Godsmack – ‘When Legends Rise’ (Album Review)
Back in the day, I was a massive Godsmack fan. Awake and Faceless were constant companions for years, and they got me through some difficult times. Godsmack also had their own unique sound, and it seemed like nothing could stop them.
Fast-forward to 2018, and honestly, I don’t think any Godsmack fan would’ve seen this coming from the evidence presented in the early 2000s. Over the past decade and a half, Godsmack have been heavily drawing on Metallica’s ‘90s output for fresh inspiration – nothing really wrong with that – and, it seems from recent interviews, found themselves feeling alienated from stadium-level success and underground love.
When Legends Rise is Godsmack’s response, a directly acknowledged attempt to break into rock’s uppermost echelons and truly become immortal. It’s a gamble, and they know it – their plan is to gain ten new fans for every one lost. I hope for their sake it works, because When Legends Rise is going to lose them a lot of fans.
There are some sick moments on When Legends Rise. The opening title track is delivered with conviction, the spectre of Alter Bridge looming large before being quickly dismissed. Unforgettable, Take It To The Edge, and Just One More Time all contain cool riffs – and Say My Name sounds like Metallica jamming with Guns N’ Roses. There are good ideas in there – but they’re few and far between.
The rest of When Legends Rise is so carefully calculated, precisely designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, that it actually becomes insulting to the masses it’s clearly aimed at. Songs like Bulletproof (which does have an entertaining video) and Unforgettable – not to mention immediate offender When Legends Rise – ram their hooks down your throat so forcefully that any serious rock fan is likely to feel nauseous, just as they would when listening to mind-numbing RnB or mumble rap. And that’s not even the worst bit – the first moments of Let It Out sound like a teenage pop-punk band trying not to disturb the neighbours, and Eye Of The Storm contains brief breaks that sound like a child trying to play a Godsmack riff.
The last two tracks on When Legends Rise are completely unlistenable – and for all the talk of phoenix-like rebirth, by the end it doesn’t even sound like Godsmack care about closing their album in style. And why should they? This isn’t a rock album – it’s a small handful of potential hit singles and a whole lot of extremely poor-quality filler.
In other words, When Legends Rise is the kind of album that pissed off rock fans in the days before Napster, led them to pursue illegal downloading and embrace single-track cherry-picking in the first place, and should have died before Godsmack even existed. In 2018, listening to entire albums is an option – and fans willing to buy them are becoming rarer all the time. Had Godsmack appealed to their die-hard following and put out the kind of vicious, uncompromising album that When Legends Rise could very clearly have been, they might have had to abandon the big-league dream, but at least recording an entire album would feel justified.
When Legends Rise would have made sense as an EP – but in any event, this album can only be summed up as a stereotypical, textbook sellout move. At least Godsmack have publicly said as much. As a long-time fan, who went into this album completely ready to say something like “fuck the haters, this album might be commercial but it’s incredible, and hey – you can’t make the same album over and over again for two decades, so if you can’t get over a change then fuck the fuck off,” it’s literally depressing to look back at the words I just wrote and see that I honestly can’t say anything nicer about the latest album by a former favourite band.
Still, I stand by these words – and I’m sure Godsmack will do the same for When Legends Rise. Maybe they’ll win out, gain tons of fans, and then turn those fans into fans of Godsmack’s early work. That would at least make the world a better place.
As for the rest of us, we can only hope.
LTK RATING: 20%
When Legends Rise drops April 27, and can be pre-ordered on iTunes here.