This week I am reviewing a release that is not so new to some of you but is new to me. I have only recently discovered the Southern hard rock band known as Shinedown. The band mostly hails from Jacksonville, Florida (lead singer Brent Smith is from Knoxville, TN) the city that was put on the rock and roll map by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Shinedown was formed in 2001 and came together using diverse influences such as Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Otis Redding. The Redding influence came from lead singer Brent Smith after his dad purchased him an Otis Redding box set. Smith became engrossed in the soulful emotion that he discovered in Redding and other Motown influences. This influence, I believe is what sets Shinedown apart from their hard rock peers.
Shinedown’s newest release is not so new. “Us and Them” was released October 4th of 2005. It is their sophomore follow up to the very popular debut album “Leave a Whisper”. I have read many reviews since listening through the album for the first time and I agree with many of them. But many of the reviewers state disappointment in this new release expecting the full bore rock sound of their debut album. Maybe I was a bit advantaged by having only recently discovered Shinedown and then listening to both albums sort of back to back. I can see the progression of the bands taste and influences from “Whisper…” to “Us and Them”, and I really like the progression and the diverseness of each of the songs. You can tell that they enjoy reinventing themselves.
The first music track on “Us and Them” (the first track is a poem written by Brent Smith and read by the daughter of guitarist Jason Todd) “Heroes” rocks your face off. It starts with a cool bass windup and then explodes into a hard rock jive that you can pound sand to. The next track “Save Me” hits you with lyrics that depict someone struggling through an addiction. I can appreciate the honesty found in the content. The next track “I Dare You” reminds me of Audioslave the way it vacillates between the clean and overdriven guitar sounds. It is a definite departure from the previous hard rock sound of their previous album. The rhythm of “Yer Majesty”, the next track, rumbles along like a powerful locomotive that is powered by the driving drums and killer guitar riffs. It is a very enjoyable song. “Beyond the Sun” is the first real ballad song in that slows it all down for a spell. It showcases the vocal talent of Brent Smith similar to their version of “Simple Man”.
Album highlights include “Heroes”, “Yer Majesty”, “Trade Yourself In” which sounds like an old Black Sabbath song with it’s guitar riffs, “Shed Some Light” with it’s cello accompaniment just sounds cool to me, “Atmosphere” again has an incredible sounding guitar riff reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, and “Someday” that once again showcases the vocal range of Brent Smith much like Chris Cornell.
I don’t know where some of the naysayers are coming from that pan this album but I truly like it and have been listening to it quite a bit. I believe it is one of those albums that will continue to grow on me the more I listen to it. I can’t wait to hear their next release. I give the album 4 out of 5 stars.
Check out the live video from “Save Me” below.