Album Review: Godsmack, When Legends Rise

By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy

The first time I was introduced to Godsmack was when I bought the DVD, Rockin’ the Corps. I originally got the DVD because I wanted to watch KISS’ performance that I originally saw online. The opening band on it was of course Godsmack, playing there 3 classics “Awake,” “Whatever,” and “I Stand Alone.” Ever since then, I was hooked on them and the fast, aggressive alternative metal style. Since the release of the debut self-titled album back in 1998, Godsmack has reveled as one of the top modern rock acts in the world. Recently, however, I felt their last album, 1000 HP, was a little repetitive and unimaginative. I am still a fan, but what I would like to see from Godsmack is a new direction without compromising what they stand for. Hopefully, they have delivered that with their 7th release, When Legends Die. 

I put on the album and get started with the self-titled track, “When Legends Die.” All of a sudden, I feel I am not hearing the old Godsmack, but a new, slicker adaptation of the Boston rockers. I read that frontman/guitarist Sully Erna wanted to open a new chapter in Godsmack’s journey. I can hear it in his voice and his approach to the mic. Instead of blasting out the words, he controls his singing and becomes cleaner. Then I get to “Bulletproof,” their current single that is, at the moment flirting with the #1 spot on the Billboard rock charts. Since they are on that verge, I guess the fans have spoken and approved this new direction. I never doubted Erna’s take with his music. He knows what he wants and goes for it, not caring what people think of it.

Lead guitarist Tony Rombola also takes a new approach to his guitar playing. He goes from riffing meaty licks and blistering solos, he goes for a razor-sharp, slick technique. His best stuff comes from the piano-led ballad “Under Your Scars,” a song will get into a little later. Both he and Erna lay the groundwork in the guitar department and deliver the goods, that I am sure fans are gonna love in the long run. Shannon Larkin has been Godsmack’s drummer going on 15 years, and he has not missed a beat. When I hear him banging on the snares and cymbals, I personally feel he takes Lars Ulrich’s approach to drumming when he did the Black Album, simple rhythmic drumming that is still heavy, and not lightening fast or wild. It definitely works on this work. Robbie Merrill is still a fierce bassist, delivering crunch bass hooks that are down and dirty.

Godsmack has penned some fine tunes that sound like they are of a vinyl taste. From what I am hearing, most of the songs deal anguish and despair, while also conquering those feelings. Besides “Bulletproof,” I see “Take It to the Edge” as their top song off of When Legends Rise. It is a hard-edge, take-no-prisoners style of hard rock I grew up on. “Under Your Scars” is probably their most daring song, because it is a straight-up ballad featuring a piano. It is very mellow and beautiful, that when I hear this song being played live, I can see cell phone lights in the air or even lighters, if fans still do that. Along with “Unforgettable,” “Someday,” “Every Part of Me,” and “Say My Name,” Godsmack is on the cusp of something new. They ended the album with some vintage Godsmack style in “Eye of the Storm,” where Erna gets rough and guttural with his voice, and Rombola sizzles with a brazen solo.

I was hoping for something new from this band, and I can say with confidence that Godsmack has done just that. After hearing 1000 HP, I thought that they reached their creative limits, but When Legends Die showcases that the veterans of the Massachusetts rock scene still have a surprise. I am sure this record will alienate some diehard, old school fans of the group, but so what!? Godsmack is not burning bridges as much as building new ones to cross over to the unknown.  Erna, you beautiful bastard, well done good sir. To Godsmack, I salute you. Horns up!!! 9.0/10

01. When Legends Rise
02. Bulletproof
03. Unforgettable
04. Every Part Of Me
05. Take It To The Edge
06. Under Your Scars
07. Someday
08. Just One Time
09. Say My Name
10. Let it Out
11. Eye Of The Storm

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