Review Summary: How about a better version of this, please?
There are actually a myriad of reasons why so many people expected Amaryllis
to be a step backwards for Shinedown. One such reason was the anticipated letdown following the commercial success of The Sound of Madness
. Another was the disappointing lead single ‘Bully’, which possessed little more than a forgettable hook and juvenile-sounding lyrics. Then there is the simple fact that mainstream hard-rock groups don’t have a long shelf life. While Shinedown hasn’t completely missed the mark with their fourth studio album, it is also evident that all of those concerns were justified. With Amaryllis
, Shinedown has clearly regressed, and it appears that they no longer possess the knack for consistency that made their first three efforts so well-received among critics and fans alike.
Across the vast majority of the album, Shinedown appears to be making an attempt to beef up their sound. The riffs are heavier, Brent Smith’s vocals are fiercer than they’ve ever been (save the band’s debut record), and the song tempos in general lend themselves to the head-banging, fist-pumping crowds that Shinedown has become accustomed to seeing pack their arenas. But accompanying this iron-clad bid for heaviness is a sense of vacancy that undermines their entire mission. For as heavy as tracks like ‘Adrenaline’, ‘Bully’, and ‘My Name’ are, they lack the ingenuity and bottom-line amount of substance needed to make them relatable or memorable in any way, shape, or form. That’s not to say that Shinedown has ever been particularly inventive or lyrically clever, but they always found ways to remain relevant. On Amaryllis
, they seem to be pushing the envelope just a little too hard. Lyrics such as “No one’s gonna cry on the very day you die, you’re a bully” and “put your hands in the air” are cringe-worthy, and their only saving grace would have been an impressive instrumental performance or extremely creative musical arrangement – we are provided with neither.
Compounding the problem is a general lack of catchiness. Even though ‘Amaryllis’, ‘Enemies’, and ‘Miracle’ are all potently infectious, most of the album falls into a muddled pool consisting of the heavy-for-the-sake-of-being-heavy (think ‘Sin With a Grin’) and the contrived air of mid-tempo ballads in which Shinedown dusts off their acoustic guitars and attempts to wow us with swelling string sections. It’s all been done before, and it has been done better by this very band. There is no way that the title track or ‘I’ll Follow You’ could live up to the bar set by ‘The Crow & the Butterfly’ or ‘Call Me’ – and it shouldn’t have to. The main dilemma is that Shinedown continuously tries to recapture the magic of The Sound of Madness
’ ballads instead of going in another direction. In the end, it all feels very calculated, which is rarely a good quality when you’re talking about a band’s creativity.
In the midst of their apparently deteriorating qualities, a few things still remain rock solid. The electric guitar play of Zach Myers is excellent, and he brings a lot of deceivingly complex riffs to the table that we haven’t seen during Shinedown’s recent maturation and commercialization. His contributions alone elevate a lot of tracks that otherwise could have just as easily been performed by the Skillets and Three Days Graces of the world. The main reason that Amaryllis
doesn’t completely flop though, and likely the reason that no Shinedown album ever will, is Brent Smith’s energetic vocals which explode to unthinkable heights, fall into sullen croons, and serenade us with sweeping melodies. His unbelievable range and ability to convey just about every kind of emotion imaginable is what drives this band, and as he goes Shinedown goes. In this case, Brent is once again spot on. It’s just a shame that the songwriting this time didn’t have the quality choruses to display those magnificent pipes, or the brooding emotion to bring out his dark side.
is an album caught in the middle, somewhere between blind ambition and a complete lack of direction. Shinedown has the raw talent to keep Amaryllis
afloat, but the album is full of holes and it always appears to be on the verge of sinking. The music is just as predictable as it was on The Sound of Madness
, only vapid lyrics and virtually nonexistent inspiration now plagues vast portions of their work. Fans of Shinedown will still find something to like on Amaryllis
, but no matter who you are it’s hard to imagine that the brief moments of redemption are enough to elevate this album amongst their prior, far more accomplished works. As it stands, Shinedown has for the first time in their careers crafted an album that is quite plainly average.