack have been around forever; and #2, this is their 20th Anniversary year.
The reason I say forever is because when I was getting back into Rock and Metal as a teenager, Godsmack were one of the fast-rising stars of a blossoming Nu-Metal scene responsible for shaping an entire generation’s music tastes. For me, their second album ‘Awake’ (2000) was heavily played and still sits proudly on my shelf alongside bands like Goatess, Goatwhore and Gojira (I like to alphabetise). With a fairly diverse approach to song-writing, a heavy but easy to follow sound and more of an emphasis on groove and riffs than vocal intensity, Godsmack have always harnessed the crest of the wave; easy to notice, marketable and readily accessible compared to their peers. Their music spreads across several genres, encompassing the realms of Hard Rock, Nu-Metal, Post-Grunge and Alternative Metal, helping their rise and contributing to the band’s commercial successes – consecutive Billboard chart toppers, amongst other awards and certifications. So, by naming their new album ‘When Legends Rise’, could Sully Erna and co be tempting fate, or are they solidifying their presence amongst the icons who paved the way for them?
I’ll be honest. The last time I seriously listened to anything new from Godsmack was around the time they released ‘I Stand Alone’, a massively successful song for them. With a fourteen year gap to traverse, this new release was certainly an eye opener.
The title track opens the release with a hypnotic drumming and droning guitar line. It has an exotic flair to it, yet you can instantly recognise who it is. The way it shifts into the more familiar ‘meaty’ guitar-riffing adds some momentum and weight to the track, and it all comes together when the vocals belt in. Catchy, hook-laden and powerful, with its simplistic-but-effective chorus and structuring, it proves to be a solid opener. From hereon out, it’s business as usual. There are hints of older Godsmack; angsty and emotional feeling in the lyrics, heavier and moodier guitar/bass interplay and straight to the point delivery. There’s also the predominant, more accessible approach which Godsmack are now more known for. These bigger hook-laden sequences spell out a more radio friendly, marketable Rock approach, ultimately leading to some very familiar and at times forgettable moments.
Tracks such as ‘Bulletproof’, ‘Take It To The Edge’, ‘Just One Time’ and ‘Say My Name’ meld the older attitude and fire with the newer edge and accessibility. ‘Under Your Scars’ counterpoints this, as an emotionally charged ballad which ticks all the boxes for atmosphere, delivery and impact – incorporating string and piano melodies, defining melodic guitar sections, passionate vocal delivery and an extremely expressive guitar solo. ‘Let It Out’ has the potential to become a live powerhouse with its infectious nature and raw nature, whilst the closing track ‘Eye of the storm’ has a call-back feel to the band’s earlier sound, serving as a reminder that no matter how much a band may evolve, some aspects will always remain.
‘When Legends Rise’ in all is a straight to the point, no nonsense modern Rock titan with a Metal friendly edge. Hook-laden tracks, memorable choruses, infectious and catchy – a winning formula for commercial success, but whilst it tries to keep true to its roots, it seems to have lost part of itself. To me, it’s like Godsmack are hell-bent on wedging ‘their foot in the door’ at the expense of watering down what defined them originally. The spirit is still there, but isn’t really putting the work in. Yes, there are elements of the heavy, Metal groove we know from past releases, but instead of being the dominant factor in the band’s sound, it’s merely a passenger for the more commercialized approach. Despite how identifiable this album is sonically, it just seems to lack the presence of its predecessors.
Accessible. but lacking the power. ‘When Legends Rise’ might hold some truth to its name, but if Godsmack do attain ‘legendary’ status from this, the rise will be one of sacrifice as opposed to overcoming opposition whilst surrendering nothing.
‘When Legends Rise’ is available now via BMG