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Deseret Morning News, Friday, November 03, 2006

After some creative struggles, Godsmack stronger than ever

By Scott Iwasaki
Deseret Morning News

At one point this year, Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin didn't know if the band would stick together while lead singer Sully Erna was battling with addictions, writer's block and other demons.

"At one point he sent us all home," Larkin said by phone during a tour stop in Cleveland. "So I went back to my home in Florida and sat around doing nothing.

"One morning I woke up and looked into the mirror. I sat there asking myself, 'Are we still a band?' It was a strange feeling."

But a few days later the band was called back to Boston for a band meeting. "It was the first of what was to become our saving grace," said Larkin. "Sully had struggled with writing lyrics for the music (that had been written by others in the band). And he had told us that he needed to write the songs alone. But he worked with our music and came up with some pretty introspective stuff. We had our band meeting and decided to lay everything out on the table. It was the first time we were able to do that in the band's career.

"Before, we were scared that we would offend someone. But that wasn't working out very well, because resentment has a way of finding the weaknesses in the armor. So we laid it all out. Since then, we've felt stronger as a group than we've ever been. And we call our band meetings regularly, and it's good to get things off our chests. And it's good that we all have things to work on."

The band — which also features bassist Robbie Merrill and guitarist Tony Rombola — went back into the studio with a fresh outlook and made "IV," which became the band's second album to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 album charts (the first was "Faceless" in 2003). "When we finished the album, we knew it was strong," said Larkin. "But we didn't know what was going to happen.

"We have this certain style that's sometimes not hard enough for heavy-metal fans and not light enough for rock fans. I mean, we have songs that are blistering heavy, and some that are just good solid rock. I guess you could say we're like AC/DC in that way."

The thing that Godsmack wanted to do was shy away from overproducing the album. "'Faceless' is a good album, but we have always felt it was too smooth. When we decided to go on with the new album, Sully told us that he wanted it more real, more organic. So we went back to the basics. It was almost like we were starting over from the bottom and working our way up again. We remembered why we started playing music in the first place."

One new song that has caught fans' ears is "Voodoo Too," a kind of sequel to the band's trademark ritualistic rumble "Voodoo." "I started writing that one day when I was at home just messing with my set," said Larkin. "I just started off with this tribal rhythm. I brought it to the other guys, and we added things to it. We passed it on to Sully after we had jammed on it for hours, and he took it home. It was actually one of the first times that he got excited about a song in a long time."

Erna took the demo home and worked on it before bringing it back to the band. "He said, 'I did this and added some things. What would you feel if we named it 'Voodoo Too?' We were kind of worried about that. We didn't want it to be cheesy. We didn't want it to be like Metallica's 'Unforgiven II.' So we told him that we needed to hear it first. He played it for us, and we liked it."

Larkin has also started a side band called Another Animal. It features Godsmack's original guitarist, Lee Richards, and vocalist Whit Crane, who fronted Larkin's former band, Ugly Kid Joe. "There were more than 30 songs written for the new Godsmack album, but they didn't make it on the album. And I thought they'd never see the light of day.

"But with Another Animal, we can play those songs and record them. Another Animal is an extra creative outlet that helps me work better in Godsmack. So the fans need not worry — Godsmack is here to stay."