Godsmack – Lighting Up The Sky (Album Review)
Godsmack – Lighting Up the Sky
Released: February 24, 2023
Sully Erna | Vocals/Guitar
Tony Rombola | Guitar
Robbie Merrill | Bass
Shannon Larkin | Drums
Godsmack is a band that was formative to my original musical tastes. Shortly after I received my first iPod I only had a few artists in my listening rotation, such as Foo Fighters and Linkin Park. I’ve always been an avid gamer and tracks such as Breaking Benjamin’s ‘Blow Me Away‘ stuck with me after playing Halo 2. Around this time I was also playing ‘Prince of Persia: Warrior Within‘, which featured Godsmack’s ‘I Stand Alone‘ and ‘Straight out of Line‘ from their 2003 record Faceless. Couple this with my Dad introducing me to the track ‘Awake‘ from the record of the same name, and the seeds of my journey into heavy music were planted.
Fast forward to 2023 and my musical taste has exploded across genres. While it’s great to check out what’s next in the scene, sometimes you have to go back and appreciate where it all started. Listening to Godsmack’s eighth record Lighting Up the Sky allowed me to touch on some nostalgia, and acknowledge the growth Godsmack has made throughout their musical career.
The album commences with the kind of instrumental intro you can visualize starting a stadium set, before beginning the defining riffs of the first track ‘You And I‘. This track is quite the classic heavy rock song, and I found myself hooked on Tony Rombolla’s solos instantly.
‘Red White and Blue‘ opens up with guitar tuning I’m more familiar with, alongside the familiar tone of pleading and desperation in Sully Erna’s vocals. This patriotic track is very catchy, and I love Robbie Merrill’s strong bass lines between choruses’. Shannon Larkin‘s build-up on drums to a groovy instrumental section post-chorus was also a highlight.
‘Surrender‘ was the first track of this album to hit me with nostalgia vibes, showcasing the roots of early Godsmack in this single by once again continuing the heavy guitar and bass I’m familiar with. The songwriting has clearly evolved with apparent differences between rhythm and lead guitars during post-chorus sections. The final third of this song is fantastic, as Godsmack builds up the listener step by step and line by line to one explosive and desperate final chorus. This level of emotion is communicated so well throughout the third act of ‘Surrender‘, and is a testament to how vibrant music can be.
‘What About Me‘ has a somewhat darker feeling opening, and features chugging guitars and solos throughout. It is nicely complimented between powerful choruses’ and different vocal tones courtesy of Sully. This song is definitely a Godsmack song, and certainly a predictably structured one. However, this does not detract from the enjoyment I got from ‘What About Me‘.
As I felt like we were getting some more of the same, a piano introduction in ‘Truth‘ caught me off-guard. Sully guides the listener along, as backing harmonies and guitars are introduced. Suddenly the entire band comes together for a powerful chorus, and I’m captivated once again by the emotional vocals. The harmonies, strings, and extra vocalizations have cemented ‘Truth‘ as a favourite.
We return to the heavy rock sound with introductory riffs courtesy of Tony and Sully in ‘Hell’s Not Dead‘. The verses in this track highlight the consistency and professionalism of Shannon on drums. ‘Soul on Fire‘ then proceeds to return to a rock vibe featuring more fun solos and a demonstration of vocal range by Sully.
‘Let’s Go‘ kicks off with a catchy drum beat keeping true to the track title. What stands out for me with this one is the excellent and catchy instrumentals in the 2nd part of the track. I cannot get enough of these Godsmack solos! ‘Best of Times‘ is a fantastic thank you to the fans of the band. It’s a very wholesome song, commenting on how a band’s lives are changed and enhanced by their audience, and how this has been the case for the past 27 years of being a band.
This is the part of the album where we get an acoustic melody introduction to the track ‘Growing Old‘. The reflective nature of the lyrics is sad yet hopeful for the future, and the song picks up to symbolize this hope. This ties in incredibly with the finale of the album, the title track ‘Lighting Up the Sky‘. The aforementioned sense of hope and happiness about the future is brewed within the opening instrumental intro before we break into some heavier rhythms. This feels like a celebration of sorts, one I can already see rounding out a tour setlist. ‘Lighting Up the Sky‘ takes all of the elements of Godsmack’s current iteration and mixes it all together. We close with an explosive finale to further encapsulate Godsmack’s sound, before one final line. This line also is the opener to ‘Voodoo‘, a track from the band’s self-titled release of 1997. Including a long-term easter egg reference like this, further enhances how much of a full circle this album and band have made.
Godsmack has delivered a well-rounded experience of an album that honours their past successes and demonstrates their evolution as a band. Through catchy instrumentals and impactful and reflective lyrics, this album leaves listeners hopeful for the continued evolution of the genre, and also for Godsmack. I already know that many of the tracks on this album will help to create a killer live setlist too!
Godsmack – Lighting Up the Sky Tracklisting:
1. You And I
2. Red White and Blue
4. What About Me
6. Hell’s Not Dead
7. Soul On Fire
8. Let’s Go!
9. Best Of Times
10. Growing Old
11. Lighting Up the Sky
Lighting Up the Sky is out Friday, Feb 24 via BMG. Pre-Order here.
Review by Tyler Lubke.
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