As far back as I can remember rock music has been for me. From bands from the 60’s all the way till today, there is no denying the impact rock music has had on me and the rest of the world. Rock music is alive and well but certain people and radio will lead you to believe that it isn’t. That’s not true though. There is something that happens to rock bands though that leads them down the wrong path and they wind up losing their way. Back in the 80’s at the height of the “hair metal” era, the “power ballad” was a way to break into the mainstream and cross over to a different audience. And that has followed up to this day. So many bands still have “that one song” that can hit the mark with a specific audience. Just look at Staind. Remember “It’s Been A While?” That song catapulted the band to new heights and brought in a whole different audience.
One band I’d like to discuss this happening to is Shinedown. When I first heard the band back in 2003, I thought to myself that this band could be the one to really bring back “rock music.” Their debut album Leave A Whisper was powerful and rocking. It had all the right parts of heaviness and melody along with a singer that could actually sing. I remember first getting a 2 song cd sampler which had the songs “Fly From The Inside” and “No More Love.” Those two songs were awesome and it set me on the path of anticipation for their album. So when their album finally came out, needless to say I was excited and it didn’t disappoint. I saw them a couple times during this album run and they were an awesome live band. They had something that a lot of bands out during that time were lacking and that was true substance. One such show was at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen there. They had this energy playing that legendary stage and venue and you could feel their hunger and love of what they were doing.
When it came time for their second album, the guys in the band all worked together and truly developed their sound. It was still rock and hard but also had this brightness to it that let everyone in the band shine. Us And Them, their second album, was released in 2005. The band that accompanied singer Brent Smith was absolutely stellar. Guitarist Jasin Todd, bassist Brad Stewart and drummer Barry Kerch all made this band something special and provided the “balls” the band needed. Even though Us and Them was a very rocking record with songs like “Heroes,” Save Me,” “Yer Majesty,” and “Begin Again,” there was one song on the album that teetered toward the cross over side. That song was “I Dare You.” Also it didn’t help that during that year on American Idol, Chris Daughtry would perform the song on the show. Granted it was great exposure but that was what really set off the change in the band.
Their third album saw a big line up change and that also was a drastic change to the band. Guitarist Jasin Todd and Brad Stewart were fired from the band. Also an outside songwriter was brought in to help singer Brent Smith make and complete the album. The album entitled The Sound Of Madness saw a different sound for the band. Produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance), he brought in a more “pop” sound to the band. The first song the band released from the album though was a “rock” called “Devour,” which was mediocre at best and lacked the real depth the band had on their first two albums. Following that song came the ballads, and high charting success. This is where the band started to lean more toward the realm of Adult Contemporary.
Their next two albums Amaryllis and Threat To Survival are both (to be absolutely honest) watered down crap. They are overproduced and are complete departures from what the band started as. When Shinedown first came out they had a southern rock meets grunge rock thing going that made them stand out. Now they are just your typical “radio rock” type of band without any depth to them. They really lost their way over time and let outside people and record labels dictate where the band should be going. Not to mention that during their live shows they don’t even acknowledge the first two albums. Which is a real let down.
I will never begrudge anyone making a living and doing what they need to do to feed their families but, I do take umbrage when a band sells out and takes the east way out. Just look at the band Sugar Ray. When they first started they were actually a hard rock band. Even the album that has the song “Fly” on it, is a really rocking record. But because of the success of that one song, they completely flipped and went the easy way.
If Shinedown were to get back to the roots of it all, I think they could really pull off a great comeback. They would also need to bring back Jasin and Brad. They had the chops and songwriting ability that made this band along with Brent’s lyrics and voice. I have given up on the band. I did go back and listen to those first two albums and I still dig those, but I just can’t listen to them knowing that they just don’t have it anymore. Hopefully they can come through and change my mind but, until then, at least I have the first two albums and the memories of seeing them during that time.
Leave A Whisper:
Us And Them: