49 minutes. 11 tracks. One butt-rock extravaganza that makes me thankful Godsmack isn’t really considered metal. They’re one of those bands on the fringes of rock that intermingles with the genre, and based on someone’s opinion and propensity to argue, one might disagree with you about the classification one way or another. But I stand firm in my beliefs. Thank sweet lord Satan this band is hard rock and not metal. Because they would be a plague on the genre’s reputation.
I have a confession to make before going further into this review. I really only like one Godsmack album.
“I’m not the one who so far away”
No! Brain! Not now! Not now! Okay, to expand on the above statement about liking one Godsmack album, I really only like their first, self-titled LP. To be completely honest, a lot of that has to do with one killer song. But alas, Godsmack did not come up with another “Voodoo” on their eighth studio album, Lighting Up the Sky.
Their latest release starts off innocuous enough with the track “You and I.” It has a simple but engaging enough beat that thousands of midwesterners will nod along to as they drink their Bud Lights. With lyrics like “You and me/ We breathe inside a world where no one can breathe” and the simple repetition of the phrase, “Always you and I” it has the standard “us against the rest of the world” vibe that a lot of rock bands make their bread and butter on. Although the description of “fine legged woman” isn’t exactly genius, the song is typical hard rock radio fare and I’ve honestly heard worse. Just wait until you get to track two though.
When I feel the snake bite enter my veins”
No! Brain! Stop! Move on! Move on to a much worse song: “Red, White & Blue.” Having listened to all of their studio discography, I felt like I unfortunately knew what I was getting into when I saw the song title, but I’ve never dived into Sully Erna and company’s political viewpoints, so I was like “Maybe it won’t be what I think,” but it was. From the first couple verses, I thought perhaps it was less conservative “values” and more “times are hard, let’s make it better” with phrases like “the world going black” and “the world is screaming / All the lies keep ringing through.” But no, because it’s apparently “one side for the never” and “the other stands right” and Sully’s just got to stand by the red, white, and blue! You know, the country where people’s rights are being taken away every day for just being their true selves, and millions can’t afford housing or healthcare, and the world is burning and the ultra-rich politicians that are elected tell children that they know better than the kids that ask why they’re being left a burning hellfire of a world where no one cared? That red, white and blue; that’s what he’s so proud to “stand” by. Just in case anyone had any doubt how shitty of a song this already was, Sully throws in a “in god we trust” and a “don’t you tread on me!” I know I’ve focused a lot on the lyrics here, but the music isn’t anything worthwhile either. Standard hard rock style riffs.
The next two tracks “Surrender” and “What About Me” are standard butt-rock style radio fuel. I’m sure the people who still listen to the local rock station in my area will be fine with each. The most notable thing about these songs is that in “Surrender,” he repeatedly sings that he needs a “break from you” and damn it Godsmack, it’s only three tracks in but the feeling is mutual. The next track, “Truth,” tries to shake it up by being more of a ballad and is still – can you guess? – just generic rock made for the masses to try to get as many plays as they can by appealing to the lowest common denominator among the audience.
“Never did I want to be here again / And I don’t remember why I came”
You know what, brain? I don’t know why I came either. Should have just listened to “Voodoo” again instead of these 49 minutes of 2023 Godsmack.
One thing that struck me as I listened through this album is how much repetition is used in the lyrics. It feels like the same lines are used over and over again throughout the songs. Such as in “Hell’s Not Dead,” that titular line is repeated 15 times through the song. I don’t write music, but I’ve listened to a lot of music and a large variety of music as well as taken numerous classes on poetry and creative writing, and I understand that repetition can have its benefits and it definitely has a use in lyrics, if done correctly; however, in most instances on this album it just feels lazy. The use of repetition here feels like “and slap that in there again, and good enough!” It gives the song a generic and empty feeling, despite lyrics like “This road is winding down around my neck” and “This road has finally drowned me” on “Let’s Go.” I don’t mind simplistic lyrics. You don’t have to sound like a thesaurus in a song to please me, but I do appreciate when musicians and singers feel like they have put something of themselves into a song. It doesn’t have to even be about them, but to truly connect with music there needs to be an effort made by the band and I don’t feel that in this album. Not like when he used to sing about snake bites.
The latter half of the album is no more exciting than the first, although I will say there aren’t any that meet the level of cringe-worthy that is the previously discussed “Red, White & Blue.” “Best of Times” is a “oh look what we’ve done / been through and yet the best is yet to come” standard style rock song that you usually see when a band has been around this long and reached a certain level of success that Godsmack has achieved. “Growing Old” is another one where they slow it down a little, but it still sounds like most every other song on the album. The closing title track failed to light up my enthusiasm for this album.
I know I’ve focused mostly on lyrics in this review, but that’s because most every song on this album sounds like 75% of other Godsmack songs, or any other hard rock band around. For every song on this album it feels like you could play a game of mixing and matching the vocal tracks over the instrument tracks in different orders and the output of the album would be pretty much the same.
Final verdict: 1.5 / 5
Photo at top: Lighting Up the Sky album cover.
Find where to stream the album here.