by Johnny Papan
When Godsmack first hit the scene with their self-titled debut in 1998, fans were bathed in the raw-aggression of downtuned guitars and guttural vocals pushed forth by a young and pissed off Sully Erna.
Godsmack’s sound connected with angsty teens of the new millennia and, alongside a multitude of award wins, their 2003 breakthrough, Faceless, earned the band several Grammy nominations. With the taste of success came a whirlwind of substance abuse and anger issues that followed the band for much of their career. For years, Godsmack was consistent with their sound and lifestyle. But now, 20 years after their debut, the band has found a new zen, which is reflected in their songwriting.
When Godsmack first announced that their then-upcoming album, When Legends Rise, was going to see them explore more commercially friendly stylings, purist fans hated the idea of the band selling out. The debut single, “Bulletproof,” stayed true to Godsmack’s intentions. It was catchy, simple and crafted for radio, but the album as a whole is much heavier and still retains their fundamental core, layered with polished evolution.
“It was risky,” frontman Sully Erna admits. “Sometimes you have to take those steps. Even though it’s scary, a lot of great things can happen from it and you can find yourself in a much better position later. That’s kind of the theme that runs through this whole album: rebirth and transition. It also gave us an opportunity to put something out that people weren’t expecting. I really like the element of surprise. I don’t want to be predictable. I thought ‘Bulletproof’ was a good way to tell the fans that we’re not going to be making the same record over and over again.”
When Legends Rise gave Godsmack a chance to break everything down and rebuild from scratch. Erna compares the album to a phoenix rising from the ashes. Lyrically, it’s one of the band’s most intimate releases to date. And as much as the record is a look towards the future, it’s also an introspective dive into paths once followed.
“I went through this transitional period a couple years ago where I realized there were a lot of people who were there for the wrong reasons,” Erna says. “As we talk about crossing paths in our lives, coming to crossroads, people coming in and out of your life, one of the main things that I realized is that everybody is in search of love. Whether it’s from your parents or your wife or your kids or whatever. Unfortunately, we go through some damage in our relationships. Because of that, sometimes you meet someone that could be great for you, but you fuck it up because of the scars that you carry. The song ‘Under Your Scars’ is a representation of meeting somebody who could really be a positive influence in your life and understanding that they have their damage. It’s about basically telling them ‘I’m willing to live with your scars as long as you’re willing to live with mine,’ because we all have our own baggage.”
Erna concludes: “I think this is like a gateway album for us, a new beginning. Whatever we did from zero to 20 is one chapter in our lives, and from this point forward could be a whole new sound, but we’re trying to be sensitive to not going too far that it’s going to alienate our core audience. You have to be able to grow with your fans, and the fans have to grow with us because we’re different people now. I’m not that same angry guy I was when I wrote the first record. This is where we are musically right now, and we’re hoping people come along for the ride.”
Godsmack perform at the Abbotsford Centre on April 26.Abbotsford Centre, godsmack