Republic / Universal Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Every time I'm ready to declare alternative rock dead, someone has to come along and screw with the announcement. This time around, it's Boston-based Godsmack and their debut album that have me holding off the declaration. Their self-titled release captures the energy of alternative, clever sampling and powerful lyrics to make for a solid first major label effort.

(Caveat: The tape I was sent to review was a "white label" that did not have the final mixes or song order. Readers are asked to take any comments of sound with a grain of salt.)

The band - vocalist Sully Erna (who also played drums on the record), guitarist Tony Rombolo, bassist Robbie Merrill and drummer Tommy Stewart (the band's original drummer, who rejoined the group after the completion of the album) - is a tightly knit group of musicians who have a solid knowledge of harder-edged alternative rock. Lightly peppered with obscenities (which actually bring out the messages more) and heartily seasoned with samples at instrumental breaks in the music, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Godsmack is an album that will deliver a well-needed slap in the face from the get-go.

When it comes to solid rockers, Godsmack know how to deliver the goods. Tracks like "Whatever," "Keep Away" and "Bad Religion" all center around a powerful lyrical delivery from Erna and a solid rhythm backbeat from the rest of the band. (Merrill's bass lines don't seem to vary much in a song, but they still provide a decent anchor for Rombolo's six-string work.)

Where Godsmack succeeds is in their willingness to take chances with the music. Unfortunately, they only do this one, on the track "Voodoo". The different approach to this song makes all the difference in its execution, and it remains one of my favorites on the album. (I do, however, hope that it wasn't moved to the end of the album to be the closer; it is far more effective as a "relief" moment during the course of the album.)

Godsmack only falters slightly in the songwriting, as some of the tracks tend to blend together a bit. Tracks like "Someone In London" and "Now Or Never" tend to fall into this trap. Also, the opening track "Moon Baby" needed a little more lyrical development; it didn't seem to be a completely cohesive piece. Still, these are not major complaints, especially for a first effort.

I don't see how the mixes of the songs could be made any better; the overall sound is crisp and comfortable, yet at the same time challenging the listener to expand past the four instruments and into the wall of samples that some songs utilize.

Godsmack is a decent first effort from a band whose sound shows a lot of promise. With a little work in their weak areas (and there aren't many), this band should be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future. Until then, let this album serve as the world's largest taste spoon.

Rating: B

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Republic / Universal Records, and is used for informational purposes only.