Review Summary: Don't be a casualty, cut the cord.
There was a time when Shinedown was destined to become one of the greatest rock bands of the early 2000s. Ignore the snickering of doubters in the background; it's true. With 2003’s slow burning, southern-influenced Leave a Whisper
and 2005’s ambitious rocker Us and Them
, things once looked incredibly optimistic. There were no other bands out there capable of duplicating Shinedown's sound. Their darker leanings and Lynyrd Skynyrd influenced vocals separated them from less talented peers such as Staind and 3 Doors Down, placing them squarely at the pinnacle of their emo-laced, heavy rock subgenre. Those were glorious times for Brent Smith and company, but as we all know, some of the best things are short-lived. 2008 saw them in gorgeous decline with the pop-infused, platinum-selling The Sound of Madness
, while four years later they failed to reproduce those results on the tepid and unnoticeable Amaryllis
. It’s rather obvious, then, where expectations stood for this year’s release - aptly titled Threat to Survival
. But instead of the resurgence that Shinedown so desperately needed, they’ve instead wandered in a doubly watered down, even more forgettable direction. For my fellow Shinedown diehards out there, it’s time to join together in a mournful chorus: what a shame, what a shame
Shinedown falls short in numerous ways here, but what stands out the most is a complete lack of substance. This has never been the deepest or most thought-provoking band to begin with, but there was always a sense of underlying turmoil that lent credence to their bid for a heavy, tortured sound. Remember ‘In Memory’" Yeah, well there’s nothing like that here. Threat to Survival
might be the happiest Shinedown album ever, and it’s not a style that suits them very well. Even when Smith sings about something potentially moving, it’s typically thrown into the bounciest, most annoying musical backdrop possible, which makes it impossible to take anything seriously. Take ‘State of My Head’ for instance, in which Smith attempts to craft a survivalist/beating-the-odds scenario: “Oh, our flag is tattered and my bones are shattered, but it doesn’t matter cause we’re movin’ forward.” It’s nothing new or complex, and it would have been passable had it not been followed up with the awkward stutter of a chorus, “That’s the state of my – state of my – state of my head.” To make matters worse, the passage preceding it consists of a grating “round ‘em up, round ‘em up, round ‘em up let’s go.” It’s this kind of nonsensical shit that makes one want to seek out whoever wrote the lyrics, smack them in the face, and demand an explanation. Oh, and things get much worse. ‘Black Cadillac’ takes on a country vibe and face plants, ‘It All Adds Up’ feels like a track that The Offspring tried to shield from ever seeing the light of day, and the lazy closing ballad ‘Misfits’ takes the meaning of the word “stereotypical” to a whole new level. Threat to Survival
exudes desperate change, and while it does manage to shake the band loose from total stagnancy, it unfortunately throws them directly into the laughing stock.
Although Shinedown spends an inordinate amount of time futilely experimenting here, a few of their blind leaps actually manage to stick a graceful landing. ‘Cut the Cord’ is by far the best song, and it could even make a case as one of the band’s stronger tracks in general. Despite being a full-throttle head banger, it commences with a slithering, middle-eastern vibe and a children’s choir (which miraculously doesn’t sound too
out of place) before exploding into Brent Smith’s powerful vocals. The song blends Shinedown’s more recent pop leanings with their early-career temperament, a brilliant combination that would have served Threat to Survival
well in larger and more frequent doses. We see a little bit of this again in the eerie “Oblivion”, a track that opens with desolate pianos and ghastly humming before transforming into a riff-heavy southern rock song. Unfortunately though, two songs an album does not make – and the remainder of Threat to Survival
doesn’t provide enough support to prop these tracks up as anything more than anomalies.
Threat to Survival
shows us a band that is quickly fading but refuses to admit defeat. On the one hand, you have to admire their persistence. The flipside to that, however, is that we’re forced to watch them struggle through the roughest patch of their entire career. The melodies just aren’t flowing and the choruses are rarely memorable. The instrumentation is lacking to say the least, and their brand new ideas are questionable at best. There’s absolutely no lyrical, emotional, or musical substance. Shinedown is currently a shell of their former selves, desperately grasping at straws in hopes of finding a new path. For the band, it may be a necessary phase to endure if they are ever to become relevant again. For you and I however, there’s very little reason to even bother with this. Don't be a casualty, cut the cord.