Review Summary: Shinedown's debut was a raw and passionate hard rock album. Although it was flawed at times, it showed worlds of potential for the band.
Before all the radio hits started flowing, Shinedown began with a simple, but powerful sound here on Leave a Whisper
. Although there was more of a nu-metal influence here than the pure hard rock sound of the band’s recent work, it was still a great release, especially for a debut album.
The band’s biggest asset is obviously their frontman, Brent Smith. His powerful Chris Cornell-influenced vocals are always what have set the band apart from the rest of today’s hard rock scene, and this album is no exception. This is Smith unrestrained, and he shines throughout the album, constantly belting out high notes with ease. His performance is particularly strong on the ballads; the darker tone of Lost In The Crowd
and Burning Bright
is well suited to his powerful, dramatic style. His strongest work here is in the famous ballad that closes the album, 45
. He spins the tail of a tormented young man with a breathtaking performance. It’s a common fan favorite, and for good reason. Although it’s the biggest highlight, not once does he deliver a bad or uninspired performance on the album.
Although Smith’s vocals are truly a force to be reckoned with, the songwriting is one-dimensional at times, making the album lose a bit of its power. The simple musicianship isn’t usually a problem, but nearly every non-ballad uses the same formula: Simple, heavy riff followed by the guitars cutting out in the verses, only to return during the dramatic chorus. That isn’t to say it isn’t effective, however, as it can work just fine when Smith’s powerful vocals overcome the lack of creative musicianship from the rest of the band. In Memory
has such a captivating vocal performance from Smith throughout that the formula works, and the simple but effective riffs in Fly From The Inside
and Left Out
compensate the catchy choruses to great effect. Unfortunately this causes weaker cuts like Better Version
, Stranger Inside
, and Lacerated
to fall to the side, with no instrumental highlights to make up for their weaker choruses. Smith’s vocals are strong enough that no tracks on the album are truly “bad” (although Lacerated
comes close), but still, more diversity would have been nice.
is an example of the excellent results the band can get when they break away from this formula, being the heaviest song on the album. Even though the guitarwork is still not very technical, the riffing throughout the song keeps the intensity up, all while giving Smith room to display one of his strongest performances on the album. The guitar solos on Lost In The Crowd
and All I Ever Wanted
also add some much needed diversity to the album, and it’s a shame they weren’t used more often here.
The lyrics are also suspect throughout much of the album. There are still some tracks that have strong lyrics, like Burning Bright
, but too often the clichés kick in. The chorus of No More Love
consists of “There’s no more love, there’s no more love, there’s no more love, for me and you” accompanied by a generic chant of “Listen to me!” Even though that sort of lyric is the exception, the monotonous angst throughout the album is another stumbling block that prevents it from reaching its full potential. Even Left Out
and Lost In The Crowd
, two very strong tracks, have fairly generic lyrics that, as one might guess, merely correspond to the song’s title.
However, despite its flaws, Shinedown’s debut album was a great effort that really showed their potential, with some excellent songs that still rank among the band’s best. Smith’s vocals were a breath of fresh air in the world of modern rock, and the rest of the band would show improvement on their other releases. The future was bright for this passionate young band from Florida, and they left much more than a whisper.
Top Tracks: Fly From The Inside, In Memory, Crying Out, 45