Review by Greg Maki
Bands tend to do a lot of talking leading up to the release of a new album. According to their own hype, each release is a bold exploration of new sounds and ideas, unlike anything that has come before it. Metal bands frequently insist it’s their heaviest record yet. But no matter what, it’s almost always the best or strongest thing they’ve done in their careers.
As you probably have experienced firsthand, reality doesn’t often match up with these proclamations.
But then there’s Godsmack. For months, frontman Sully Erna has been touting “When Legends Rise,” the band’s seventh studio album, as a departure for the band, a purposeful shift into a more melodic, mainstream direction, away from the confines of metal squarely into the hard rock realm. And to his credit, that’s exactly what this record is. While it’s still very much recognizable as the band that has been all over rock radio for the past two decades, it comes with a brighter, sleeker sound, with the emphasis more on Erna’s melodious tones—front and center in the mix—than the chunky, chugging riffs that have been the band’s hallmark.
It’s a far cry from what Godsmack built its name on, but with all four band members in their 50s and hugely successful, it would be disingenuous to write another “Whatever,” “Awake” or “I Fucking Hate You” at this point in their lives and career. The closest they get to the old sound is the late one-two punch of “Just One Time” (co-written by Sevendust’s Clint Lowery) and “Say My Name,” and the closing “Eye of the Storm” (co-written by Lowery and producer Erik Ron). The rest of the record falls more in line with the lead single, “Bulletproof,” a slickly produced nugget of hard rock, and even includes a piano-driven ballad (“Under Your Scars”).
Your opinion of “When Legends Rise” likely will depend on whether you’re a metalhead through and through, or if you have room for a little hard rock in your life. I’ve never been shy about being in the latter category, and while I don’t agree with Sully’s assertion that this is Godsmack’s strongest album since its debut, switching up a sound that had remained largely unchanged for 20 years was a wise move.
(BGM, April 27, 2018)