Nothing makes a true Metal crowd more hateful than a band that have made it big. I mean big as in huge. To true Metal soldiers, making it huge means that you’re a sell-out. They can still dig the band but only their first demo that they recorded on a tape recorder in the bass players mom’s kitchen. It’s even worse if said band is being played on the radio – modern Rock radio. That means they have hits and how true is a band that have hits? Nah, gotta hate ’em for that. When I was in my early 20’s, bands like Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister and Europe were given the middle-finger by Metal fans when they broke big. Sure, they were good before they made it but afterwards they were useless crap. How stupid!
Today it’s the same thing but the bands are different. One band I hear this garbage about all the time is Shinedown. Modern, soulless, hit-searching, sell-out Rock that only cares about one thing – hit singles and money! Again, how stupid! Shinedown is a huge band that even in the days of Spotify and illegal downloading sells millions of records and because of that, they’re not true. What a crock of shit. They sell millions because they’re a great band that writes awesome songs – and they’re still heavy and they rock. I have loved the band since I heard The Sound Of Madness (2008) and the follow-ups Amaryllis (2012) and Threat To Survival (2015) were just as brilliant. I have checked out their earlier releases more recently, but even though I liked them, neither of those have really been to my liking as their later givings.
This time Shinedown went into concept-album mode. Due to the fact that singer Brent Smith fell off the wagon after the last album, it also made him think about life when he got sober again so this album is about a person’s trek through life with all its ups and down, the mental and physical fights and about making him/herself at ease with him/herself and finding him/herself along the way. A heavy issue that I think many can relate to. The album begins with an intro called “The Entrance”. Knowing the story beforehand, this interlude that consists of the sound of footsteps entering a room and then an exhale, speaks volumes. The interlude takes the album into first single “Devil”, a tough, heavy and dark Hard Rock track that surely leans towards Metal. It’s headbang-friendly and even though it’s a catchy piece, I don’t think it’s an obvious single like “Cut The Cord” so it’s a brave move to release it as such. But it’s a fantastic tune!
“Black Soul” is a heavy, ballsy, in-your-face rocker that shook me up directly. The mix of electronics gives the song a late 90’s touch but it contains a kicking beat and a very strong refrain. A winner! The title track’s verses borders to nu-metal and also brings on a modern Metal vibe and since that’s not my fave music in the world, it doesn’t really connect with me but then comes the refrain – catchy as can be and very effective which makes me surrender to the track anyway. “Kill Your Conscience” comes in a mid pace, with a groove and a heavy yet radio-friendly refrain that’s pretty classic Shinedown – and it totally owns. Great! “Pyro” is faster, punchy and rough but with an underlying darkness. It’s a hard track that takes them back to their early days. The melody is big and the chorus hits the right spot. “Monsters” brings on some softer mood in the verses but when the refrain shows up, it’s with a punch, very catchy and radio-friendly and I guess we have a future single here. Killer!
“Darkside” is on the same page as its predecessor. A bit lighter in the verses, even pop-laden but the the chorus is uptempo, groovy and hard-hitting Hard Rock – and it catches on directly. It’s a very melodic song albeit with a punchy rhythm. “Creatures” is more of a slower Pop song on the ballad side, dark and aching. The string arrangement is quite beautiful and the whole piece is very memorable with an intoxicating main melody and a masterful refrain. “Evolve” is a kicking rocker with a heavy groove and a steady beat. it’s hard-hitting while very hit-laden with its striking chorus – very good. “Get Up” is pure Pop, clearly written for radio in mind. It’s upbeat, groovy and positive in sound and even though the song is more or less impossible not to hum along to, it’s the tune that connects less with me on this record. It’s a good song without impressing me.
“Special” is a stripped ballad – piano, acoustic guitars and some strings. The tune turns big and pompous towards the end with an orchestration that brings the song home – very well-arranged. This is so awesome. That song brings us to second single “The Human Radio”, a tune that starts with an almost tribal groove, a bluesy and even funky rhythm and a dark vocal line. The what we think is the chorus at first comes along, heavy and aggressive yet very melodic it brings up some roughness but it’s first after this is repeated once that the actual chorus shows up – and what a chorus it is. It’s big, fat and so über-catchy it totally blows me away – a true hit if there ever was one. And do check out the brilliant video for it – it says everything what this song is about. Fantastic! The album closes with “Brilliant”, a song that starts out as a ballad with only piano and vocals but the tune heavies up in a faster pace but with the melody arrangement intact. It ends on a punchy, hard and in-your-face note and the tune is just so damn catchy. A brilliant (sic!) closer on a brilliant album.
While this album – for me, at least – was a bit harder to get into than its predecessors, it surely sticks hard when it do stick. In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed when I first heard it but all that changed pretty fast, so give it a few spins before the final judgement. A lot on this album are stuff that we’re used to hear from Shinedown – the big arrangements, catchy melodies and choruses from hell but on the other side, it’s a heavier and darker and lyrically it really have something to say about how people judge themselves and others and how we look at the world in general – not that radio-friendly topics, so to speak. I know that many look upon Shinedown as just another modern American Metal band, one of many that all sounds the same but I beg to differ on that – Shinedown have got a sound of their own and it’s easy to separate them from other band sin this genre. That said, I dunno if this album will gain them any new fans but I doubt they will lose any because quality wise it’s easily as good as their later releases, if not better. Highly recommended!
More Shinedown reviews:
1. The Entrance
3. Black Soul
4. Attention Attention
5. Kill Your Conscience
11. Get Up
13. The Human Radio