Godsmack’s When Legends Rise

Godsmack's new album When Legends Rise review with drummer Shannon Larkin
by Tommy Rage
June 2018



You can spend hours in a therapist’s office, get an emotional support dog, or just put out a great album. Sully Erna and the Godsmack crew do exactly that. Peaking at number one on Billboards Mainstream Rock charts, When Legends Rise is the newest release from a band which has 30 years of dominance. Dating back to the self-titled debut release Godsmack, and 3 consecutive number one albums (Faceless, IV and The Oracle), Godsmack continues to top the rock charts.

Sully Erna, the bands iconic front man, founding bassist Robbie Merrill, along with long time guitarist Tony Rombola and drummer Shannon Larkin stand tall with When Legends Rise. The title track is the albums first song “When Legends Rise.” Drummer Shannon Larkin recalls how that song evolved from its origins, “This song started with Sully going to LA and working with some people [John Feldman and Producer Erik Ron]. When he came back, we hear the demo track, and just attacked that song as a band. Sully and I are both drummers and we love the big tribal sounds. I added a big 20-inch kick-drum to that song, and it’s personally my favorite on the album. We open our shows with it and I’m stoked it went first on this album!” 

All 11 of the album’s tracks remain true to the Godsmack standard we know and love. With their steadfast high energy feel, the band remains vibrant from start to finish, Larkin explains, “Every record until now has come out 4 years apart. We record an album which takes about a year to write and record. Then we go out and tour for a year or two. The key for me is that we take a year off from each other afterwards. We get the ‘big machine’ out of our system. That’s the main thing. When we do get back together, there’s a huge appreciation for each other and for this band we call Godsmack. I know we are lucky to take time away, but that’s been the key. It makes us hungry each time we do a new record.”
“Say My Name”, “Eye Of The Storm” and “Take It To The Edge” with their layered and heavily distorted guitar work from Tony Rombola has never sounded any better. “I can’t say enough about Tony”, raves Larkin, “he has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in rock. It was just after we recorded the IV album and we were hanging out in the studio. I just started this slow bluesy beat and he started jamming along. I put my stick down and was amazed. I had already been in the band a decade with this guy and I didn’t know that some of his biggest influences were guys like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I saw this whole different side of him. We immediately started The Apocalypse Blues Revue so that we can show the world that he is great at playing rock in Godsmack but wait till you hear that guy play the blues, my God – Wow!” 

“Just One Time”, “Let It Out” and “Every Part Of Me” layer Larkin’s drums with the bulldozing bass of Robbie Merrill. “Robbie is awesome, he is another one of those underrated musicians. To me, it’s about chemistry. Tony, Robbie and I have great chemistry. We get along better now than we have our whole careers. Fans know if it’s real, and I love these guys. It was a dream when I joined Godsmack 16 years ago. We still have the same hunger from when I first joined the band”, reflects Larkin back to his pre-Godsmack days, “I had known Sully about a decade before I joined the band. When the band I was with came through Boston, Sully would come pick me up and take me to do my laundry [laughter].”

Like a therapist’s couch, When Legends Rise offers insight into Sully Erna’s emotions and overcoming personal heartache. Larkin observes, “Sully writes all the lyrics for the band. Every song he has written, with the exception of “Voodoo”, has been a personal story of something that he has lived through. A lot of it has to do with getting your heart ripped out. It’s unfortunate, as his friend, to see if happen over and over, but when Tony, Rob and I look at each other after that happens; we know we are going to get another great record because he got his heart broke.” Adds Larkin, “I attribute our success on [Sully] being able to wear his emotions on his sleeve and share them so well on a microphone. It makes people relate to it. People can tell if it’s real or not.”

That emotional rebuilding is captured in the band’s hit single “Bulletproof.” Shares Larkin, “The song is about, straight up - having your heart broken, but coming back stronger and realizing that ‘you can’t hurt me anymore’ and being bulletproof.” However therapeutic “Bulletproof” may have been to everyone in the band, the video took a comedic look at making music videos. “That was the funnest video I ever made [laughter]. Typically, we play the song over and over, about 100 times to get it all on film. This time we literally played the song just four or five times, and the rest of the time was spent just doing fun and crazy stuff. It was the most fun I’ve ever had making a video, and Sully can act, he has ‘chops’. Me however, I couldn’t act my way out of a wet paper bag [laughter].”

The emotionally restorative When Legends Rise backs down from the heavy metal sound of previous Godsmack albums. Sully Erna releases his true inner self while laying it all out on the public display. Every song on the band’s 7th release is emotionally charged and is a reinvention of the Godsmack sound. When Legends Rise does have a noticeably softer tone than previous Godsmack albums and they have stepped away from their aggressive nu-metal feel, but they have not backed down by any means. The album’s title is a perfect fit for a band which continues to mature while still maintaining the power of the Godsmack sound we have loved since day one. After 20 years, Godsmack could be considered rock legends and it’s safe to say that these legends have risen to being rock gods.

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