Godsmack, lifted from an Alice In Chains' song, is a great name for an Alt./Metal group.
As Strip Mind and Lillian Axe bit the dust in '95 vocalist Sully Erna and drummer Tommy Stewart put Godsmack together. Bassist Robbie Merrill, a covers band veteran, joined shortly thereafter. Also signing on was guitarist Tony Rambola.
Boston natives Godsmack recorded "All Wound Up" and released it locally. But the group was still playing hometown biker bars. Things were moving slowly. So slowly that Stewart left.
Thanks to local radio play (finally kicking in), Universal Records signed Godsmack. That bit of activity induced Stewart to return to the fold. Out was replacement drummer Joe D'Arco. Universal took "All Wound Up" added new tracks and released it as "Godsmack." Propelled by the singles "Whatever," "Voodoo" and "Keep Away" "Godsmack" sold three million copies and won the group a place on the '99 Ozzfest Tour. They also appeared on the '00 version.
A second album, "Awake" hit in December '00, with the title track delivering the first and most lasting blow. With new drummer Shannon Larkin, third album, "Faceless," released in '03, continued the leather-lunged attack.
To demonstrate there was valid music at the root of their sound, Godsmack totally changed direction with '04 release, "The Other Side," which contained acoustic versions of their songs. Plugging in once again, they released "IV" two years later. "It's a more bluesy record, for sure," said Larkin. "But I think it's got the toughness of Godsmack."
In an effort to bring some closure to their first decade as a recording act, Godsmack issued "Good Times, Bad Times -- 10 Years Of Godsmack" in '07. The hits compilation included their version of the title track (originally recorded by Led Zeppelin).
"We're not going away, we are just gonna take a break and . . . recharge our batteries," said Erna. "We will come back bigger and badder than ever."
Also that year, Erna was involved in a serious multi-vehicle accident. 27 year-old Lindsay Taylor was riding in the back seat of a car rear-ended by Erna's Hummer. According to court documents, she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury that resulted in a multimillion-dollar settlement.
True to Erna's word, Godsmack returned. "The Oracle," a Dave Frontman produced album, dropped in '10. The lead single, "Cryin' Like A Bitch," was inspired by some unpleasantness experienced on the '08 Crue Fest Tour.
"It was more about just being fed up with prima donnas and certain Rock stars in this industry that still feel they can push people around and are still relevant even though its been about 20 years since they've had their big moment," Erna told Rockpit.com. "It's a great song so I appreciate those people being the way they are. It helps inspire me."
"The Oracle" moved 117,000 copies in its first week of release to earn Godsmack their third #1 album on the Billboard 200 (03's "Faceless" and '06's "IV" were the first two). "Cryin' Like A Bitch" also landed at #1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
Next, Erna recorded his debut solo album, "Avalon" and launched a supporting tour. "I'm very excited to bring 'Avalon' to the road," noted Erna in a statement. "It's a trip down the rabbit hole into a world of beautiful scenery."
2010: The Oracle
The desire to have your music recognized for what it is, or more, burns hot. When Nirvana did the MTV Unplugged set some people were shocked to actually hear real songs. The lesson was not lost. The seven song EP "The Other Side" is Godsmack gone acoustic, and yes, there are melodies. And yes, there are real songs. Aside from that, "The Other Side" offers good performances with "Re-Align" and "Voices" translating the best. Erna is relaxed and a bit more poignant but the songs tend to run together. While existing fans might enjoy this approach it's really directed toward those music buyers not picking up Godsmack's core sound. In the end, an all-acoustic EP is just another marketing concept.
On the other hand, Godsmack's "Awake" is a dark, thunderous Rocker. No compromise, no love songs. The title track has a dense, ominous texture punctuated by Sully Erna's roaring vocals. "Bad Magick" and "Vampires" are killer tracks.
"Faceless" has all the power of "Awake" but without a standout song. The title track, "Straight Out Of Line," "Changes" and "I Stand Alone" are powerful Rockers but fail to deliver the knock-out punch. In the best case scenario, "Faceless" would eclipse "Awake" but that doesn't happen. Still, anyone who bonded with "Awake" will have no problem accepting "Faceless." On the upside "Faceless" is a better set than the group's self-titled debut.
"IV" is a solid set with "The Enemy" being the preeminent effort. Right behind is "No Rest For The Wicked." The intricate rhythms of "Voodoo Too"(remember the original "Voodoo?") also connect. "Shine Down," the Grunge influenced "Live In Sin" and the heavy but accessible "Speak" deliver.
The success of the vicious lead track from "The Oracle," "Cryin' Like A Bitch," in both digital sales and on the Active Rock chart, is hardly surprising and serves as a reminder, in case anyone had forgotten in the four years since Godsmack's last album, that this a band with a scathing, unbridled attack. Early in their career, Godsmack was compared to Alice In Chains. And here there is some similarity to Alice's "Check My Brain." Except that "Cryin' Like A Bitch" is more intense.
But "The Oracle" is more than a single track. "Saints And Sinners," "War And Peace," "Devil's Swing," and "Good Day To Die," proves that.