REVIEW: Shinedown – Amaryllis

shinedown

Artist: Shinedown
Album: Amaryllis
Genre: Rock
Label: Atlantic (US); Roadrunner

Shinedown have long been purveyors of good, solid, accessible chart rock – the kind of non-threatening music that endears the masses but still packs a fervent punch for the faithful. Their latest offering is no exception to the rule. Amaryllis is a fine album, competent and entertaining if not remarkable, and its songs are hugely enjoyable. It sticks quite slavishly to the formula that’s made them famous; constructing uncomplicated, easily accessible, and exhilarating songs and allying them to Brent Smith’s charismatic vocals. This does of course mean that the album never really thrives in terms of originality or brilliance, but it’s strong and capable and very fun to listen to.

“Adrenaline” makes a firm impression immediately, seizing attention with excitable guitars and suitably aggressive vocals. Smith sings with a gravelly resonance that anchors and enhances the instruments, lending the tracks far more power than anything in the music. His rousing cries allow otherwise unimaginative songs to garner some spark and leave more searing an impact than they might on their own merits. “Adrenaline” is followed by inaugural single “Bully.” It’s a comedown from the opener – the verses seem stilted and the layout is somewhat lethargic. While this befits the subject matter, it’s disappointingly predictable, and means the song is never as convincing as it could be.

“Enemies” is a fine slice of ersatz metal. It’s vigorous, dynamic, and the singing is dramatic and testing. It bolsters the midsection of the album after a series of teetering ballads and illustrates what the band does best. “Nowhere Kids” is also likeable – a filler track, perhaps, but lyrically encouraging and featuring a bridge that’s far more infectious than it has any right to be. “For My Sake” is gruff but gripping. It thumps with a firm and raging angst, wisely keeping its verses minimal so as to power up a swelling and vociferous chorus. Like many of the songs on this album, it’s a vaguely tarnished sound that’s been done a thousand times before but it retains the ability to seize the listener. It seems fitting that Shinedown are one of the bands Chris Daughtry covered on American Idol some years back, as the latter’s band exhibits the same kind of no-frills, raucously all-American approach that allows them to win favour with the public as well as a more dedicated rock audience.

Some of the earlier tracks don’t fare quite as well. “Amaryllis” is a clunky, rambling slice of sentimental pie. It’s formulaic and predictable, right down to its careful strings and resurgent guitar solo. Those self-same strings tarnish “Unity,” which feels clumsy in its failure to marry the morose classical effects to the graceless guitars. String samples are ten-a-penny in rock music these days, but very few bands have worked out how best to integrate them into tracks. This is a perfectly plodding example of how not to proceed – it’s best to add decorative elements when they serve a purpose and not as an attempt to make repetitious riffs sound pretty.

By contrast, “Miracle” is a frank and endearing track, filled with conviction. It eschews the frills and sentimentality for something straightforward – indulgent, yes, but honourable. It’s a bit brisker and fierier than your average syrupy love song and keeps momentum ticking over nicely. The album ends on a stellar double whammy. “My Name (Wearing Me Out)” sets a tense, enthralling tone with panicky guitars and a cutting refrain. The latter lingers during the chorus, ensuring an eerie and pervasive mystique peters throughout the song. The vocals are very impressive; the higher register dramatically offsetting the more insidious effects of the music. “Through the Ghost” is a low-key and touching finale. It comes replete with bells and rolling drums for a piercing, poignant effect and evokes a strong sense of grim remorse throughout. The track is an unlikely choice to end the album as its haunted undertones stand out next to the gruffness of the other songs. Yet, the instrumentation and structuring makes it sound much bigger and more memorable, and in this regard the band has judged it perfectly.

Amaryllis won’t break any records but it’ll keep those so inclined in soaring rock jams for a few years to come. It’s straightforward and radio-friendly but this isn’t a bad thing in this context. In fact, its unapologetically ordinary approach is strangely comforting next to the other hedonistic nonsense that plagues the charts.

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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