Review Summary: "The Sound of Madness Is Beautiful"
Shinedown returns with their third studio album, "The Sound of Madness". The irony of the title is that the sound of the album is the opposite of madness; it is closer to a tightly crafted musical masterpiece. While Leave a Whisper has taken on the role of Shinedown's measuring stick, this album does not disappoint - in fact it proves to be the answer for fans who thought "Leave A Whisper" was too heavy and that "Us And Them" was too soft. The Sound of Madness finds a balance in the intensity of the songs, without sounding choppy or forced.
The album kicks off with a head-banging anthem in "Devour", which opens with an amazing drum/piano sequence and explodes into Brent Smith's energetic vocals. The title track follows suit, with a catchy guitar riff and almost dance-able beat. As you probably guessed, it was time to slow things down with the next track. Second Chance is something to behold...it is poetic, uplifting, and heartfelt -- and likely the best mid-tempo song Shinedown has ever created. Cry for Help gets stamped with the "filler song" tag...there is nothing terribly wrong with the song, but it serves mostly as a buffer between two amazing ballads, the next of which is The Crow and The Butterfly. Easily the most compelling song on the CD, The Crow and The Butterfly soars around the top of Shinedown's already accomplished list of ballads. If You Only Knew is an almost equally impressive follow up, but it is not quite as powerful as the aforementioned song. Instead, it seems to glide more smoothly and churns out the mellow, sure to be a radio-hit chorus "it's 4:03 and I can't sleep / without you next to me I toss and turn like the sea / if i drown tonight bring me back to life / the only thing that i still believe in is you / if you only knew".
With nary a misstep, Shinedown delivers a solid first half of an album. The second half is quite different from the first, taking more risks and failing almost as much as they succeed. Sin With a Grin is clearly an attempt to shift the album's momentum back to the fast rock-your-world type of pace with which it began. It rocks hard, but you are left with somewhat of an empty feeling by the time the song ends; like it should have (and could have) been so much more. What a Shame is a nice late-album find, as Smith's songwriting invokes a strong sense of meaning into the whole experience. Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide nearly suffers the same fate as Sin With a Grin, but it is far more catchy and seems to come more naturally. This earns it respect as one of the better heavy tracks on the CD. As we reach the final two tracks, we find a complete flop and an absolute masterpiece. Breaking Inside fails on a level of Nickelback proportions, following the same template from which nearly every song by that band is produced. Listeners receive a quick apology, however, in the form of Call Me. Call Me may very well be Shinedown's best album-closer, as it fills you with emotion and the overall sense that something worthwhile and rare just transpired. The piano ballad is slow and never breaks pace, setting a thoughtful mood that is strangely as uplifting as it is haunting. Put this up there with Shinedown's greatest work to date.
Overall, The Sound of Madness is an excellent album and could easily become Shinedown's most successful album. It rolls on all cylinders, combining memorable ballads and fast-tempo rockers without sacrificing album unity or flow. If it weren't for a few poor decisions in direction and influence in the latter half of the album, The Sound of Madness would be the perfect record. With that said, it still reigns as the best album of the summer. Shinedown has turned up the heat on other bands in this genre, and they may soon become the mark by which upcoming hard rock / post grunge bands are compared.