Godsmack – Lighting Up The Sky (Album Review)

Godsmack – Lighting Up The Sky (Album Review)

When Godsmack hit the mainstream back in 1998 with their self-titled album it was like a shot to the arm with a clenched fist. Why? Well, for a start, their sound was pretty heavy for a more mainstream Hard Rock act at the time. Add to that lyrics which were much darker, as well as much more intense than others, and Godsmack were turning heads with cuts like “Whatever,” but also “Keep Away.” Sure, there were other acts also cultivating their own path in the Hard Rock scene during this era, but Godsmack were truly their own.

Taking heavy influence from the ’90s Grunge period – right down to their name inspired by the title of an Alice in Chains song – they also had a killer rhythm section that even made Ozzy Osbourne salivate. Reaching platinum status by late 1999, their self-titled release would be the catapult they needed for a career that has lasted well over two decades. In fact, Godsmack has been around for nearly three decades, toured the world over, pumped out platinum and gold selling records, all while sustaining themselves as commanders in Hard Rock music. Which leads us to modern times where the band returns in 2023 with their eighth overall studio record, Lighting Up the Sky.

A follow up to 2018’s When Legends Rise – an album which was a stylistic and sonic shift in sound for the band – this is in fact the longest gap between Godsmack albums ever with the release of Lighting Up the Sky on February 24th. Does this mean this is the end of the line for Godsmack? No, it means a lot has happened for the band inside and outside the lines over the last few years. One, Sully Erna has spent a lot of time doing an exceptional job of molding his own solo career away from the band. Secondly, Tony Rombola and Shannon Larkin have spent a good amount of time crafting some great Blues Rock with their own band The Apocalypse Blues Revival. Lastly, and extremely tragically, Rombola lost his son in October of 2018. All these things considered, and probably some more, putting the time into writing and recording new material was not necessarily top priority for Godsmack.

Taking a moment to process all these factors, according to Erna and company Lighting Up the Sky will in fact be the final Godsmack studio album. A shock of sorts for longtime fans, when you listen to the band’s justification, it makes logical sense. In truth, how many fans really enjoy hearing their favorite artists’ new songs at a live concert over the classics? Probably not too many. Well, this is part of the rationale behind the decision to make Lighting Up the Sky the final studio record for Godsmack… and you can sympathize with it. 

Now, this is not to say the well has run dry for the fellows when it comes to writing new music for Godsmack. The reality of the situation is they still have plenty left in the tank, and the proof is within Lighting Up the Sky. Consisting of eleven new songs, this new album truly summarizes Godsmack’s career from their self-titled album to When Legends Rise. The lyrics are thoughtful, personal, and unapologetic, but most of all, come across very sincere. Meanwhile the music that brings Lighting Up the Sky together still has the crunch from Godsmack’s early days, but perhaps with a little more Blues and Classic Rock influence. What does this mean? It means you get memorable guitar rhythms of Rombola matched with some tight bass lines from Robbie Merrill, but also some really passionate guitar solos that offer even more vivid colors. This combined with Larkin’s fantastic drumming, along with Erna’s unmistakable voice, and you have a damn good sound.

Then there is the actual mixing and engineering behind the album… because this is very important. As mentioned, When Legends Rise was a pretty interesting shift for Godsmack, because the production was vastly different from anything they had done prior. Smoother, and some might argue at times a little too smooth, on the other end, Lighting Up the Sky finds the perfect balance between both worlds. With Lighting Up the Sky you have some of the sheen which was discovered with When Legends Rise, but overall, this new album sounds much more live. In many ways it almost feels as if Godsmack met in a rehearsal studio, pressed record, and just played the songs out. This makes for a really cohesive collection of tracks that all seem to flow seamlessly into one another.

With all these factors considered, without quality songwriting, you would have nothing. Fortunately, Lighting Up the Sky has plenty of good chops in the songwriting department. That said, you can feel it in your heart that all of Godsmack had input in regards to these pieces of music. Extremely balanced, you have songs like the bluesy opener “You and I,” which at times has psychedelic sensations, the kick ass, take no BS anthem of “Red White & Blue,” and the catchy single “Surrender.” You also heaviness displayed on “What About Me” and “Soul on Fire,” but also darker tones heard on “Hell’s Not Dead” and “Best of Times.” Moreover, adding even more dynamics to the set, you have the emotional, piano-driven “Truth” and beautifully melodic closing title-track.

In enough words, Lighting Up the Sky hits hard when it needs to, but drags you deeper within when the time is right. Really an engaging record, do yourself a favor and take it in on a quality set of speakers… because so much of the bottom-end is lost when it comes to crummy modern music listening devices such as a cellphone or some portable Bluetooth speaker. When it is all said and done, Lighting Up the Sky is a fitting legacy album for Godsmack, and that is Cryptic Rock gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Godsmack – Lighting Up The Sky (2023) / BMG

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  • Chris James
    Posted at 17:52h, 28 February Reply

    was soooo stoked for this record, especially after how GREAT Legends was…

    All in all, I’d put this album about on par with IV. It’s not terrible, but it’s not their best work. Sully’s vocals are the best of his career, I’ll give em that. Although he does tend to over sing on songs like Growing Old.

    And Shannon’s drumming is still next level good, but not real creative or innovative. It’s almost like he’s become complacent.

    The riffs are decent, and show some creatively, as does the song structure on tracks such as You and I.

    The lyrics are pretty underwhelming, the themes played out, and downright lazy at times. And the bass? Where tf is the bass? There’s not a single bass line on the entire record that stands out. It’s like Lars Ulrich snuck into the studio and mixed it. Without a solid baseline, these songs really have no attitude. No umph. It lacks the grittiness that used to make up their sound. It’s just too clean.

    There are some real gems like You and I, Surrender, and Truth. The there are throwaway tracks like Hell’s Not Dead, Let’s Go and Best of Times. The there’s the head scratchingly awful Red White & Blue which is a clear attempt to pander to nationalists… definitely the worst song they’ve ever written. Soul On Fire tries hard, but sound so commerical it could be played on any pop station.

    Is it 1000 HP bad, no. But it’s definitely not Faceless, Awake, or Legends.

  • MB
    Posted at 18:38h, 28 February Reply

    Agreed CR! This album was one of their best to date.
    And CHRIS JAMES… It’s called a comment section NOT a review section. Perhaps make your own review site to publish your own opinions.

  • Steve demelo
    Posted at 15:21h, 02 March Reply

    Love love love Godsmack
    Was excited for the new album
    Got there sound back
    One thing that throws me off is (don’t get me wrong sully I love you man voice is bad ass)
    I’ve been told this my self Less is more
    For instance Lighting up the sky for me would be a perfect !!!10!!! I feel a few short words could be cut and realign the melody of the vocals and we got a possible number 1 hit
    Lighting up the sky has that original bad ass Godsmack in there
    Rock on!!!!!!

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