SHINEDOWN – Threat To Survival

shinedown-200x200When I was growing up to be a metal head / hard rocker, the word “radio rock” meant pop-metal. You know, bands like Bon Jovi, Europe, Def Leppard and also stuff like Journey, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Toto. Not only were they radio rock, they were also commercial – the most ugly, dirty and shameful word in the history of rock. If you were commercial, you were a sell-out, not true and a big fake. At least that was what the TRUE metal heads said. Well, that damn word has stuck with that kind of music for ages now. Even in the 90’s and 2000’s, a band like Toto and Europe were looked upon as commercial even though they couldn’t even sell records to their friends around then. So let’s just get rid of that word as a description for a certain kind of music. Music is commercial when it sells a lot, no matter what it sounds like. Metallica are commercial. Rolling Stones are commercial. Nirvana were commercial. But in later years, Def Leppard and Journey has lost the commercial label – commercial is now labeled on other, more recent groups, groups that are being called radio rock as well. Nickelback, Avenged Sevenfold, Hinder, Alter Bridge and Halestorm are all bands that plays music that people judge as “radio friendly”. And Shinedown, of course. These are all bands that always gets heavy rotation on modern rock radio and they sell shitloads of records, even in these times of illegal downloading and Spoti-yuck! And when you’re a huge metal band that also attract the pop crowd, the crowd that usually don’t listen to hard rock and metal, you must be shot – because then you’re commercial. Can’t live with that, now can we? But, what if people would just stop with all the narrow-mindedness and just relax a bit. Here’s a scoop – a metal band is just as true and real even if they sell shiploads of records and get airplay, they just happen to write awesome songs – lots of them – and therefore people dig ’em. Now, I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a hypocrite here because I can also dismiss bands with those words: “just another modern radio rock band”. But hey, these days, there are thirteen a dozen of those bands and too much is just too much. But Shinedown are different, this is not a new band, no, Shinedown has been around for almost 15 years – they started back in 2001 and their debut album Leave A Whisper was released back in 2003. Since then, Shinedown has released four more albums, this being album #5, and has not only sold millions of albums, but they have also gained a reputation for being a shit-hot live band. I still haven’t heard the debut or its follow-up Us And Them (2005) and it was a close call that I never gave them a check-out at all. See, I’m not a big fan of their brand of music, only a few bands has my liking, but most of the stuff passes me by unnoticed. To me, Shinedown were just another modern radio rock/pop band and I didn’t care at all, until my brother played “Devour” (The Sound Of Madness, 2008) for me. I love that album now and I really love their last album Amaryllis (2012, reviewed here). That means that I’m pretty much a fan and this is an album I have looked forward to with some major expectations to go with it for a while now.

Shinedown goes for a knockout right away. “Asking For It” is a melodic hard rock jawbreaker with a melody so catchy it’s insane and I’m thinking that this album is worth buying for just this track. Luckily for us, there’s more where that came from. First single “Cut The Cord” – sure, I’ve heard it on the radio a couple of time prior to this album’s release – follows and it must be one of the best songs released this year. The song is really heavy and since the last album was a bit more pop influenced and not as heavy metal as they were before, it’s great to state that this time, Shinedown has gone for heaviness and a harder sound. That said, the song is so catchy I have to gasp for air. “State Of My Head” is next and this is a bit softer and more pop – still a rock song, though – and I’m sure this will be a single at some point. It has the more pop vibe of the last album, but it is a killer tune no matter what. “Outcast” is an amazing rock groover that will rule live, it’s heavy, it rocks and it is melodic hard rock heaven. “How Do You Love?” is a pure pop song, close to a ballad and it’s catchy as Hell. This will definitively be a single because this song is a hit. “It All Adds Up” has the fast, upbeat verses, but they lower the pace when the chorus comes, which makes for a slower refrain. Usually, bands do it the other way around, but it works and this rhythmic groover turns out to be a real killer! “Oblivion” touches a darker vibe, but is still a very melodic and pretty heavy rocker. “Dangerous” is also a very catchy tune, but this song don’t do it for me. It feels constructed and a bit too obvious, like radio was on their minds when they wrote the tune. It’s not bad, but I don’t feel it. Same thing with the following ballad “Thick As Thieves”. Did some radio station order this song from the band or what? Again, not bad, but too obvious and too cheesy. “Black Cadillac”, however, brings the band right back up on the field. It rocks with cathiness, finesse and a striking groove – awesome! With a title like “Misfits”, I would have guessed that the song is a fast, angry hard rocker, but this is not. “Misfits” is a slow ballad, very emotional and true with a magnificent melody. To end a rock record with a ballad is not optimal, but it sur works here.

Once again Shinedown has produced a portion of brilliant tunes and maybe this record is Shinedown’s best one to date. I know that Shinedown were a heavier band in the beginning than they are now, but this record has a heavier and darker vibe than their last album had, I think that this album has more in common with The Sound Of Madness. Sure, Shinedown are still a band that fits rock radio of 2015 like a glove, but unlike many of their colleges in the same genre, Shinedown has a sound and an identity of their own, they do not sound like the rest of them. Commercial (hey, there’s that word again…)? Absolutely, they do sell records, remember? And yes, their songs are just ridiculously catchy, even when the band goes real heavy metal on us, but to me Shinedown feels honest and I’m sure they aren’t doing anything that they don’t love and believe in themselves and the music they play. So, let’s not be pretentious, folks and let’s not give a rat what the narrow-minded says. This is a great band with great musicians and a fabulous singer who can write killer tunes and releases great albums, commercial / radio friendly or not. I love Shinedown and I’m happy that this album came out great. Now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a world tour. I have missed them before, but that won’t happen again. Until then, this album will be on heavy rotation at my place. It should be at yours as well.

9/10

Tracklist:

1. Asking For It
2. Cut The Cord
3. State Of My Head
4. Outcast
5. How Did You Love?
6. It All Adds Up
7. Oblivion
8. Dangerous
9. Thick As Thieves
10. Black Cadillac
11. Misfits

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