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Godsmack returns for more rockin'


Features Editor
It's been a few years since they've toured in the 49th State, but memories of Alaska are still vivid for the members of Godsmack.

The Boston-based hard rock band played concerts in Fairbanks and Anchorage two years ago, and Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin said the state left a lasting impression. But it wasn't the scenery or wildlife that he mentioned--it was the rabid, wildly enthusiastic crowds.

"The shows were just amazing," said Larkin, speaking by phone before a show in Toronto. "The energy was so amazing and busy that we said we just had to come back. We're keeping our promise."

Godsmack will return on Wednesday for its encore at the Carlson Center, followed by a concert in Anchorage. Their Alaska concerts will cap an 11-city tour across Canada.

The band is promoting its fourth full-length album, "IV," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts when it was released in April.

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Larkin said the foursome is particularly proud of the new album, which was recorded under circumstances that were challenging but ultimately led to some subtle changes in the Godsmack sound.

"Change is good," he said. "You don't want to make the same record over and over again."

In the past, Godsmack's lyrics and sound were almost entirely driven by lead singer Sully Erna. But while songs were being written for "IV," Erna took a few months off to deal with personal problems. Larkin said it gave the other band members an opportunity to have a bigger role in songwriting.

As a result, he said "IV" is distinctive from the previous three Godsmack albums, which all achieved multi-platinum sales, while still retaining the band's signature hard-driving sound. The album combines hook-filled rockers like "No Rest for the Wicked" with songs like the edgy, Celtic-influenced "Hollow."

"It's probably the most unique-sounding (album)," Larkin said. "What makes this different is the contribution the rest of us got to make."

The period was so creatively productive, in fact, that many songs were written that didn't make it onto "IV." Larkin, guitarist Tony Rombola and ex-Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitfield Crane are tackling some of that material in a side project, Another Animal, with an album planned for this fall.

But Larkin said he has no desire to find a new band. He spent years on the fringes of musical success, working with a variety of marginally lucrative rock bands. Tired of the grind, Larkin was ready to quit his drumming career in 2002 and attend community college in California.

"I love to play, but the (music) business sucks, man," he said. "If you don't go gold with your first album, you get dropped by your label."

That changed when he got a call from his old friend Erna. With the departure of drummer Tommy Stewart from the band, Larkin was offered a job. Since then, he said being part of Godsmack's combination of musical talent and commercial success has been astonishing.

"It's been surreal to me and it's been a dream," he said. "People do win the lottery. You've just got to keep with it."