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Godsmack survives on 'working-class rock'
Sunday, October 29, 2006
By Troy Reimink
The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin has a simple explanation for why his band has survived when most of its late-'90s hard-rock contemporaries have disappeared.

"Our singer can't rap!" he declared, calling from a tour stop in Syracuse.

"(Sully Erna) just can't do it, even if we wanted to, so we never went to the rap-rock thing, which ended up being a trend that passed. Thank God. I'd cringe every time I'd hear that."

A convincing argument could be made that the main purveyors of rap rock (Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, etc.) couldn't really rap either, but at least give Godsmack credit for knowing its limitations.

The group's meat-and-potatoes approach has made it one of hard rock's most consistently popular acts for several years. Godsmack has had more top-10 "active rock" singles (13) since the birth of the format.

That success, Larkin said, is a direct result of Erna's creative vision. The frontman runs the show, writing most of the music and lyrics, picking the songs for the album and producing the recording sessions.

"Godsmack is Sully's band," Larkin said. "Most of the time when he writes a song, he pretty much has an idea of what the drum beat should sound like. At the end of the day, he picks the songs for the record. He has the vision of what he wants Godsmack to be like."

That vision is somewhat polarizing. Despite having a strong fan base, the group hasn't earned much critical respect. The band was criticized for licensing its songs for use in military recruitment ads. (Erna was put on the defensive for that in an Arthur magazine interview. Musically, they're frequently disparaged as an Alice in Chains knockoff. ("God Smack" is the name of a Chains song.)

Larkin -- who has played with major-label bands such as Amen, Wraithchild America and Ugly Kid Joe -- concedes Godsmack simply is trying to make straightforward rock and doesn't concern itself with pushing artistic envelopes.

"There's nothing original about it," he said. "We're not trying to change music, and we definitely don't do anything new. But what we do bring to the table is just a working-class rock sound."

Though Erna steers the ship, the other band members -- Larkin, guitarist Tony Rombola, bassist Robbie Merrill -- had a greater hand in writing the material on the band's new album, "IV," whose title is an obvious Led Zeppelin homage.

Erna struggled with writer's block while he was dealing with personal problems prior to the album's recording. In that time, the other members wrote 40 songs.

Some leftover tracks will appear as part of a side project, Another Animal, next year.

Godsmack

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: DeltaPlex Entertainment and Expo Center, 2500 Turner Ave. NW, Walker

Opening act: Breaking Benjamin

Tickets: $34.50, Ticketmaster outlets, 456-3333, ticketmaster.com