Concert Review – Godsmack & Volbeat (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, ON, 05/10/2019)

And the city of Ottawa was more than ready to rumble with two of the best bands of the modern Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll scene.

OPENING ACT: Stitched Up Heart

Although my drive from Toronto to Ottawa on Thursday was a complete shit due to the nasty rain and all the trucks spraying tons of water on my windshield, that didn’t turn my energy level down not even a bit for the concert that was about to happen on Friday. I was really pumped to see what’s probably the best modern Rock N’ Roll bands available out there, the almighty Volbeat and the incendiary Godsmack, kicking some serious ass on stage at Richcraft Live (I honestly have no idea what that name means) at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was my first time at that venue and I must say it’s indeed a great place to watch a concert or a sports event, but unfortunately getting there is not that easy unless you drive, take a taxi or Uber to the venue, which ends up inflating the parking costs considerably.

Anyway, fans were still arriving at the venue when Los Angeles-based Hard Rock act STITCHED UP HEART began their short but effective performance, spearheaded by the beautiful Mixi on vocals. If you have no idea about what type of music Stitched Up Heart play, let’s say it’s a fusion of the contemporary Hard Rock played by Godsmack with Evanescence and Marilyn Manson, and the final result is very entertaining. It was a beyond solid warm-up for the main attractions of the night, and a very good welcome card from the band to us fans of rock music here in Canada, as I don’t actually remember seeing them anywhere around here before this tour opening for Volbeat and Godsmack. In other words, go to their official website for more information about the band, where they’re playing, where to buy their music, and so on, as those guys (and girl, of course) are definitely worth a shot.

Setlist
This Skin
Warrior
Catch Me When I Fall
Darkness
Straightjacket
Finally Free
Lost (feat. Sully Erna)

Band members
Mixi – vocals
Merritt – guitar
Randy – bass
Decker – drums 

VOLBEAT

After a short break, and with the Canadian Tire Centre already occupied by thousands of fans from different parts of Canada and the United States, it was time for Danish rockers VOLBEAT to bring to Ottawa their undisputed Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances, proving once again that Copenhagen-based quartet is not one of the biggest names in the current Rock N’ Roll scene in vain. Still promoting their 2016 album Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, but just about to release a brand new album (for our total delight), the band comprised of Michael Poulsen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Rob Caggiano on lead guitar, Kaspar Boye Larsen on bass, and Jon Larsen on drums set the venue on fire with their fast and melodic riffs and beats, and of course, endless electricity (despite the fact that Mr. Poulsen was visibly fighting some sort of cold or flu).

From the first few notes from the excellent The Devil’s Bleeding Crown to the closing moments from the already classic Still Counting, Volbeat delivered what’s expected from them, inspiring all fans from the floor section to ignite some fun (and furious) circle pits, especially during their most metallic songs such as A Warrior’s Call, 16 Dollars, Doc Holliday and Seal the Deal. Also, I think I’ve already mentioned this before, but it’s always impressive to witness how powerful and precise Mr. Caggiano is on the guitar, elevating the band’s sonority to new heights since entering the band in 2013. In addition, one song that I was extremely happy they played was Hallelujah Goat, one of my favorite Volbeat songs of all time due to its energy and heaviness, potentialized by Rob’s amazing technique and feeling. And before I forget, the band also played a brand new song for the first time ever in Ottawa, the 40-second Punk Rock tune Parasite, which albeit being extremely short it was well received by all fans who were paying attention at the moment, because you know, 40 seconds are not enough not even for a quick bathroom break. In a nutshell, I know that I just saw Volbeat live and that I’ll see them again with Slipknot, Gojira and Behemoth soon here in Toronto, but they’re so good live I cannot wait, and besides, their concerts are never long enough for them to play all of their classics.

Setlist
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue (with Ring of Fire intro)
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Let It Burn
Black Rose
Parasite
16 Dollars
Dead but Rising
Fallen
Hallelujah Goat
Marie Laveau
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

GODSMACK

It was close to 9:45pm when the lights went out, a fun mashup of classic rock songs started playing from the amps, and finally GODSMACK hit the stage with their unique mix of Alternative Rock and Heavy Metal. I confess I don’t think their 2018 album When Legends Rise is one of their best efforts to date; quite the contrary, it’s relatively weak compared for example to their previous album, the fantastic 1000hp, released in 2014, but Sully Erna and his henchmen are so amazing in what they do they managed to turn all of the songs they played from their new album, those being When Legends Rise, Say My Name, Unforgettable, Under Your Scars and Bulletproof, into truly amazing moments of their performance. By the way, as explained by Sully during the concert, inspired by their own song Under Your Scars, Godsmack have recently founded The Scars Foundation to help raise awareness of the mental health issues that so many are faced with today. Needless to say, donate and show your support to such important and noble cause.

Getting back to the concert, I have to say that even if they played bad music the whole thing would still have been at least great, as all the fire and other special effects on stage added a lot of energy to their performance. But, of course, Godsmack do not play bad music, and fantastic songs like 1000hp (my favorite of the night), Cryin’ Like a Bitch and Whatever put a huge smile on the faces of every single fan watching their concert. Furthermore, there were three very distinct moments that let’s say “surprised” most fans due to their uniqueness, those being their dark and enthralling performance of their all-time hit Voodoo, the interesting Batalla De Los Tambores (or “battle of the drums”, if you know nothing in Spanish) between Sully and the extremely talented drummer Shannon Larkin, and the Rock N’ Roll party established on stage when Rob Caggiano and the entire Stitched Up Heart joined them on stage for a cover version of AC/DC’s classic Highway to Hell.

In the end, after Godsmack played their heavier-than-hell hit I Stand Alone, all fans left the Canadian Tire Centre extremely satisfied, hoping the band doesn’t take another abysmal time to return to Canadian soil. On the other hand, if you live in Canada and missed Godsmack, I feel really sorry for your soul. A band like that is always busy, always touring the world, and they don’t have a lot of empty spot to fill out with Canadian dates. Well, don’t cry like a bitch if you missed it, simply stay tuned to their upcoming tours and do like the rockin’ citizens from Ottawa, whenever you hear the words “Volbeat” or “Godsmack”, put on your black shirt, you leather jacket and get ready to rumble like there’s no tomorrow with one of the best and most electrifying bands of the not-so-new generation of rock and metal music.

Setlist
When Legends Rise
1000hp
Say My Name
Keep Away (Moon Baby Outro)
Cryin’ Like a Bitch
Awake
Unforgettable
Something Different
Voodoo
Batalla De Los Tambores
Whatever

Encore:
Under Your Scars
Bulletproof
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
I Stand Alone

Band members
Sully Erna – vocals, guitar
Tony Rombola – lead guitar
Robbie Merrill – bass
Shannon Larkin – drums

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Album Review – Godsmack / When Legends Rise (2018)

A rollercoaster of good and bad moments in the band’s first effort away from more traditional Heavy Metal into a softer and exaggeratedly radio-friendly Hard Rock sound.

Almost four years after the release of the incendiary 1000hp, American Alternative Rock/Metal icons Godsmack are back in action with When Legends Rise, the seventh studio album in their solid career, and their first effort away from more traditional Heavy Metal into a softer and exaggeratedly radio-friendly Hard Rock sound. And when I say “exaggeratedly radio-friendly” I’m not exaggerating (not sure if I’m allowed to use that word and its variations so many times in just a couple of lines), because not only When Legends Rise doesn’t bring the same horsepower, rage and heaviness of 1000hp, but it sounds and feels way too mellow and generic compared to everything they’ve already released since their inception.

As early as 2015, frontman and guitarist Sully Erna spoke of his will to create a new sound for Godsmack in their next album, later describing the album in 2017 as a “reinvention” for the band, as a “new chapter” juxtaposed against older albums, of which he described as “vintage classic Godsmack”. Let’s say he succeeded and failed miserably at the same time, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of the band or if you’ve never heard of them before, as soon as you finish listening to the 11 tracks in When Legends Rise you won’t be able to tell if it was a good or bad experience so many highs and lows the entire album has. As a matter of fact, I guess if you follow Godsmack from the very beginning, the lowest moments of the album will make you feel extremely disappointed with this “new direction” chosen by Sully and his henchmen.

The tribal-like beats by Shannon Larkin kick off the best and most metal song of the entire album, the title-track When Legends Rise, which despite not being a masterpiece, it’s indeed a catchy and entertaining song led by the unique vocals by Sully, sounding as radio-friendly as the band wants but still bringing some of their old school aggressiveness. Then we have Bulletproof (if you’re a regular radio listener you might have heard it a billion times already), which is not that bad but with potential to be a lot better (and by that I mean heavier), with bassist Robbie Merrill doing a very good job in keeping the atmosphere dense and rumbling; followed by Unforgettable, probably the cheesiest song ever written by Godsmack, sounding way too happy for my taste and with the support choir by The Gilbert H. Hood and West Running Brook Choir being plain boring. Well, as I’ve mentioned a thousand times in this webzine, I hate generic choirs.

Every Part of Me presents hints of the sounding from their early days, especially through the melodious guitar lines by Tony Rombola, resulting in a very decent song that reminds us all of the potential Godsmack is throwing away by trying to sound more mainstream than they should, while Take It to the Edge sounds quite similar to its predecessor, but with heavier and more piercing guitar and bass lines. Furthermore, it’s good to hear Sully screaming and sounding a little angrier, and albeit this is not their classic Alternative Metal it can be considered something like a well-crafted version of modern-day Hard Rock. After that interesting sequence of heavy tunes the band offers us the ballad Under Your Scars, and although I’ve complained about almost every song so far I must admit this is indeed a good one, mainly due to the beautiful job done by guest violinist Zvezdelina Haltakova and guest cellist Irina Chirkova. And in Someday, after a not-so-exciting start the music evolves to a harder but still generic sonority that goes on for too long, ruining what could have been a good Hard Rock song. In addition, a weak song such as this would have benefited a lot from a guitar solo, something the whole album lacks by the way, and something that really started to bother me after a few listens.

And the “genericism” found in When Legends Rise goes on in Just One Time, even with Robbie and Shannon bringing some decent groove to the music, saving it from being a total failure. Then we have the excellent Say My Name, proving that when Sully and his crew speed up their pace and deliver stronger, more austere lyrics, they sound a billion times better. Hence, together with the opening track, this is by far one of the best songs of the album, presenting flammable Rock N’ Roll guitar riffs and rhythmic beats, which unfortunately cannot be said about Let It Out, another so-so creation alternating between heavier moments and very bland passages. It might once again sound good on the radio for the average listener, but definitely not for Rock N’ Roll fans, with the biggest issue for me being that the sound of both guitars is really low, or even worse, almost nonexistent. Furthermore, what’s also very irritating in the entire album is that there are moments like the closing song Eye of the Storm where a very promising start morphs into tasteless rock music; however, the more aggressive pieces of the song save it from total damnation, not to mention that we finally have a guitar solo added to it.

In the end, after When Legends Rise (available for a full listen on Spotify), we have to agree with this article from the online publication The Top Tens listing Godsmack as one of the top 10 bands that aren’t metal according to Encyclopaedia Metallum, together with names such as Avenged Sevelfold, Disturbed, Korn and Rage Against The Machine, but at least those bands still deliver a significant amount of rage and rebelliousness through their music, as opposed to what Godsmack (unfortunately) did in their new album. And if that toned-down version of Hard Rock is the direction Sully Erna really wants to take from now on with his band to reach a “broader audience”, well, good luck with that. I’ll personally stick to their more vibrant material from Godsmack, Awake and 1000hp.

Best moments of the album: When Legends Rise, Take It to the Edge and Say My Name.

Worst moments of the album: Bulletproof, Unforgettable, Someday and Let It Out.

Released in 2018 Universal Music

Track listing
1. When Legends Rise 2:52
2. Bulletproof 2:57
3. Unforgettable 3:28
4. Every Part of Me 3:20
5. Take It to the Edge 3:15
6. Under Your Scars 3:51
7. Someday 4:44
8. Just One Time 3:09
9. Say My Name 3:38
10. Let It Out 3:41
11. Eye of the Storm 3:21

Band members
Sully Erna – vocals, guitar
Tony Rombola – lead guitar
Robbie Merrill – bass
Shannon Larkin – drums

Guest musicians
Zvezdelina Haltakova – violin on “Under Your Scars”
Irina Chirkova – cello on “Under Your Scars”
The Gilbert H. Hood and West Running Brook Choir – additional vocals on “Unforgettable”