It has been ten years since The Sound of Madness well and truly smashed Shinedown through the glass ceiling into the higher echelons of mainstream, modern Rock. A perfect storm of energetic heavy, alternative Rock riffing with a distinctive edge and a series of absolutely huge songs, all headed up by a top tier vocalist, Brent Smith, whose earnest lyrics and distinctive delivery helped set the band apart. Amaryllis kept things ticking over, adding more anthems to the live set, as the band headed into Threat To Survival (all Atlantic) on a high, and ready to diversify.
The results were divisive. While those true to the band accepted it was a step down from the previous run of albums that still had its moments, the bands dalliance with overtly mainstream tendencies and some questionable image decisions, allied with the watering down of both quality of their usually strong songwriting and the tone of the guitars, led to inevitable “$ell out” accusations from the casual observers who had found their opportunity to put the boot in, and decry the Jacksonville quartet as inauthentic “Wrestle Metal” got lucky.
Attention Attention calls bullshit on that.
Taking a brave approach by undertaking a concept album that discusses mental health, and an unnamed protagonist’s journey through struggles and mental health issues, Shinedown have managed to simultaneously make both a positive statement and shine a light on a pressing and ever more vital conversation, while also upping the ante on the guitars and the consistency of their songs. While the lyrics may not always quite do what they want them to (‘Pyro’), there aren’t many of mainstream Rock’s arena-filling leading lights being so bold as to embrace such a complex and weighty lyrical subject, or a concept album. Smith has previously thought to inspire and uplift his audience (‘Second Chance’, ‘Bully’, ‘Unity’ for example), but this collection feels like a personal and direct reaching out to some of Shinedown’s audience.
Yet, for all the thematic depth, if the songs blow, then Attention Attention fails. In addition, it’s always a struggle, I think, to deliver, high quality from top to bottom on an album that has more than ten songs. So, with that in mind, it is an absolute pleasure to confirm that the consistency is impressive. While the energy levels don’t always reach those on …Madness, there is a diversity and bluster throughout.
While it’s fair to say nothing is surprising or overtly new – Shinedown cover all the expected aspects – it is equally fair to point out that each facet of their sound is delivered to a very high level, from the stomping alternative metal anthems of ‘Black Soul’ and ‘Devil’, to the upbeat ‘Darkside’,via the reflective ‘Creatures’ and the inspirational ‘Get Up’.
Even as deep as track thirteen, ‘The Human Radio’ (the first time the brain starts wandering towards the word “filler”) a rousing middle eight puts a grin on the face, and turns the song into a winner, while closer ‘Brilliant’ is a genuinely inspiring, elevating singalonga-uptempo number that concludes not just the album, but the story with a smile and on a positive note.
It’s so easy to be social, it’s easy to be cool, it’s so easy to be hungry when you ain’t got shit to lose… Shinedown had their reputation on the line and could easily have ramped up the electronica, dialled down the guitars, whacked on that auto-tune effect and rolled the Pop dice. Instead, the guitars are turned up (and credit to bassist, the appropriately named Eric Bass for a landmass sized production), and Shinedown’s stomp and swagger is pushed to the fore on a triumphant album.