Before Friday, I had never heard of Shinedown. After speaking with drummer Barry Kerch on Saturday, I’m in love with their music and their story. I generally am not a listener of the harder type of music – metal, hard rock – yet I enjoy Shinedown precisely its more than that. It is very melodic and has ballads as well as speed metal and in many ways reminds me of tool. Yet it is their saga of struggle and addiction that really gets everybody going.
Originally formed in 2001 by lead singer Brent Smith, guitarist Jasin Todd, guitarist Brad Stewart and Kerch. Smith and Todd have had – like so many rock musicians before and after – a long battle with substance. Kerch, who described himself as the rock of the band (as a drummer should be) said it was heartbreaking for him to see his best friend (Smith) go through so much pain and hardship. After the release of “The Sound of Madness” he and Smith made the decision to move on without Todd or Stewart. While Kerch admits its not a fun a process and was a very difficult decision to make, they needed to do it for the health of the band. Otherwise, he says, they would have self-imploded.
Back to the music. I really enjoyed listening to their Amaryllis record. For someone such as myself who is not versed in the world of tattoos, hard rock and (presumably) hard knocks, I took it based on what I heard. What struck me the most was the versatility of the whole thing. Not all songs are about darkness, which every artist has, according to Kerch. Instead, what we get is an array of musical sounds and styles that puts Shinedown in a different category of metal musicians. The ballad-like “Miracle” is a sweet song about the birth of Smith’s son. My personal favourite (which also happened to be Kerch’s) is Follow Me. It in intrigues not only for its blues-esque piano intro and outro, but the lyrics are haunting, and the music is a mixture of fast and slow tempos, sadness, love, loss and happiness. It strikes me as one of the most layered songs I have come across in recent times.
Not only does their music rock, but they all seem to be (well Kerch at the very least) quite well-spoken as many rockers are wont to be. Their writing process also fascinates me. Unlike most bands, they don’t do a ton of writing on the road. The spent quite a bit of time touring and take about a year or so to write an album according to Kerch. He claims this is done so that their record can be the best it can be; they take their time to get things right. Amaryllis, while not so much a change in style or musical evolution, is more of a new beginning. Shinedown 2.0 if you will. It is the first album new members Zach Myers (former touring member and temporary replacement) on guitarist and Eric Bass on Bass. Kerch states that it is also the happiest they have ever been as a group, perhaps because Smith is clean and sober for the first time in years.
Another thing that intrigues me, is a cover project that Myers and Smith are working on. While the format is unknown – Kerch thinks it may be a youtube release – the concept is awesome. Shinedown fans pick ten songs from all genres of music for the band to cover and do their own rendition. The one that might stand out to most as a surprise is “Dock Of The Bay” by the great Otis Redding. Although, once I learned that Smith, who was raised in a strict religious household, learned to sing by listening to Redding, it doesn’t come as that much of a shock. It’s a pretty neat concept and I look forward to hearing the end result.
Amaryllis truly shows what Shinedown is capable of. They are not just another run-of-the-mill hard-rock/metal band. They are a cohesive unit of strong-willed intelligent musicians whose craftsmanship and musical versatility is a refreshing and welcome change. They may shine down, but musically they are rising to the top.
Amaryllis, produced by Rob Cavallo, is Shinedown’s fourth album and was released on March 27th, 2012 on Atlantic Records.
Currently, they are the opening act on a nation-wide tour with KISS that started in Victoria on July 5th.
RIYL: Tool, A Perfect Circle, Three Days Grace, Nickelback