According to Greek mythology, the phoenix absorbs new life through rising from the ashes of its predecessor. By the same token, we tear down the relics of the past in order to make way for the innovations of the future. As every rebirth requires reinvention, Godsmack – Sully Erna [vocals, guitar], Tony Rombola [guitar], Robbie Merrill [bass] and Shannon Larkin [drums] – continue a similar cycle on their seventh full-length album, When Legends Rise.
The multi-platinum Boston bastion of hard rock raises its voice louder than ever on this first studio album in four years…
“You’ve got to burn it down to build it up,”affirms Erna. “When Legends Rise is a metaphor. Life can get challenging at times. It can knock you onto the ground. However, if you reach inside of yourself, find that inner strength and rise up again, you’ll flourish. Over the past few years, I went through a really tough time, but I learnt this first hand. Coming out on the other side, we’re going to do this bigger and better than we ever have. We’re ready to work.”
Truth is, the members of Godsmack have never been afraid to put in the work…
Like the city they call home, these musicians speak louder, fight harder and grow stronger each day. Through an uncompromising attitude and uncanny knack for a hummable hook, they quietly became one of modern rock’s most reliable and resonant institutions. Against all odds, the boys have broken one ceiling after another. They’ve landed seven number one singles on both the US Billboard Mainstream & Active Rock charts. Most notably, they’ve earned twenty one Top ten hits at US Active Rock – the most of any act since February 1999. Joining a prestigious club that includes Van Halen, U2, Metallica, and Linkin Park, they debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 three consecutive times. Not to mention, they’ve sold over twenty million albums worldwide, garnered four Grammy nods, and won “Rock Artist of the Year” at the Billboard Music Awards.
Following a marathon two-year tour cycle re-confirming their position as one of rock’s most explosive acts, the band made a conscious decision to approach writing from a different angle. For the first time, they welcomed collaborators into the process, including John Feldmann, Erik Ron and long-time friend and Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery.
As a result, the sonic palette expanded dramatically, while preserving the guttural Godsmack grit synonymous with the group.
“I really wanted to open up this vein and reach for something fresh,”admits Erna. “Working together with these guys really got me going. I’m one of those people you can give a grain of sand to, and I’ll make a mountain out of it. A little push opened the floodgates. Their contributions allowed me to explore new melody styles. Personally and professionally, we’ve matured a lot. It was time for that kind of expansion.”
So impressed was Erna with Ron’s demos, that he invited him back to Godsmack Headquarters in Derry, New Hampshire to co-produce the eleven songs that make up When Legends Rise. Together, they unlocked an epic urgency evidenced within the title track and album opener…
A massive drum march and high-energy riffing give way to an empowering chant, “When ashes fall, legends rise!”
“I went through a pretty intense break-up,”the frontman recalls. “It wasn’t so much the break-up that banged me up as the aftermath. My eyes opened to things that were going on around me with family, friends and people who I realised were bogging me down with drama and negativity. I made a conscious choice to shut it all off. Instead of leaning on another girl or alcohol to get me through it, I processed the pain organically this time. There’s an over-arching theme of eliminating negativity and being guilt-free about it. When you build yourself back up in this way, that’s when the magic happens.”
That magic carries through the first single, Bulletproof. Hinging on a massive and muscular groove, Erna’s voice takes hold during hypnotic verses before snapping into a stadium-size chant that’s impossible to shake.
“This addresses everything I went through head-on,” he continues.“How many times can you endure this before you create that emotional wall? You don’t allow anyone else back in to potentially hurt you. When you’re betrayed, it kills. It’s like you can’t move forward without this person, because you were so attached. Once it goes away, you gain that strength and independence again. People see that glow when you’re on the rebound. They see you shine. You’ve enabled me to be bulletproof. You’re going to bounce off. I’m certainly not letting you back into this fucker!”
A wah-wah cry bleeds into the album’s most seismic and show-stopping refrain during ‘Unforgettable’. Everything culminates on a choir of local middle schoolers conducted by Erna – like his own ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.
“When I heard the melody in my head, it felt like a big singalong or like The Patriots could hopefully run out onto the field to it,”he laughs. “I’ve been working with this organisation called C.A.T.S. – Community Alliance for Teen Safety – since like 2003. They put me in touch with this amazing group of 20 kids. They came to the studio, we got a bunch of pizza, and they sang it brilliantly. It’s really exciting.”
Elsewhere, piano and strings drive the heartfelt Under Your Scars as Every Part of Me trudges forward on iron-clad intensity. Spawned through a jam session with Lowery, Eye of the Storm closes out this journey with a barrage of distortion, haunting vocals, a hypnotic solo, plus the sound of roaring thunder.
“If you listen to this as a body of work, it ends with the sound of something to come,”grins Erna. “Who knows? It might just be another beginning for us…”
Regardless of what’s on the horizon, Godsmack rise here like never before.
“When you listen to this album, just have some fun with it”, Erna leaves off. “That’s what music should do at the end of the day. There’s no doubt about it, this is a rock record through and through. This is also a Godsmack record.”