Hello and welcome to the Rock n Coasters podcast. I am your host, Michele Forto and today we are talking about the new Godsmack album, Lighting Up the Sky. Did you know that Godsmack was my first ever rock concert with Robert, and we saw them at the infamous Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado. I will remember that show for the rest of my life. Fast forward to today, and I think I have seen Sully and the boys more than any other band, except maybe Korn. I know… don’t judge. Did you know that Godmack is one of the very few hard rock bands that made the all the way up here to Alaska to play a show. It was years ago in an old hockey arena that is now a homeless shelter called the Sullivan area. Hmmm. Sully at the Sully.
Let’s jump into our review. I promise I won’t fan girl over this and give an honest shot at it.
When Godsmack hit the mainstream back in 1998 with their self-titled album it was like a shot to the arm with a clenched fist. Why? Well, for a start, their sound was pretty heavy for a more mainstream Hard Rock act at the time. Add to that lyrics which were much darker, as well as much more intense than others, and Godsmack were turning heads with cuts like “Whatever,” but also “Keep Away.” Sure, there were other acts also cultivating their own path in the Hard Rock scene during this era, but Godsmack was truly their own.
Taking heavy influence from the ’90s Grunge period – right down to their name inspired by the title of an Alice in Chains song – they also had a killer rhythm section that even made Ozzy Osbourne salivate. Reaching platinum status by late 1999, their self-titled release would be the catapult they needed for a career that has lasted well over two decades. In fact, Godsmack has been around for nearly three decades, toured the world over, and pumped out platinum and gold-selling records, all while sustaining themselves as commanders in Hard Rock music. This leads us to modern times where the band returns in 2023 with their eighth overall studio record, Lighting Up the Sky.
A follow-up to 2018’s When Legends Rise – an album that was a stylistic and sonic shift in sound for the band – this is the longest gap between Godsmack albums ever with the release of Lighting Up the Sky on February 24th. Does this mean this is the end of the line for Godsmack? No, it means a lot has happened for the band inside and outside the lines over the last few years. One, Sully Erna has spent a lot of time doing an exceptional job of molding his own solo career away from the band. Secondly, Tony Rombola and Shannon Larkin have spent much time crafting some great Blues Rock with their own band, The Apocalypse Blues Revival. Lastly, and extremely tragically, Rombola lost his son in October of 2018. All these things considered, and probably some more, putting the time into writing and recording new material was not necessarily top priority for Godsmack.
Taking a moment to process all these factors, according to Erna and company Lighting Up the Sky will in fact, be the final Godsmack studio album. A shock of sorts for longtime fans; when you listen to the band’s justification, it makes logical sense. In truth, how many fans really enjoy hearing their favorite artists’ new songs at a live concert over the classics? Probably not too many. Well, this is part of the rationale behind the decision to make Lighting Up the Sky the final studio record for Godsmack… and you can sympathize with it.
Now, this is not to say the well has run dry for the fellas when it comes to writing new music for Godsmack. The reality of the situation is they still have plenty left in the tank, and the proof is within Lighting Up the Sky. Consisting of eleven new songs, this new album truly summarizes Godsmack’s career from their self-titled album to When Legends Rise. The lyrics are thoughtful, personal, and unapologetic, but most of all, they come across as very sincere. Meanwhile, the music that brings Lighting Up the Sky together still has the crunch from Godsmack’s early days, but perhaps with a little more Blues and Classic Rock influence. What does this mean? It means you get memorable guitar rhythms of Rombola matched with some tight bass lines from Robbie Merrill and some passionate guitar solos that offer even more vivid colors. This, combined with Larkin’s fantastic drumming, along with Erna’s unmistakable voice, and you have a damn good sound.
Then there is the mixing and engineering behind the album… because this is very important. As mentioned, When Legends Rise was an interesting shift for Godsmack because the production vastly differed from anything they had done prior. Smoother, and some might argue at times a little too smooth, on the other end, Lighting Up the Skyfinds the perfect balance between both worlds. With Lighting Up the Sky you have some of the sheen which was discovered with When Legends Rise, but overall, this new album sounds much more live. In many ways it almost feels as if Godsmack met in a rehearsal studio, pressed record, and just played the songs out. This makes for a cohesive collection of tracks that all seem to flow seamlessly into one another.
With all these factors considered, you would have nothing without quality songwriting. Fortunately, Lighting Up the Sky has plenty of good chops in the songwriting department. That said, you can feel it in your heart that all of Godsmack had input regarding these pieces of music. Extremely balanced, you have songs like the bluesy opener “You and I,” which at times has psychedelic sensations, the kick-ass, take no BS anthem of “Red White & Blue,” and the catchy single “Surrender.” You also heaviness displayed on “What About Me” and “Soul on Fire,” but also darker tones heard on “Hell’s Not Dead,” which I swear sounds a lot like Children of the Grave from Sabbath. By the way have you heard the cover by Corey Taylor and the boys in Stone Sour? The “Best of Times” is a bit dark too. Moreover, adding even more dynamics to the set, you have the emotional, piano-driven “Truth” and beautifully melodic closing title-track. The closer reminds me a lot of the opening of two of my favorite Godsmack tracks of all time, The Oracle and Vampires. The song has a bit of old-school Godsmack crunch but feels like tunes,” Something Different” from 1000 hp and “When Legends Rise” off of the album of the same name.
In enough words, Lighting Up the Sky hits hard when it needs to, but drags you deeper within when the time is right. Really an engaging record, do yourself a favor and take it in on a quality set of speakers… because so much of the bottom-end is lost when it comes to crappy modern music listening devices such as a cellphone or some portable Bluetooth speaker.
When it is all said and done, Lighting Up the Sky is a fitting legacy album for Godsmack, and that is we give it a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars. I told Robert it sounded a bit like a break-up record. Maybe in a way, it is, especially if this is their last full alum release. Robert thinks it’s more of a transition rather than a breakup. Who knows, I just hope we can catch a show with them this year and maybe even at Louder Than Life in Louisville, KY, in September. We will be there.
So what do you guys think of the new Godsmack album? Let us know in the comments section or on our socials. Just search Rock n Coasters podcast. Also, please do us a favor and hit that subscribe button. One more thing watch your podcast feed on Mondays and Thursdays as we discuss the top rock and metal albums from Also, do us a favor and hit that subscribe button. One more thing watch your podcast feed Mondays and Thursdays as we discuss the top rock and metal albums from 1970 to today.
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I am your host, Michele Forto; see you next time.