If you’ve tuned into Modern or Active Rock radio in the last few years, you’re probably already familiar with Shinedown. The Florida band’s contagious brand of Melodic-Rock has been a playlist staple ever since they signed with Atlantic Records and released their debut album, Leave A Whisper in 2003. Songs like “.45,” “I Dare You,” and “Save Me” have not just won over radio station programmers. The band has also built a loyal fan base the old-fashioned way; through a non-stop touring schedule. The Sound of Madness is not only their new album; it also serves as a statement of persistence, perseverance, and the power of music.
Early in 2007, mega-producer, Rob Cavallo (My Chemical Romance, Green Day) asked Shinedown frontman Brent Smith about his goals for their next album. Smith didn’t hesitate. “I said, ‘You know what, when I’m dead and gone, when everyone in this band had passed or what have you, I want the world to remember this as a record that needed to be made and that there was a reason for it’.” With motivation that heavy and a veteran hitmaker like Cavallo overseeing everything, Shinedown’s new album, The Sound of Madness was sure not to be less than great.
That said, the process didn’t happen overnight. Smith and company began the recording process for The Sound of Madness with the formidable task of following up two massively successful albums that yielded a staggering seven consecutive Top five Rock and Alternative radio hits that included “Fly From the Inside,” “45,” the chart topping “Save Me,” and a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” along with a reputation as a hot live band with an insatiable appetite for the road. However, after one listen, it’s clear that they’ve risen to the occasion.
“Lyrically, these songs are the most blunt that I’ve ever written,” says Smith, who formed Shinedown with drummer Barry Kerch in 2001 in Jacksonville, Fla. “I feel that on this record I wrote what a lot of people want to say, but they just don’t know how to say it — not that I should tell anyone how to live their lives, but I’ve had these experiences and these thoughts that are in my head. And I can’t believe I’m the only one who feels the way I do. So I just tried to express that in the most artistic and the most honest way I possibly could.”
From his machine-gun sped delivery on opener, “Devour,” Smith commands attention like any truly great front man should. He also writes the majority of the music and most of the riffs and overall arrangements compliment his vocal melodies and cadences. On “The Sound of Madness,” he’s practically using his vocal like another guitar, creating a rhythmic thrush that bounces along expertly with bassist Eric Bass (another new member) and drummer Kerch’s massive groove. Smith takes a stab at his first true love song on “If You Only Knew” and in the process has written another track that was tailor-made for the airwaves. It doesn’t take a genius to picture the chorus of, “It’s 4:03 and I can’t sleep/without you next to me/I toss and turn like the sea/if I drown tonight/bring me back to life,” blaring out of radios this coming fall!
Elsewhere on The Sound of Madness, listeners will find Shinedown waxing autobiographically (“Second Chance” is about Smith leaving his native Knoxville, Tenn., to pursue a career in rock ‘n’ roll; “What a Shame” is an elegy to a beloved late uncle) but also crafting insightful observations gleaned from the hundreds of shows and millions of road miles the band has logged.
That bigger sound on the album is mirrored in the new lineup of Shinedown, a quintet edition of the band that, along with drummer Kerch (or ‘the almighty Barry Kerch’ as Smith likes to say), includes former Silvertide member Nick Perri on guitars, Eric Bass on bass, and former touring guitarist Zach Myers as a permanent fixture.
“I sometimes look at Shinedown as an entity unto itself,” Smith says. “It keeps evolving all the time, like it actually has a heartbeat. It’s not a machine; there’s actually blood flowing through it. From the time we came up with the name, it’s felt like its conducting us and flowing through us. It’s weird — but it’s pretty wonderful, too.”