Godsmack - IV

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Universal Music
Produced by Sully Erna & Andy Johns

It's taken a long time for Godsmack to make this album. With the fantastic stop-gap EP The Other Side tiding the fans over, this album is probably the most eagerly awaited of all of their CDs so far.

And, inevitably, eagerly awaited things invariably disappoint. This is potentially no different, but it depends on indivdual fans' point of view. This isn't all about hard-rocking aggression like the previous three records were. Only Temptation comes close to being as heavy and rocking as hard as previous Godsmack material, particularly on Awake. The rest is missing the aggression that made the other records such classics.

That doesn't for a second mean that this too can't be a classic. It is. But not in the same sense as the others. This one is much more thoughtful, focusing more on the musicianship, song-craft and lyrics than before. For example, Mama is the best, most intelligent song the band have ever written. But before that (it's track ten out of eleven), let's start at the beginning.

Opening cut Livin' In Sin starts almost like a Korn song. It doesn't thump in with a monumental riff and Sully Erna's trademark growl. It begins with a light, almost eerie guitar melody and sparse pounding bass drums, complete with sampled childrens' voices. It builds through the verse and then the bass and heavier guitars come in. Sully's vocals are superb. Far more restrained and less throaty than we're used to, he is able to carry so much more genuine emotion besides anger. This is mirrored by the fantastic guitar solo before another rousing chorus. This is a mature Godsmack, and certainly not a Godsmack fans are used to just yet.

Speak, many fans will have heard already. It's the first single from the album and the band have played it on a couple of US talk-shows. It's a pretty standard Godsmack single, with a sing-a-long chorus and a simple, catchy riff. It would actually work well in the acoustic re-make setting of The Other Side, were they to ever do a second one. The Enemy rumbles out with a pounding riff and bass line, destined to be another Godsmack live favourite, then Shine Down begins with a harmonica intro that instantly brings back Aerosmith's Hangman Jury. The verses are very melodic, utilising Sully's new style, before a chorus that sounds far closer to Nickelback than they've ever sounded before. The level of interest steps up with Hollow, a beautiful acoustic-based track featuring sublime guest vocals from Lisa Guyer duetting with Sully on the choruses. No Rest For The Wicked features some interesting use of the talk-box and another brilliant sing-a-long chorus and Bleeding Me (not a Metallica cover) opens with some superb slide guitar before breaking into a typically anthemic track.

The band nod back to the classic closer of their debut album, Voodoo with a sequel, Voodoo Too featuring more typically rhythmic drum patterns and another fast paced and wordy, yet memorable chorus, similar in style to the first one. Godsmack are very, very good at writing choruses like this, proving that catchy passages don't need to be dumbed down and make little, if any, sense. They can be complicated and meaningful while remaining memorable. Voodoo Too also features an amazing guitar solo, something not particularly prevalent in Godsmack songs to date, but as great as this one is, the best is yet to come. After the seriously hard-rocking Temptation, which needs very little description - pure Godsmack - the magnificent Mama covers every possible piece of musical ground. Delicate, melodic passages, powerful riffs, aggressive vocals, melodic vocals, searing solos, it has everything. Unquestionably their finest hour thus far.

The album closes in almost-as-magnificent style with the slow-burning, dark and introspective One Rainy Day, complete with brilliantly bluesy guitar solos and more exceptionally emotive vocals from Sully. Godsmack have surpassed themselves here. Whether the existing faithful will see it in the same way remains to be seen.

Tracklist: Livin' In Sin / Speak / The Enemy / Shine Down / Hollow / No Rest For The Wicked / Bleeding Me / Voodoo Too / Temptation / Mama / One Rainy Day

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2006, Albums, Alternative, Hard/Heavy Rock, ,

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