Shinedown have been around for over two decades now. That makes me feel old. With seven albums now out, they have definitely experienced some highs and lows. They used to be my favourite band in my late teens, but their last two albums have certainly made them drop off from th
After a brief, electro-synth intro track that had my expectations worried immediately… we head into a punk/almost thrash track. ‘No Sleep Tonight’ definitely caught me off guard, but in the best way possible. It reminds me of a Volbeat track, that’s the closest comparison I can make. It’s not at all reminiscent of the last Shinedown album which is the best thing I can say, honestly. The chorus is catchy, the riffs are a heavy mix of punk and Metallica and it’s even got a surprisingly technical solo from Zach Myers. This easily makes the playlist, the best track the band has put out since Oblivion.
The album’s lead single ‘Planet Zero’ still doesn’t quite do it for me. There’s another fantastic riff or two from Zach and Eric Bass, but the vocal melody doesn’t hook me in. Brent Smith was my favourite vocalist for a long time, his lines on tracks like ‘Unity’ and ‘Fake’ are perfect. So comparing those to this, there is a clear lack of catchiness. Still though, it’s not a bad song, and it at least had me excited upon its release that Shinedown were to lean back into their rock side than the pop end.
Another short electrical interlude leads to the first slower track on the album, ‘Dysfunctional You’. Outside of the dreadful opening line, I enjoyed this song. It was still lead by the odd piano tone the band have used the last three albums or so, but there was enough guitar in there too to give it a rockier edge. Also, the lyrics were great, building on some of the best of Attention Attention. It doesn’t quite kick into that top gear I was expecting/hoping for, it stayed at a similar level throughout, but damn if the lyrics didn’t win me over big.
A heavy riff kicks off ‘Dead Don’t Die’ and Brent soon comes over the top with some of his rarely used these days attitude and swagger, giving a fantastically bouncy melody over the sludgy riff. It also explodes into a HUGE chorus that reminds me a lot of ‘Cut the Chord’ and ‘Devil’. I’m actually shocked this didn’t make the cut as a single as it’s the best track on the album so far. Zach channels his inner Tom Morello for his guitar solos, another huge, awesome highlight of the song. Playlisted.
Interlude number three continues the strange, space themed concept of the album. I’m actually enjoying it. It’s tying the album together a lot better than most Shinedown albums are, and if they can keep this feeling throughout it’ll definitely be worth multiple back-to-back-listens. Plus, I’m curious to know where the story is going and what the meaning behind it is, so I’m not skipping a thing!
‘America Burning’ opens on some weird electronic-sounding banjo, if I’ve got that right. Between the effects on the instrument and on Brent’s voice, it’s definitely an odd intro. It EXPLODES into a huge pre and chorus, full of catchy vocals and backing jabs. I’m shocked, this album has been heavy so far and the album tracks have been the best part of it all. The solo is awesome, starting with an acoustic before the electric comes in over the top. The melody of it is infectious too; the noodling will be stuck in my head all night. Another fantastic song.
Another interlude leads to a second slower track ‘A Symptom of Being Human’. It’s so refreshing to hear a guitar led ballad by the band for a change instead of the constant leaning on electronic and backing sounds they have done since starting on Amaryllis. It makes them feel more like a rock band. And ALL of their biggest and best ballads have been guitar-based, in my opinion. It opens on just Zach’s acoustic and Brent’s vocals giving some more great deep-dive-into-depression lyrics. The piano comes in behind for the chorus but doesn’t overpower anything. Neither do the beautiful strings that come in after. The track builds perfectly throughout and is stunning, honestly. My favourite ballad since ‘I’ll Follow You’. Playlisted.
So we’re halfway through the album now and I just have to say… this is a really good album so ar. What the fuck, Shinedown? Where was all of this the last decade? They’re making a good case for jumping back up to being one of my favourite bands again.
Usually two slow tracks in a row would feel a bit meh on a rock album, but when it’s twenty tracks long I can let it go a bit. ‘Hope’ also feels like something ripped straight from Amaryllis in the best way. Heck, it sounds like the title track itself, which I love. It’s got that Bon Jovi/Nickelback (sorry for swearing) country-rock ballad feel to it and honestly it’s just a really good, uplifting song. 7/7 so far!
I’m sure you guessed it by now, but ‘Clueless and Dramatic’ is another very good track. A fun, bouncy riff opens it up and plays on and off throughout. The vocals aren’t quite as fun or catchy as some tracks on the album. I feel like it may be down to the lyrics trying to be slightly too complicated, taking away from the earworm-effect a little. Still, it’s a damn good rock song.
Arguably, in this writers humble opinion, the album should have finished.
”Sure is Fun’ is, well, it’s exactly that. Fun. However, it’s the closest thing to the Shinedown of the last two albums, and it’s really not my sort of thing. It’s the same with the following track and another single, ‘Daylight’. Both are good, very catchy tracks in their own right. But they are so very Imagine Dragons-esque pop ‘rock’ and just not the Shinedown I first fell in love with at all. It’s heavily indie inspired, between the simple instrumental, ridiculous, catchy vocal melodies and those wohs. As I said, neither track is bad and if you like it awesome, but this isn’t what I listen to Shinedown for.
At least we finally get some more heaviness for the final single, ‘Saints of Innuendo’. I LOVE this track until this chorus. The riff, verse and pre are all incredible (and heck, the chorus is great too). However, the chorus doesn’t fit the rest of the track at all. It sounds like two different songs pushed together. Still, it’s a damn good song and I feel like I’d love it live with that breakdown. It’s certainly better than the two tracks either side of it!
‘Army of the Unappreciated’ is okay and enjoyable. However, with Brent pulling an Ozzy Osborne and following the guitar melody with the vocals for the most part it screams album track. Then we reach the worst song on the album, the closer, ‘What you Wanted’. While yes, it does serve as a fitting end to the narrative after the interlude before, but I can hear this being on a mainstream pop radio station. It feels like a mixture between modern pop and a Broadway musical. It’s not a rock song at all, and a terrible way for a rock band to close a rock album. It’s well written don’t get me wrong, it’s catchy, the lyrics are good and it builds perfectly. However, this is the furthest Shinedown have gotten from sounding like their first album before, and it doesn’t do anything for me.
Overall: Definitely a tale of two parts. However, the first, better part was much longer than the bad parts, and there were even a couple of okay gems towards the end too. Tracks like ‘No Sleep Tonight’ and ‘A Symptom of Being Human’ will go down as some of the best songs Shinedown have ever written, while only two or three of the 13 official tracks aren’t really my sort of thing. I wouldn’t say they necessarily even dampened my enjoyment that much. They aren’t bad songs, just different. There is plenty of album to go around so if I don’t like them still after a few listens, I’ll happily just skip.
The Score: 9/10