Passionate and tuneful in equal measure, Shinedown
’s fourth album, Amaryllis
, picks up where 2008’s rousing The Sound of Madness
left off. Again working with producer Rob Cavallo, who delivered multi-platinum records for the likes of Green Day
and Goo Goo Dolls
, this post-grunge
quartet maximize their hooks as well as their emotions for another potent collection about broken hearts and guarded optimism. Led by dynamic frontman Brent Smith, Shinedown continue to prove their ability at being able to craft radio-ready tunes that traffic in universal sentiments without coming across as derivative or disingenuous.
In a Good Place
Amaryllis represents a period of relative stability in Shinedown’s lineup after a few years of turnover. But that hardly means that the 12-track collection ripples with contentment. Divided between seething rockers and unabashedly pretty ballads (which are often buttressed by an orchestra), the album manages the neat trick of being neither sappy nor petulant. When Smith sings about his endless devotion over strings and piano on “I’ll Follow You,” the feelings are sincere without making you want to gag. And when he switches things up for the aggressiveness of “Enemies,” his putdowns have real bite to them. If anything, Smith and his cohorts have become more confident after Sound’s success to continue mining their big-is-better sound.
A Mainstream Sound ... but Not in a Bad Way
Post-grunge carries a lot of negative connotations with it, and for good reason. Popular bands like Nickelback
have come to represent the worst aspects of that particular rock sub-genre, leaning heavy on feel-good, sing-along platitudes that are backed by blandly catchy guitar melodies. Shinedown share certain similarities with these groups -- their songs are definitely meant to reach the broadest audience possible -- but Amaryllis
shows that there can be an art to appealing to the mainstream without insulting the listener’s intelligence. While the lead single, “Bully,” can be faulted for its somewhat programmatic approach, other tracks like “Amaryllis” and “Unity” are stirring in ways that transcend formula. Naturally, the secret to these songs is a textbook reliance on explosive choruses, but the level of craft is so high it’s hard to imagine many people objecting.
A Compelling Frontman
Considering how long it’s been since The Sound of Madness -- and how incredibly successful that album was -- it was hard to know how Shinedown would respond with their follow-up. Stick close to the script? Or try to radically reinvent their sound? Thankfully, Amaryllis is one of those rare cases when musicians decide to duplicate what worked before without making it an exact copy. A mid-tempo number like “Miracle” plays like a cousin to the “The Crow & the Butterfly” from Sound, but Smith’s vocals are so immediate and compelling that it makes the song feel instantly new. His performance on Amaryllis is a consistent highlight. Though not a conventionally “great” singer, Smith has real presence, which gives the band’s songs heart and soul. Take a track like “For My Sake”: Rather than belting out his tale of regret, he balances between palpable ache and sweet agony. Other vocalists would use the song as an excuse to vent their spleen, but Smith’s approach is trickier -- and also more effective.
Shinedown's 'Amaryllis' - Bottom Line
Much like Cavallo did with Green Day’s American Idiot
, the veteran producer lends a grand, dramatic intensity to Amaryllis
that makes its every moment of angst and sadness sparkle. While it would be difficult to predict whether this new album can match the commercial heights of The Sound of Madness
and its multiple singles, the record demonstrates that Shinedown’s previous record was no fluke. If anything, Amaryllis
suggests these guys are settling into a pretty good groove.
'Amaryllis' - Best Tracks:
“I’ll Follow You” (Purchase/Download
“I’m Not Alright” (Purchase/Download
Release date – March 27, 2012
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publicist. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.