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Godsmack bandmates prove their metal with new tunes
By Dave Wedge
Sunday, April 23, 2006

Godsmack singer Sully Erna’s writer’s block was his band’s gain.

Erna, who normally handles nearly all the songwriting for the Bay State-bred metal kings, fell into somewhat of a funk following their last world tour, leaving his bandmates to come up with the power-packed riffs that fill their new disc, “IV.”

“Sully didn’t write right away,” guitarist Tony Rombola said this week in a phone interview from his New Hampshire home. “Usually Sully feels a lot of pressure to write the music. He was a little overwhelmed. In the downtime, we sat around and just kept writing songs.”

Not only did Rombola, bassist Robbie Merrill and drummer Shannon Larkin come up with the bulk of the music on the new album’s 11 tracks, they wrote enough material to launch a side project. They added Dropbox guitarist Lee Richards and Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitfield Crane and called the group Another Animal.

Their debut is being mixed in Louisiana and is expected to be released on Universal in the fall.

“With all the extra music we had from Godsmack and the songs we had together, we had the album,” Rombola said. “It wasn’t a lot of work, though. We were just motoring, writing all this music for Godsmack.”

Although Rombola insists Another Animal poses no threat to Godsmack’s future, he said it was a nice break to get out from under Erna’s shadow.

“It was so much fun. There was no pressure,” he said. “It was really good for us as band guys because Sully’s very dominating. He has the final word with everything. It was our chance to do what we wanted.”

The writing process may have changed, but “IV” is classic Godsmack - from the grinding punch of the first single, “Speak,” to the haunting acoustic number “Hollow.” Their first studio album in three years, “IV” features 11 tracks of the trademark tribal metal that has made them one of rock’s top-selling acts.

“I think we just do what we do. We write music and put it out and hope people like it,” Rombola says. “You can’t do much more than that. You just do your best.”

Formed in 1995 by Erna, a former drummer from Lawrence, Godsmack spent years playing North Shore clubs until their demo landed in the hands of a DJ at WAAF 107.3 FM. They quickly became one of the region’s top acts and exploded nationally after stints on Ozzfest in 1999 and 2000.

Thanks to a devoted legion of fans, their last album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart, and there’s no reason to think “IV” won’t do the same when it comes out on Tuesday.

“Sully’s probably the biggest rock star in the band, as far as cars and the whole rock-star thing,” Rombola said. “I’m pretty grounded. I grew up building houses for 12 years. We’re just musicians and we’re doing well, which is great. But we’re blue-collar guys.”

And with a Godsmack world tour in the planning stages, Rombola is enjoying some quality time at home with his family before heading off again into the rock-star world.

“Everyone’s got their head together right now,” he said. “Personally, I’m on top of the world. I’m in a great place right now.”