The Hippo


Aug 19, 2018








Godsmack, Shinedown, Red Sun Rising 

When: Wednesday, Aug. 22, 7 p.m. 
Where: Bank of NH Pavilion, 72 Meadowbrook Lane, Gilford
Tickets: $38.75 and up at

Godsmack returns, co-headlining with Shinedown


 By Michael Witthaus
Topic No. 1 for almost every interview Shannon Larkin does lately is The Ballad. Godsmack is known for being hard, heavy and relentless, but its new album contains a few changeups. For the first time, band leader Sully Erna collaborates with other musicians, co-producing with Erik Ron. Synthesizers crept into a few tracks. On “Unforgettable,” a children’s choir from Erna’s hometown provided another new brick in the wall. 
But “Under Your Scars” got people talking unlike any other track in Godsmack’s catalog, which includes six Active Rock No. 1 songs and over 20 million records sold. Beginning with spare solo piano, it’s the first ballad they’ve ever done. While tender, it has the unmistakable Godsmack stamp. 
“We spent the most time on that song simply because it’s really easy to veer into cheeseball world with the rock ballad,” Larkin said from a California tour stop. “We knew how important the arrangement would be, emoting the actual feeling of his lyrics.”
“Scars” is one of many very personal songs on When Legends Rise, Godsmack’s seventh album, released 20 years after their self-titled debut. 
“I always write about things that have affected me on an emotional level,” Erna said in a press release. 
For his bandmates, there’s often conflict in hearing the pain in Erna’s lyrics.
“As his friend, it’s hard to see when he goes through heartbreak,” Larkin said. “But as a band ... Tony and Rob and I look at each other and say, ‘well, we’re going to have a great record.’ Because then he writes all these songs, and he wears his heart on his sleeve … fans aren’t stupid; they can tell when something’s real, and so they can relate to his lyrics.”
For all the buzz generated by the song, it hasn’t appeared yet in Godsmack’s current co-headlining tour with Shinedown — though Larkin said he hopes “Scars” is released as a single. The title cut, the muscular “Bulletproof” and “Unforgettable” are When Legends Rise cuts played at most shows.
“We’ve got to be very careful in picking our set list, where we put new material in,” Larkin said. “Keep the fans interested ... we don’t want them to say, ‘Let’s go get a beer.’”
Touring with Shinedown is especially satisfying, given the two groups’ history together. 
“When their first record came out, we immediately agreed this band was killing it, so we took them on tour,” Larkin said. “We watched them rise to headliner status … to be out with them is like a big family reunion.”
Larkin joined Godsmack in 2002, replacing original drummer Tommy Stewart. His friendship with Erna predates that by  15 years, however. 
“Coming through town often with different bands, Sully would pick me up at the gig ... I’d go to his apartment and do my laundry or whatever,” he said. “We were bros before I ever became a part of Godsmack and that hasn’t changed — if anything, as a band, we’re getting along better now than we ever did.”
Much of that harmony comes from their habit of spacing out work — making a record, touring it for a year or more, then taking time off for other projects. Erna’s made a pair of solo records; Larkin and Godsmack guitarist Tony Rombola’s side band, Apocalypse Blues Revue, just released its second album. 
Larkin said the effort provides an outlet for his songwriting, and allows Rombola to expand his palette and shred a bit more, paying tribute to heroes like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter and Jimmy Page. 
“Godsmack is a song-oriented band, more percussive than guitar-centered,” Larkin said. “My mission is to get the world to hear Tony Rombola play like that, so he becomes a household name. He deserves that just from the tone alone.”
Beyond that, they hope to inspire Godsmack fans to look backward. 
“Our intent is to expose these hard rock kids to the genre of blues,” he said. “The Apocalypse Blues Review is the heaviest blues you’ll probably ever hear. Maybe they’ll search out and find all these legendary  players [and] help bring it back into the mainstream American consciousness.”
He evokes Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s characters in The Blues Brothers to underscore his point. “It’s a mission from God … this ain’t your daddy’s blues.”
Godsmack is looking forward to playing for a hometown crowd in Gilford on Aug. 22, but the entire tour has been fun, Larkin said.
“It’s always nice to come where we know we’re strong, but we played L.A. and it was the best that this band has ever done in California [and] another sold-out show in Albuquerque was just amazing,” he said. 

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