Sound — 7
If you've tuned into Modern or Active Rock radio in the last few years, you're probably already familiar with Shinedown. The Florida band's contagious brand of Melodic-Rock has been a playlist staple ever since they signed with Atlantic Records and released their debut album, Leave A Whisper in 2003. Songs like .45, I Dare You, and Save Me have not just won over radio station programmers. The band has also built a loyal fan base the old-fashioned way; through a non-stop touring schedule. When guitarist, Jasin Todd quit the line-up earlier this year, their long time supporters waited with baited breath for some kind of break-up announcement from the band. Todd was that important to Shinedown. Not only did he contribute white-hot guitar performances on their first two albums, he also co-founded the band with vocalist Brent Smith. Luckily, the band persisted and quickly recruited Silvertide guitarist Nick Perri to fill the vacant spot. The Sound of Madness is not only their new album; it also serves as a statement of persistence, perseverance, and the power of music.
Lyrics — 8
Shinedown write the kind of songs that can only truly be sold with a powerhouse vocalist. In Brent Smith, they have a singer who not only offers every line with a bolt of melodic energy; he also has a slight Southern drawl that adds even more character to the material. From his machine-gun sped delivery on opener, Devour, Smith commands attention like any truly great front man should. He also writes the majority of the music and most of the riffs and overall arrangements compliment his vocal melodies and cadences. On The Sound of Madness, he's practically using his vocal like another guitar, creating a rhythmic thrush that bounces along expertly with bassist Eric Bass (another new member) and drummer Barry Kerch's massive groove. Smith takes a stab at his first true love song on If You Only Knew and in the process has written another track that was tailor-made for the airwaves. It doesn't take a genius to picture the chorus of, It's 4:03 and I can't sleep/without you next to me/I toss and turn like the sea/if I drown tonight/bring me back to life, blaring out of radios this coming fall.
Overall Impression — 7
Things could have gone completely downhill for Shinedown when Todd announced his departure from the band. Many insiders predicted that the band would not be able to recover from the loss and turn in a half-assed or at best, uneven collection. The Sound of Madness is everything but that. Like true champions, the band seems to have channeled the setbacks into their impassioned performances. Perri steps up to the plate and adorns the record with some of the most potent Southern-styled guitar worship this side of Black Stone Cherry and the Black Crowes. He also provides some sleazed-up riffing on tracks like Sin With A Grin and the stadium-ready, Cry For Help. The rattlesnake guitars on the infectious title track evoke images of Slash rocking out on his Sunburst Les Paul. Considering he hasn't been in the band all that long, he should be applauded for such a stellar job here. Like the similar-minded 3 Doors Down, 10 Years, and Buckcherry, Shinedown construct very economic guitar-based rock full of hooks and short on technicality. If they are held to this standard, the band has hit the bull's-eye once again. If If You Only Knew and What A Shame don't become crowd favorites, I'd be very surprised. This stuff just oozes with catchiness! So if you're looking for something groundbreaking, there's no need to look here. But if you want something you can crank in your car and sing-along to, you'd be hard-pressed finding a better album this summer.