Saturday, 26 January 2013

Shinedown "Amaryllis"

Count in your head how many musicians you know of who have had substance abuse problems. Is the number too high? Instead, try counting the amount of musicians who lived long enough to admit they had a problem and turn their lives around. That number should be a little easier to count to. But now count how many of them sounded the same musically after laying off the substance. That number you can probably fit on one hand. Such could be argued to be the case of Shinedown frontman Brent Smith.

With the release of their 4th studio album, Amaryllis (Released in March of 2012), we find a very different Shinedown from the previous three albums (Leave a Whisper, Us and Them and The Sound of Madness). Coming off the massive success of The Sound of Madness, it’s clear that Shinedown were under a LOT of pressure to come close to matching its success. The result...could have been better.

Much like the previous album, Amaryllis takes a more positive outlook on life, no longer singing about staring down the barrel of a ’45, or remembering people he has hurt in the past, Brent looks to the future and recent events that inspire more positive lyrics for the most part throughout the album. The problem, however, is that it seems Brent is still new to a clean and healthy life and doesn’t otherwise have too much to write about, and the album feels like it is following almost the same story in maybe half of the songs.

Musically, the album has been strongly rejuvenated by Lead Guitarist Zach Myers. Formerly the bands Rhythm Guitarist, he was promoted to Lead for the very first time in his life after the departure of Nick Perri. Zach’s guitar playing and solos really stand out and practically save some of the songs. Songs like the fast pumping opening track “Adrenaline”, the guitar break in the lyrically uninspired “Enemies” are two of the best examples of what Zach brings to the table.

One thing Shinedown has continued from The Sound of Madness is the amount of softer songs included on the album. “Amaryllis”, “Unity”, “Miracle”, “I’ll Follow You”, “For My Sake” and “Through The Ghost” are all softer, more ballad like songs. (They make up for exactly half the album!) This is a far cry from Leave a Whisper. The only song off of that album that could be considered a ballad in any way would be “45”. Or if you’re talking about the re-release of that album, their cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” is also well delivered. Unfortunately, neither of these songs capture attention the way “Second Chance” (the most successful track off The Sound of Madness).

The band picked a curious song to be their lead single off the album, “Bully”. While the message on the song is very clear and direct, the song is musically rather boring. A singer with as much talent as Brent Smith resorts to singing practically single noted verses. And while sitting through these verses, you may be hoping the chorus will save the song, but it doesn’t. It’s catchy, but that’s about it. The best part of the song is Zach Myers’s guitar solo.

By the time you get to songs like “Nowhere Kids”, a sense of familiarity starts to kick in to the point where you notice it doesn’t sound much different from the rest of the album. One stand-out track, however, would be “I’m Not Alright”, a song that sounds different from anything the band has really done before. Not a particularly heavy song, it gives off a feeling like the band are playing in the mind of a crazy person staring at himself in the mirror.

All together, if you are a Shinedown fan, then this album will definitely be for you. It’s a really good listen. If you don’t know Shinedown and want to maybe check them out, do NOT judge them by this album. Listen to Leave a Whisper or Sound of Madness first, then maybe Us and Them, and then this one.

For My Sake” – One of the softer songs off of the album however it is probably the most intense of the softer songs. Brent sounds like he is putting everything behind every note. It is unclear what Brent is singing about, whether it is a woman or substance abuse, but he is definitely singing about some sort of monkey that was on his back that he finally shook off. One of few songs on the album without a guitar solo, but we can forgive him thanks to the amazing rhythms he provides. And let’s not forget Eric Bass (Bass Guitar) and Barry Kerch (Drums). Barry specifically puts forth the same highly underrated drums patterns here that he unfortunately has not been given enough credit for his whole career.


6.5 (Out of 10)

Track List:

1."Adrenaline"  3:26
2."Bully" 4:02
3."Amaryllis"  4:04
6."I'm Not Alright"3:07
7."Nowhere Kids" 3:11
8."Miracle"  3:38
9."I'll Follow You"  3:58
10."For My Sake"  3:47
11."My Name (Wearing Me Out)"        3:36
12."Through the Ghost"  4:01

It would also be recommended to listen to "I'm Alive", Shinedown's contribution to The Avengers soundtrack. Had that been included on this album it may very well have been the best song off Amaryllis.

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