By Jonathan Smith
“I’d like to review something different,” I said. “Something that isn’t aimed at people like me.” Well, that’s what I got.
Godsmack is a band that is a tough sell to the extreme metal crowd. It’s not their market. The fifth album from American group, The Oracle, shows no signs of wanting to change this, or a need to do so judging from the album’s success on the charts and the positivity of its reviews. For the most part the songs are rooted in the sort of swaggering, blues-based alternative sound mixed with heavy metal elements that has been a staple of rock radio for the past several years. It’s a sound that bugs the hell out of me, personally. The album’s first single, “Cryin’ Like A Bitch,” is an annoying piece of macho posturing, and for the most part that’s the sort of vibe to be found on The Oracle. However, if you like your metal that way, don’t completely disregard this album simply because of Godsmack’s ambiguous (at best) status in extreme metal circles.
It must be noted, for listeners who aren’t in Godsmack’s target demographic, that there are a few moments here and there that reveal a level of complexity that is a far cry from the repetitive radio-rock angst of “I Stand Alone.” Sully Erna, whose strong vocals often sound like they are modeled after James Hetfield’s performance on Load-era Metallica, showcases his emotional range on “What If?”, a longer mid-tempo track that features catchy bass work and hints of progressive leanings before building to a wailing climax. “Good Day To Die” is hard-hitting and punchy, heavier than most cuts on the album. The closing (and title) track, “The Oracle,” is a lengthy instrumental that gains layers (including strings) as it progresses toward a climax that is much more likely than anything else on the album to please cynical and pretty elitist metal fans like me before it fades out on a softer note. It has been a Godsmack trademark to toss out allusions to material that is more interesting and more ambitious than their commercial hits would seem to suggest. As The Oracle offers up its share of such material, it will be interesting to see where the band continues to take things from here.