Striking The Wrong Cord...
When I think Shinedown 4 things come to mind:
• The colour Black,
• Brent’s voice (and its ability to produce the perfect lullaby)
• And most importantly, the phrase “That drum roll though”
If you took a few minutes to give any of their past albums, or any of the potentially endless list of tracks from those albums (Devour, Bully, Enemies, Heroes, Sound of Madness, If You Only Knew) even a quick listen, you would understand where I’m coming from. Admittedly they’ve been a favourite of mine ever since I was 13, but they have since come a long way in the hard rock genre - selling over 6 million albums worldwide, having 39 tracks chart in the Billboard Hot 100, and all whilst developing a considerable online following with countless singles reaching 5 million + views on YouTube consistently across their previous four albums.
Before even beginning to review the album I had heard two released singles (Cut the Cord, Black Cadillac) that told me ‘Threat to Survival’ (Shinedown’s fifth studio release), would be different from previous Shinedown albums. Whilst nervous as to the new turn, Cut the Cord promised much. With broken nightmare carnival sound, the band came at you rawer, definitely different, but as undeniably and as consistently aggressive, brash and addictive as any Shinedown track before. A track of authority no doubt, with frontman Brent Smith seeming to almost foam at the mouth in the conviction of the words he shouts from the first line – a track of pure aggression and genuine venom of a past outcast determined to encourage others not be a casualty to agony and to “cut the cord” before it’s too late. The music video for the track is as equally pumped; different and with a new style, more mature perhaps, but definitely as in your face and addictive as ever.
Unfortunately, whilst a great track to add to the setlist of stellar singles by the band, I have to admit, disappointingly, that Cut the Cord is a stand out track in what is a rather mediocre album. It’s hard to place a reason on why the album feels as it did when I listened to it – admittedly it could’ve been the high expectations. But to me, on the first few listens I wasn’t a fan of the album overall.
Don’t get me wrong there were some tracks that stood out, for example the the piano driven and humbling track, How Did You Love? was one of my favourites on the album - the lyrics and feel of the song felt genuine and Brent’s voice returns fully to its lullaby sound as he reminds us that fame and fortune bring nothing truly meaningful to life; in his words ‘cause castles crumble, kingdoms fall and turn into sand’. Equally the in your face and swagger feel of the chorus of track 1 Asking For It was incredibly catchy and easily likeable from the off, whilst track 3 State of my Head (an initially hated track on first listen) grew on me incredibly quickly, especially once I came to appreciate the feel and flow of the song (which reminds me of a lone trucker driving in the night type sound) after having learnt the band basically wrote a drum track in the first stages of production and essentially built up the song around it’s rhythm rather than lyrics. Quite impressive I thought. Similarly, I came to appreciate tracks such as the late standout Black Cadillac – a song I would describe as the epitome of how slow paced rock and roll should sound; incredibly catchy but at the same time not feeling easily forgettable and still sounding instrumentally loud and inventive even after repeated listens.
However, the fact that instead the band chose to end the album on the (for lack of a more inspired word) rather nice sounding song Misfits in which Brent reminisces on having that other someone who also went against the grain by his side, rather than the genuinely better rock song Black Cadillac, for me signifies the failings of the album as a whole. For some reason much of the meat of the album feels like white noise; fillers that have been forced or have attempted to pander to what the fans want rather than genuine, lyrical, emotive and meaningful hard rock. Indeed whilst perhaps the style between of some of the slower tracks of the band’s last studio release, Amaryllis, and this album isn’t actually that great, it is the absence of hard hitting, addictive and dark tracks like Bully or Enemies that is perhaps the reason for the disappointing and overall ‘meh’ feel of the album as a whole.
Agreed, bands should never limit themselves to one style of music and the desire to experiment with different sounds and pace from the band is a good sign, but for me, as sad as it is to say, the album just didn’t hit the right cords as rock album for me.