REVIEW: GODSMACK – “When Legends Rise”
Twenty years and a staggering twenty million album sales since the release of their debut album, Godsmack return in 2018 with ‘When Legends Rise’. The multi platinum, four time Grammy award nominated hard-rockers call on Greek mythology, specifically that of the Phoenix, to inform the thinking behind their first record in four years. Just as the Phoenix absorbs new life, rising from the ashes of its predecessor, Godsmack have gone the same route since 2014’s ‘1000hp’ and fans would do well to brace themselves, for this thrill ride is a different animal altogether.
Starting strong can be a bold move if you don’t have the means to follow it up, and Godsmack start very strong indeed. Entering the ring, throwing strong hooks with the records title track “When Legends Rise”, the less than three minute opener does exactly what it’s supposed to. Leaping out of the shadows it pumps adrenaline into the unsuspecting listener with its quickening drums from Shannon Larkin, the growling bass lines of Robbie Merrill and climbing guitar riffing from Tony Rombola, before it explodes into full throttle. By the time the chorus hits, with vocalist Sully Erna exhibiting some of his most passionate deliveries to date, you find yourself surrendered to the record a mere one track deep.
While “When Legends Rise” sets the template for the majority of what follows, the result is not always to the same degree in every instance. Especially the repeated use of a musical trapdoor drop. That moment, typically between guitar solo and bombastic closing chorus, where everything essentially stops and the gap is laced with predominately isolated vocals lifted from the chorus, along with distant underlying guitars, before it all kicks back in. Leading single “Bulletproof” embodies this method perfectly, but it can be found elsewhere in different shapes and forms. The aforementioned title track as well as “Unforgettable,” which uses the harmonized gang chants of a middle school choir to shake it up a bit, are both other examples. Unfortunately, it grows old very quickly. Just as the wizard behind the curtain is only awe-striking the first couple of times, and a hilarious joke funny in the first few tellings, it soon becomes overdone, despite how fun these examples can be to listen to individually.
Taking a wonderful, and well-executed, turn for the mellow ballad, “Under Your Scars” calls all to its attention, demanding a sea of lighters to fill its performance. Sully Erna has never been one to hold back on his vocal delivery, but here, amidst haunting violins and piano, he truly opens up a vein and offers up a song that feels cathartically epic.
Erna has said that the song writing process, this time around, served as part of an organic process for dealing with the personal struggles surrounding the aftermath of an intense breakup he had gone through. And you feel it, with the lyrics enriching much of the record. That being said, musically Godsmack haven’t lost their ironclad grit either. “Eye Of The Storm” brings the album to a thunderous close despite its misplaced fade out.
‘When Legends Rise’ feels like the new face of Godsmack, ushering the way for a new era of the band. If ‘1000hp’ was a rallying death race of wah solos and muscle riffing, this effort serves up something much more fluid, fierce and fun to listen to. Gripping grooves, infectious hooks, and choruses so anthemic they grant no immunity, ‘When Legends Rise’ is a roundhouse, powerhouse, house smashing good ride that will leave you falling in love with these legends all over again.