Return to Godsmack


By Melinda Newman

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Don't say the M-word to Godsmack frontman Sully Erna. "We're not some metal band," he says. "I really look at us as hard rock."

To the band's legion of fans, who simply appreciate the Boston-based quartet's heavy yet melodic dose of sound, that might sound like splitting hairs. And even Erna admits that Godsmack is caught between a rock and a metal place: "The metal guys go, 'F--- them, they're too wimpy,' and the rock guys go, 'They're too metal."'

Though it seems Godsmack often flies under the radar compared with its hard rock brethren, the band holds the record for most songs in the top 10 of Billboard's Active Rock chart, besting such acts as Foo Fighters, Korn, Metallica, Creed, Nickelback and Staind. Its 13th top 10 entry, "Speak," is in its sixth week at the top of the Active Rock chart this week, making it the band's biggest hit since 2002.

The tune is the first track from "Godsmack IV," out Tuesday (April 25) on Universal Republic. The album represents a shift for the group: While many of the songs still rock, melody is king and confession proves good for the soul. On "The Enemy," Erna admits his infidelities, and many of the album's lyrics deal with his past problems.

"2005 was a terrible year for me," he says. "I allowed so much negativity in my life throughout the years, it became part of my regular lifestyle ... negative people and addictions. I got rid of a lot of stuff that was killing me or putting me at a standstill."

As he wallowed in his misery, his bandmates toiled away. "They would have 30 songs, and I didn't have the word 'the' written down yet. I wasn't inspired," he says. "One day, I just sat there in my own sorrow. I lived this life of sin, I don't even know where to begin, and I was like, 'There I am.' From there it just poured out." In fact, the album's opener, the driving "Livin' in Sin," details his distressed state and ultimate breakthrough.

Lest fans fear Erna has gone all soft on them, one listen to "Godsmack IV" will prove otherwise. He also feels that the positive reception given the band's 2004 acoustic EP, "The Other Side," showed that the band's following is willing to allow the group to
explore new textures and a broader range.

Six tracks from "Godsmack IV" will stream on 85 Clear Channel Radio-owned stations' Web sites for a week before the album's release. The band will appear April 26 on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and April 28 on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."