October 13, 2016 Sully Erna – Hometown Life (Album Review)
In February of 1968, up in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Salvatore Paul “Sully” Erna was born. The nephew of a famous composer from Sicily and the son of a trumpet player, Erna’s musical career began forming early, with lessons beginning before he was a teenager. Fighting his way through various other bands as a drummer, in 1995, Erna decided to take the bull by the horns and start his own band. That band was called Godsmack, now one of the most successful in modern Hard Rock.
Showing his diversity as a musician, in 2010, Erna surprised audiences with his debut solo album, Avalon. A record seven years in the making, many thought it would be Godsmack-lite, but Erna proved to never judge a book by its cover. That is because Avalon was a majestic piece dressed with organic instrumentation and unique song structures. Becoming a hit with audiences, he toured all over in support of the album, and then, in 2014, Godsmack returned from hiatus with 1000hp. A welcomed return, it also left the question, would Erna’s solo endeavors be a one and done adventure? Thankfully, that worry was put to rest when word came down that Erna would in fact be returning with Avalon’s follow-up, album number 2, entitled Hometown Life. Released on September 30th via BMG, Hometown Life brings back the earthy elements he used in Avalon, but also offers something new.
Beginning with the title track, “Hometown Life” launches the journey with a dramatic and deep piano alongside echoing vocals. A feeling of change pervades the song, and it is only reinforced by the lyrics. On “Your Own Drum,” Erna offers up encouragement to those who rise above what everyone else may say and live by the beat of their “own drum.” Quick percussion and an acoustic guitar keep separate beats, but work together to illustrate Erna’s part. Next, “Different Kind Of Tears” combines an acoustic guitar with a soft electric, which create an extra layer of texture. Lyrically speaking of a specific kind of pain and experience that could be applied to few kinds of situations, Erna connects vividly with his audience.
Picking up the pace, “Take All Of Me” Kicks in with a quick beat, which at first promises to be a lighter track, but then lyrics quickly pull it back into the beautifully dark side. Here, Erna’s vocals are strong while his inflection of the words feel like knowing secrets, rising up as if he knows every one ever kept. More somber, “Don’t Comfort Me” comes in with emotional vocals taking on a introspective view, though it is not revealed to be the perspective until the chorus. Keeping the playlist diverse, “Turn It Up” takes on an almost Jazz style with sharp snapping and Blues styled guitars. As different instruments chime in, even the mellow vocals from the intro all build into a final effort before diving dramatically back down to rebuild, like a roller coaster of different styles.
More than halfway through the record, “Blue Skies” conjures up images of people going about their daily lives, but amidst them someone is struggling with depression or anxiety. Featuring vocals, pianos, and the occasional violin piece, the track is simple, but powerful. Slightly more upbeat, “Forever My Infinity” begins with a gentle plucking acoustic guitar. A duet, the love song drips with delicate touches that each stand out in their own right. Thereafter, “Father Of Time” touches lightly into the waters of New Age, with simple clapping and hand drums. The song is hypnotizing and one can almost imagine people dancing around a fire on a dark night as if pleading with Father Time himself. Concluding it all, “Fallen To Black” returns to the weighty instrumentals and tones featured on previous tracks. Pain twists and turns around the beat while the forbidden love is played out through a range of mediums.
All in all, Hometown Life is a complex album set against a myriad of simpler beats for a beautiful contrast. It is dark and gentle, giving the impression that the topics covered on the album are explored from within. Rich themes give the album an intellectual flavor and Sully Erna seems to be carving out his brand of sound nicely. Fans will have a tough time picking a favorite track because they are all wonderful in their own way. Breaking into the Billboard 200 at position 105, Hometown Life is yet another wonderful effort from Sully Erna. CrypticRock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.