If any band has earned the right to go out on their own terms it would be Godsmack.
After over 20 years of service to hard rock, seven albums, countless number ones, Grammy nominations and a dedicated global fan base, Godsmack have announced their new – and eighth – album Lighting Up The Sky will be their final studio recording, with the band instead opting to finish out their career still playing live but without the extenuating pressures an album can bring.
The band could do this a number of ways, so without boring you with my opinions how about we get straight into the final offering from Godsmack and let the music do the talking for all of us?
Opener You And I begins with a burst of reverb that threatens to go anywhere but gradually dissipates into a crunchy guitar riff underneath that swirls through both speakers before kicking into a measured and almost safe opening number that emphatically announces Godsmack will definitely be going out on their own terms.
It is a massive rock number with enough hooks to land Moby Dick – typical of a band who has made a career out of delivering infectiously rocking tunes.
It is a great way to start things off, albeit one not as punchy and in your face as what I was expecting.
But who am I to expect anything from Godsmack?
Guitars continue to reverberate throughout You And I, offering an underlying sense of menace without ever throwing that killer uppercut it spends the first round lining up. Which is a good thing because as history tells us those who come out swinging straight off the bat generally tend to run out of puff towards the final rounds…
Red White And Blue promises to be a parochial number and from the moment the guitars wail to kickstart the battle it’s pretty obvious which side of the ledger things will fall.
This is an up-tempo and tough-as-ever Godsmack song, Sully Erna’s gravel-stained vocals dictating terms and showing the band’s decision to cease recording has nothing to do with Erna’s ability to still hold a note.
More guitars dominate sections of the song, with Erna and Tony Rombolo seemingly having a personal dual on their respective stringed instruments.
Shannon Larkin is as meaty as ever behind the kit while bass player Robbie Merrill lays down the tracks effortlessly.
Surrender once more comes to life on the back of a chunky guitar riff before Erna playfully teases “You’ve always told me that you know me, but you really don’t know me at all”, which may be a subtle message to all of those who have strayed from Godsmack’s corner but could also be a statement delivered at himself.
This could easily already be the third successful single from the album, justifying Erna’s claims that the band is already closing in on more than enough songs that “have” to be in the setlist.
What About Me sounds like it could be a cry for help, and I’m hoping it’s not a ballad, but a fiery intro soon allays those fears.
Larkin is kept busy here, providing a thunderous drum pattern that provides the backbone of the song. If Erna is posing the question fishing for compliments he needn’t have bothered. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and this pearler of a track is vindication enough in itself.
Truth has a more tempered intro, an ambient wave soon revealing gentle piano, and it looks like I have found my ballad.
I’m going to skip to the next song because I am unashamedly biased against ballads so even if it is absolutely sensational I’m not going to admit it.
Hell’s Not Dead sounds better just by the title alone and a swampy-style guitar lick to carry things into the abyss is just what the doctor ordered.
This is a more measured rock track with stuttering guitars and tempered drumming but once again Erna elevates what could be a meat-and-potatoes number and gives it depth and life.
An awesome guitar solo about halfway through on the back of a vicious breakdown makes for a menacing and welcome interlude that carries the song well into the final act.
Soul On Fire growls on the back of a wicked guitar riff and bludgeoning drums that speed up rapidly without ever being oppressive.
And therein lies one of Godsmack’s main strengths. They play hard, fast and heavy but don’t rely on the combination of those three to deliver consistently.
Instead they use these tactics sparingly and to better effect by almost teasing an all-out assault but stopping short just after the first course.
Which always leaves you wanting more.
Let’s Go! has to be crushing by virtue of the exclamation mark after the title and doesn’t disappoint. It’s a blues-driven hard rocking beast of a tune that has all of Godsmack’s trademarks.
Hooks, vocal-driven moments of grandeur, enough guitar riffs to summon the dead and a driving rhythm section that always pushes but never pulls.
My pick of the album so far.
Best Of Times is surely a reflective number and the repetitive guitar intro certainly suggests monotony of sorts.
When Erna spills the lines “27 years gone by. Ever-changing, growing lies. All those times when we went wrong. Try and find that common ground” that notion gains greater traction. Part homage to the fans and part snub at the industry, this song wraps up an outstanding career as best you could in three and a half minutes.
Not a bad song either.
Growing Old is inescapable, but let’s have a listen anyway.
Starting with beautifully measured acoustic guitar I’m sensing another ballad, but I can put up with acoustic guitar much better than piano, so I last a touch longer before succumbing to my own musical prejudices and move on to the title track and album closer.
So, this is what it has come to. The final recorded song of Godsmack we will ever get to listen to… It’s another sweeping effort, with subtle guitar and drums easing the track into life before it… continues to ease into life.
I guess it is a fitting and triumphant finale, and I am preparing to smile and nod before the guitars fully kick in and rescue the potential carnage.
It stays measured and brooding, but what did I really expect?
As cool as it would be it would be remiss of a band to leave things on an aggressive note. But it still would have been an awesome change from expectation.
Instead, Lighting Up The Sky plays things safe and true to form, rounding out the recording career of Godsmack with a beautiful and typically subliminal rock number that contains everything you would expect from the band.
Even I have to concede that.