On The Sound of Madness, the third album from Florida quintet Shinedown, lead singer Brent Smith goes through a range of emotions, but whatever mood he’s in, you can bet he’s going to feel it in a big way. Whether on a love ballad or a scathing personal attack, The Sound of Madness is the sound of emotions writ large with music as massive to match. Though hard rock remains Shinedown’s forte, this new record suggests that the band members are more than willing to pursue other sonic territory in order to better express themselves.
A Powder Keg of Anger
Kicking off The Sound of Madness with two of its most explosive tracks, “Devour” and “Sound of Madness,” Shinedown establish their anger early before allowing gentler emotions to take hold later in the album. “Devour” races along with Smith’s frenetic putdowns of America’s nation-building foreign policy. No doubt many bands have delivered more thoughtful criticisms of our war agenda, but few have written one that’s sounded so much like a powder keg about to blow. “Sound of Madness” is only slightly less enraged, a rant about self-involved drama queens that’s powered by drummer Barry Kerch. Where other groups just air their grievances over the loudest music they can muster, Shinedown make those complaints swing with a rhythm section that gives their songs an almost danceable groove.
A Sensitive Side
While the most prominent instruments on The Sound of Madness are the guitars of Nick Perri and Zach Myers, Shinedown aren’t so worried about their hard rock reputation that they’re afraid to use strings for more sensitive songs. On the album-closing “Call Me,” where Smith bids adieu to his beloved, the band have constructed a classic ballad that would traditionally morph from its piano-and-string hushed opening into a powerful guitar crescendo. Instead, “Call Me” glides along, riding its melancholy melody all the way to its end, abandoning the gimmicky soft-loud tricks of other bands.
Keeping It Simple
When he goes for some high-energy yelps, Smith’s vocal style can be reminiscent of Dave Grohl’s. And like the Foo Fighters, Shinedown seem to construct their songs around the idea of maximizing their emotional content. No matter how layered the arrangements may be, the material on The Sound of Madness feels simple and spontaneous, as if each tune was just cut on the fly, rather than meticulously labored over. This is typical of producer Rob Cavallo, whose work with groups like Green Day always emphasizes immediacy and warmth. A good example of this on The Sound of Madness is “Second Chance,” a song about personal redemption that builds to a combustible chorus that hums with optimism.
Revoke Their Poetic License
As a lyricist, Smith can sometimes be too poetic for his own good. An affecting song about the end of a relationship, “The Crow & the Butterfly,” is undone a little by lines such as “I painted your room at midnight/So I'd know yesterday was over,” which don’t make much sense. So, yes, maybe he should learn to curb the flowery language, but that’s a minor problem in an album full of punchy, direct songs that wear their heart very proudly on their sleeve.
Release date – June 24, 2008