Godsmack is an American heavy metal band from Lawrence, Massachusetts, formed in 1995. The band comprises founder, frontman and songwriter Sully Erna, guitarist Tony Rombola, bassist Robbie Merrill, and drummer Shannon Larkin. Since its formation, Godsmack has released four studio albums, one EP, four DVDs, and one greatest hits collection.
Godsmack have sold over 8.6 million records in the United States according to the RIAA, and over 4 million worldwide with debut album that has sold over four million copies since its release. The band has had two consecutive #1 albums (Faceless and IV) on the Billboard 200, and currently working on their fifth studio album which is expected be released in the first quarter of 2010.
The band released their latest single "Whiskey Hangover" in mid-June which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, scoring their 5th #1 single on that chart. The single also reigns as a record-breaking 17th Top 10 single for the Godsmack, extending their ownership of the most Top 10 hits in active rock history. The band also has parked a ratified 14 songs in the Top Five more than bands such as Linkin Park and Metallica.
Since its inception, Godsmack has toured on Ozzfest on more than one occasion, and have toured with many other large tours and festivals, including supporting its albums with its own arena tours. The band was also a part Crue Fest 2 which kicked off on July 19 in Camden, New Jersey.
Formation and early works (1995?1996)
In February 1995, Sully Erna decided to start a new band as the lead singer after playing the drums for more than 23 years, including over two years in the now-defunct band Strip Mind. His new band The Scam formed with Erna on vocals, Robbie Merrill on bass, local guitarist and friend Lee Richards on guitar, and Tommy Stewart on drums. The Scam quickly changed its name to Godsmack, after recording one demo. The newly formed band started playing small bars in their hometowns of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Salem, New Hampshire. Godsmack started out doing covers of bands like Alice in Chains to build their fan-base, but they quickly moved on to write their own music. Locally popular songs such as "Keep Away" and "Whatever" soon brought them to the top of the hit charts in the Boston/New England area.
The band's name, according to Merrill in the Smack This! DVD, was taken from the Alice in Chains' song "God Smack". However, Erna stated in a 1999 interview that "I was making fun of somebody who had a cold sore on his lip and the next day I had one myself and somebody said, 'It's a godsmack.' The name stuck. We were aware of the Alice in Chains song but didn't really think much about it. It's a cool song and the name had meaning for us".
In 1996, Tony Rombola and Joe D'arco joined Godsmack as the guitarist and drummer, after Richards left after finding out he had a six-year-old child and Stewart left due to personal differences. In the same year the band entered the studio for the first time, recording its first CD titled All Wound Up. The CD was recorded in just three days for $2,600.
For the next two years, the band played throughout the Boston area. Eventually Godsmack's CD landed in the hands of Rocko, the night-time DJ for Boston radio station WAAF (FM). The radio station put "Keep Away" into heavy rotation and the song rose to the number one spot at the station very quickly. Newbury Comics, a New England record store chain, agreed to sell the CD on consignment. Shortly after the success of "Keep Away", Godsmack went back into the studio and recorded a single titled "Whatever", which became the new local favorite on WAAF (FM).
In an interview Sully Erna stated, "we had been selling maybe 50 copies a month at the time WAAF picked up the album. All of a sudden we started moving over a thousand records a week. It was insane. Even crazier, I was doing all this from my bedroom. After years of grinding away, things finally started taking off".
In the summer of 1998, Universal/Republic Records signed the band onto their label. Joe D'arco was dismissed from the band due to personal reasons by Sully and was replaced by once former drummer Tommy Stewart, who came back after longing to be in the band again. The band's first studio recording All Wound Up was re-mastered. The finished self-titled debut CD Godsmack was released to the public six weeks later, leading to the band's first headlining tour, "The Voodoo Tour". After the CD's release the band hit the road playing club shows as well as playing the Ozzfest and Woodstock '99".Followed by a Tour of Europe supporting Black Sabbath. Roxanne Blanford from Allmusic gave the album three out of five stars, stating, "Godsmack confidently brought metal into the technological age". The album was the band's first to enter the Billboard 200 at number twenty-two, and was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA in 2001 after being initially certified gold in 1999.
The album caused controversy due to its profane lyrics, containing a substantial amount of swearing. After listening to his son's copy of the album, a father in the U.S. complained to Wal-Mart, who sold him the album, that the lyrics were offensive. Wal-Mart and Kmart took the album off the shelves. The band and its record label later added a Parental Advisory sticker to the album, and some stores ordered amended copies of the album. Erna commented on the situation to Rolling Stone magazine, stating, "Our record has been in the marketplace for more than a year now without a parental advisory sticker and this is the one and only complaint?. Stickers and lyrics are by nature subjective?. We have decided to put a sticker on the record". This controversy did not hurt album sales, but according to Erna helped, stating, "It's almost taunting kids to go out and get the record to see what we're saying on it".
Sample of "Awake" from Awake. The song is featured on U.S. military commercials.
In 2000, Godsmack returned to the studio after the multi-platinum success of Godsmack to start recording Awake. The album was released on October 31, 2000. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, and has been certified 2x platinum by the RIAA. "Vampires", a song on the album, also earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 2002. With the release of Awake, Godsmack toured Europe supporting Limp Bizkit. Erna said at the time, "we've been touring nonstop since August 1998, So most of Awake was written on tour while we were ping-ponging between America and Europe, building up the band. "Ozzfest" was actually the only big tour where we rode under someone else's wings; we did a lot of work on our own". The band played Ozzfest in 2000 again as they had in 1999.
Two of the songs on the album were used in United States military commercials ("Sick of Life" and "Awake") as background music. Erna stated, "Someone in the military is a fan, and they asked if they could use the music, and we accepted". However, Erna insists that Godsmack doesn't support any stating that; "By no means has this band ever supported any war for any country or that we support government decisions or why we're sticking our nose in other people's business at times. What we support is our troops. And the women and men that go over there ? or anywhere ? to fight for our country and our lives and protect our freedom and I feel that."
"I Stand Alone"
Sample of "I Stand Alone", a song written and performed for the film The Scorpion King.
In 2002, Erna was asked to write and perform a song for the soundtrack to The Scorpion King. The motion picture was the third in the Mummy saga, and was a spin-off prequel of the Mummy series. The song Godsmack wrote and performed was titled "I Stand Alone" and became the number 1 single at Rock Radio and the most played Active Rock song in 2002 for 14 weeks straight. It was also used in the game Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.
Shannon Larkin replaced Tommy Stewart as the drummer of Godsmack in 2003.
With Shannon Larkin (ex Ugly Kid Joe, Souls at Zero, Wrathchild America, MF Pitbulls) replacing Tommy Stewart, who left due to personal differences for the second time, Godsmack went back into the studio to record a new album that was released in 2003. Faceless debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 269,000 copies in its first week, and the album would go on to sell over one million copies in the United States. Faceless managed to beat West Coast nu metal rival Linkin Park, with the release of their second studio album Meteora, which dropped to number two on the Billboard 200. Faceless also debuted at number nine on the Top Canadian Albums and at number one on the Top Internet Albums and remained at that position for two weeks. A massive Tour of America and Europe supporting Metallica followed.
The lead single "Straight Out of Line" received a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Hard Rock Performance." The award went to Evanescence's single, "Bring Me to Life".
The album got its name after a pool incident, retold by Larkin; "Sully and I were standing up for one more jump, we're both there buck-naked, and I look over to the left and there's some woman who had just opened the blinds standing there with her mouth wide open". Erna added, "She was just waking up, we go, 'Sorry', and then boom, right into the pool. The next thing we know the cops are banging on the door, and that's sort of the point of calling the record Faceless". However in a later interview Merrill stated otherwise, making it unclear of how the album's title came to be, "It came from the band's feeling that, despite our radio and sales success, we still flew a bit under the radar".
The Other Side (2004?2005)
On March 16, 2004 The Other Side, an acoustic EP, was released. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200; this is a relatively high position for an acoustic EP. It included several previously released songs re-recorded as acoustic versions, as well as three new acoustic tracks. One new song, "Touch?", featured Godsmack's first guitar player, Lee Richards, as well as John Kosco, who were at that time in the now defunct band Dropbox, The other two new acoustic tracks were "Running Blind" and "Voices". The song "Asleep" is actually an acoustic version of "Awake" from the band's second album Awake. Godsmack shifted from its "heavy" sound to a more mellow acoustic sound on this EP in the same manner Alice in Chains did in the Sap and Jar of Flies EPs, one of many similarities to Alice in Chains for which the band has been criticized.
In 2004, Godsmack opened for Metallica's "Madly in Anger with the World tour", and headlined the tour along with Dropbox. Afterwards, in Autumn 2004, the band played several acoustic shows to promote The Other Side, while at the same time continuing to open for Metallica.
Sample of "Speak" from IV. This is the first single released from the album.
On April 25, 2006 Godsmack released its fourth studio album simply titled IV, followed by a tour that would continue until August 2007, titled "The IV tour". The album was produced by Erna and engineered by the well known producer and engineer Andy Johns, known for engineering Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV. The first single from the album, "Speak" was released on February 14, 2006. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 211,000 copies in its first week. IV has since been certified gold. The band had written over forty songs for the album, but the final track listing had eleven tracks, Larkin commented, "it's Sully's band and his vision. He sifted through all the music and picked the songs that he wanted on the album. We all said 'all right'. He's always had the vision of everything Godsmack from the artwork to the production to the engineer to the studio to what TV shows we play. Everything. When it comes time to pick the songs it's all Sully".
The album's minimalist name "IV" derives not only from its being the band's fourth studio album, but also from a running piece of backstage humor, as related by Larkin and Erna:
We have this security guy, a big, tough guy named J.C. He's another Boston guy. And in Boston it's "fou." They don't really have the "R." It's not "four," it's "fou." He'd be hanging around backstage and chicks would walk by and he would rate them from one to 10. But if it wasn't a 10, there was no one, two, three, or five. It was always you were a 10 or a fou. He just pulled the funniest things. Sometimes, he'd just hold up four fingers and wouldn't have to say it anymore and we'd all just bust out laughing. And then the funniest one, this guy walked by with a chick on each arm and he goes, "Hey, bub, two fous don't make an eight!" So when it came up, it's our fourth full-length record, everybody was like, "Fou!" And we were like, "That's it, man." We're not trying to break any records for originality here. I know that there's Led Zeppelin IV, Foreigner IV, a million IVs. We just thought it's fitting.
Ten Years of Godsmack and upcoming album (2007?present)
Sully Erna points to the crowd during Crue Fest 2 at USANA Amphitheatre in West Valley City.
To celebrate ten years as a band, Godsmack released a greatest hits album entitled Good Times, Bad Times... Ten Years of Godsmack on December 4, 2007. The album debuted at number thirty-five on the Billboard 200, selling 40,000 copies in the first week of release. It includes a cover of the Led Zeppelin song "Good Times Bad Times", as well as a DVD of Godsmack's acoustic performance in Las Vegas at House of Blues. The album was originally intended to be a boxed set, but the band scrapped the plans so they could release a best of album. Godsmack will be following the release of the album with an acoustic tour. Despite rumors of the band going on hiatus as a result of releasing a greatest hits album, Erna was quoted as saying, "we're not going away, we are just gonna take a break and enjoy our 10th year anniversary and kind of recharge our batteries. And then Godsmack will be back, and we will come back bigger and badder than ever."
In early November of 2008, Larkin dismissed the rumors and announced the development of a new album, saying: "With all the time we took off and various other projects each of us have been doing, we hope that all of you realize how important Smack is to us, and anyone thinking that the band was going through a rough spot or even thinking about breaking up can be strongly reassured that this band is in the best form we have EVER been in, both consciously and physically, and getting along like a band should, i.e. like the brothers that we are. And also know that we have a definite focus on the new material, and we know where our roots are and exactly where we came from, so expect a pure Godsmack record because it is brewing within us BIGTIME!"
According to Erna, in an early March 2009 interview with Rockerrazzi.com, the album will be released in the first quarter of 2010. In late May, he stated that "it's gonna be really heavy. I mean, it's very aggressive. I'm not really sure; it's very premature right now. Right now we just finished one track for the Cr?e Fest this Summer. But as far as the whole record goes, I think it's going to be a lot more in your face. I don't think there's going to be any 'Voodoo's or 'Serenity's on this one. We decided to go balls out!".
Currently, Godsmack was part of the lineup for Motley Crue's Cr?e Fest 2 tour, which includes Theory of a Deadman, Drowning Pool, and new act Charm City Devils.
Godsmack released a new single titled "Whiskey Hangover" on June 9th. Godsmack wanted to release a new single before they kicked off their summer Crue Fest 2 tour. After the tour, they will be hard at work on their next album. It is expected to be released in early 2010 but the date has not been confirmed.
Erna's solo album (2009)
On March 4, 2009, Blabbermouth.net reported that Erna had "completed work on his first solo album, although he has yet to reveal a title or release date for the disc." Erna described the album as being "a very different kind of sounding record," and "a huge departure from anything I've ever done."
Three days later, Rockerrazzi.com posted an interview with Erna in which he said that the record "should be out in the next two months." In further describing the album's sound, Erna said that "it's very eclectic," and "tribal" with "a lot of hand drumming" and "beautiful piano compositions." He also stated that he "worked with a percussion session for Dead Can Dance" and that the album will feature Lisa Guyer, who had performed backing vocals for the song "Hollow" on Godsmack's previous album.
Influences and style
Singer Sully Erna has cited Alice in Chains' former vocalist, Layne Staley as his primary influence on singing.
The band's primary influences include Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Judas Priest, Slayer, Metallica and Rush according to Erna, Larkin, and Rombola. Erna has cited Staley as his primary influence. The overall sound of the band's first two albums sound similar to the sound of the Alice in Chains album, Dirt, according to Subvulture.com. More recently, Godsmack has attempted to distance themselves from the Alice in Chains comparison with Erna stating in an interview with Matt Ashare, "I've just never really heard that in our music".
Rolling Stone Magazine describes the band as "hard as nails and cranked to eleven," while Alternative Press praised the band for its "churning, riff-driven hybrid of all that is heavy, past and present."
The band's music is often compared to Alice in Chains, which the band cites as an influence. Adrien Begrand of Popmatters states, "Erna perfectly mimics the late Layne Staley's low, guttural, sinister singing and snarly, metal-inspired growls"-Erna's vocals also seem to be reminiscent of Metallica's James Hetfield-and, "The band's music is a faithful retread of Jerry Cantrell's churning, tuned-down hard rock". Katherine Turman of Amazon.com states the band has, "dark, swirling, commanding music". She also commented on the band's third album Faceless, "mixes arena rock in the vein of an Alice in Chains" and, "riff-heavy, layered tunes and sharp, confident bridge-burning lyrics".
Erna's singing style has been stated as "the snarl of James Hetfield", and, "is composed of dark harmony that sounds a lot like Alice in Chains". Merrill's bass style has been described as "bulldozer bottom with occasional slap-bass reverb". Larkin's drumming is thought to "worship at the twin altars of Neil Peart and John Bonham". And Rombola's guitar playing style has been praised as, "guitars that sound like percussion instruments".
Sully Erna: lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion, harmonica (1995?present)
Tony Rombola: lead guitar, backing vocals (1997?present)
Robbie Merrill: bass guitar, (1996?present)
Shannon Larkin: drums, percussion (2002?present)
Note: Erna performed drums on the band's debut album, Godsmack, and occasionally plays drums at live shows, alongside Larkin.
Lee Richards: guitars (1996?1997)
Joe D'arco: drums (1996?1997)
Tommy Stewart: drums (1996, 1997?2002)