Threat to Survival

Written by: MIN on 09/06/2016 17:30:15

Once there was a time when Shinedown was, together with Nickelback and the more radio rock-oriented aspects of Staind, one of the big guns when talking modern hard and alternative rock (in some circles known as post-grunge). During the band’s early material you could almost feel the presence and influence that bands from the 90s had had on Shinedown; touches of the Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden were relatively evident, and the band actually managed to churn out some huge anthems perfectly suited for your local Rock FM radio station in that period. But alas, those times are gone, and I am here to tell you that Shinedown has been stripped of anything even remotely close to substance and originality, not to mention relevance in today’s rock scene.

Obviously, a band cannot stay the same for 15 years – and no one is asking it to. But after having listened to Shinedown’s fifth album several times, I still can’t find anything redeemable about it. Well, yes, the single “Cut the Cord” actually is kind of infectious. The chorus pays tribute to Marvin Gaye’s classic “Can I Get a Witness” and sports a pretty cool guitar riff — but that’s it. Once you have passed the second song on the album, it never gets better. What is worse is, that even though the lyrics of the song that follows, “State of My Head”, are painfully bad, you cannot help but get the chorus stuck in your head like a nail to the temple:

Round ‘em up, round ‘em up, let’s go // Round ‘em up, let’s go // [Chorus:] Oh, my eyes are seeing red // Double vision from the blood I've shed // The only way I’m leaving is dead // That’s the state of my – state of my – state of my head.

Even when the band tries to spice things up a little with a relatively nasty jungle groove and clapping hands (“It All Adds Up”), it is ruined either by lousy lyrics or an over-the-top vocal performance. That is not to say Brent Smith is a bad singer — he just sounds uninspired when mixed with over-produced, simple rock music that follows the same “a-b-a-b-c-b”-formula throughout most of the songs. Even when he, during the album’s final song “Misfits”, sings ”It didn’t matter if we weren’t on the list // ‘Cause we were misfits”, it is hard to feel any kind of empathy due to the cringe-worthy performance that has, unfortunately but probably, been the anthem for many an uncritical tween anno 2015. As for the performances displayed by the rest of the band, nothing exciting is going on in that department, either. Sure, there is the occasional guitar riff or stomping rhythm section that will get your head bopping. But even those sound like leftover material from an Alter Bridge b-sides compilation.

Ultimately, if you look at the actual songs the band has showcased throughout the album and then compare it to the polished production that is presented, something does not add up. Nothing this simple and formulaic should be so clean and soulless, and I cannot help but think that more emphasis should have been put on the actual material instead of the production value. If the album was simple yet passionate, it would be acceptable, but what Shinedown has done here is robotic and boring. It is like a modern pop record with actual instruments, featuring a few heavy riffs but without ever divulging the glorious hooks and choruses that today’s pop industry is (sometimes) able to. Even when the band tries to level with the listener on one of the album’s ballads, it feels shallow. But as previously mentioned, a few things actually work, and I am fairly confident that some people will like the album – I just don’t. And if these guys are supposed to be some of the ambassadors of modern rock, I don’t want to be a part of it.


Download: Cut the Cord
For The Fans Of: Nickelback, Staind, Alter Bridge
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.09.2015
Atlantic Records

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