Rock never sounded so good.
Four years ago, Shinedown released The Sound Of Madness, a record that not only made an impact in the modern rock scene for years to come, but became one of my favorite records of all-time. Its mix of brash, adrenaline-pumping rock anthems and succulent, hook-crafted power ballads made the record a force to be reckoned with. Four years later, the band has finally manufactured another work entitled Amaryllis. As I hit the play button to “Adrenaline,” I could not hit the stop button until acoustic closer “Through The Ghost” concluded the record. I stood convinced that this release couldn’t stand up against its predecessor, yet I was wrong. It’s just as good, if not, better than The Sound Of Madness.
Amaryllis continues with similar firepower to the band’s preceding record. Just like what made The Sound of Madness a classic, two different types of tracks – slower, more enlightening ones and faster, more angsty ones – mesh together in the album to make the music more versatile, and also more enjoyable. In the more enlightening tracks, the choruses are calming and merciful, with elegant hooks, phenomenally executed verses, and grandiose guitar solos making the songs a rapture. In the more angsty tracks, the songs rely on power chords and Brent Smith’s penetrating voice to make an impact.
Though its quite obvious that this record sounds a lot like its predecessor, the hooks seem to be better executed on Amaryllis. Everything is catchy as hell, but that doesn’t mean the band trades in their energetic hard rock side. The first two tracks, “Adrenaline” and first single “Bully,” fit in the angsty end of things. The brutish power of the opener is entrancing, and it’s the absolute perfect way to begin a record. It’s hard to find a powerful hard rock song that doesn’t suffer from some sort of weakness, whether it’s recycled riffage or lack of a hook, but “Adrenaline” is perfect down to every single lyric and melody. I’ll also have to admit that “Bully,” grew on me a lot since I wrote the single review of it.
The third track stops you dead in your tracks. Here enter strings and slower guitar melodies. Yet, everything about this track is perfection: the intro, the verse, the hook-laden chorus, and the guitar solo. It’s a song that’s bound for radio rock glory. The fourth track, “Unity,” continues in the same vein as the title track, with a more emotional appeal contained within its piano and symphonic elements. This song demonstrates the prowess of the band’s instrumentals and the gleam of their choruses. Shinedown makes bands like Papa Roach, Three Days Grace, and Sick Puppies look like amateurs with their great scope of sound on Amaryllis. This can be demonstrated by the booming gracefulness of “Enemies,” which propels the song into “I’m Not Alright,” a dreamy, brassy song complete with horns.
The hook in “Miracle” is probably one of the best I’ve heard in hard rock in years. It’s one of the best songs Shinedown has ever done, and it should become a radio hit. The entire track benefits from its structural build-ups and crashing choruses. As Smith cries out “Let’s turn the water to wine one last time,” only for the song to explode into its hook one final time, chills ran up my spine. Following “Miracle” is another perfectly piano-tinged ballad in “I’ll Follow You” and a rocker with strickening melodies in “My Name (Wearing Me Out).” Acoustic closer,“Through The Ghost,” one-ups “Call Me” off The Sound Of Madness in every way. It sounds more epic, more polished (hint: the efficacious melodies and bells), and is all-around more memorable.
If you’re looking for the best mainstream rock album of 2012, look no further. I have full faith that you won’t run into another album this year that is as extensive, memorable, and as strong an aggregate as Amaryllis. The thing that makes this record so great is how immersing and irresistible it is. It will have you singing along by second listen and find you humming the hooks to yourself. Every single track is a hit, and now we will just sit and wait for each track to engulf radio stations across the country, as I have conviction that this record will soon be a classic.