Review Summary: ...a second chance.
When Shinedown released Threat to Survival
in 2015, it felt like the nail in the coffin. In what amounted to a borderline comical mess of assorted pop and southern influences, none of which were particularly believable or inspired, the slow decline that Amaryllis
had set into motion finally appeared to come to a head. It seemed like an appropriate time to mourn Shinedown, placing them in the rearview mirror while effectively resigning them to pleasant mid-2000’s nostalgia. Thankfully, things weren’t actually as bleak as they appeared back then. After two underwhelming albums and a decade of dwindling output, Shinedown have returned to pin at least one more stalwart album to their resume. Attention Attention
serves as both the rightful heir and long-awaited successor to The Sound of Madness
, as well as a reinstatement of the band as one of the premier acts in mainstream rock. It’s a breath of fresh air…welcome back, boys.
One of the most remarkable things about Shinedown’s sixth studio album is that, after a total lack of meaningful direction, they manage to get practically everything right here. Shifting focus back to their rock roots, Shinedown ramps up the intensity and volume in every way. Lead vocalist Brent Smith explodes with a level of passion and exuberance that was nowhere to be found on the last couple of records, while Zach Myers follows his lead by contributing some of his beefiest riffs to date and Barry Kerch ties it all together with his momentous and ever-steady percussive work. Attention
still isn’t a fountain of invention, as it draws from the same basic premises that Shinedown has always relied upon, but the formula has never been their issue. When this group executes with a chip on their shoulder and a fiery demeanor, they’ve always been leaps and bounds ahead of their fellow genre-dwellers. With this album, that recognizable brand of emotionally-inspired rock has returned with a vengeance, and the band resultantly feels alive again.
’s highlights are nothing out of left field, they take Shinedown’s primary assets – Brent Smith’s incredible vocal range and passionate delivery – and place them in a setting that makes sense again. There were moments on Amaryllis
– and certainly throughout Threat to Survival
– that Smith’s talents were underutilized, misplaced, and flat-out squandered. There’s no reason that his voice ever should have been situated between awkward, Irish-sounding pop grooves (‘I’m Not Alright’) or cringe-worthy country notes (‘Black Cadillac’....unforgivable). Smith has always felt like a spiritual successor to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant, demonstrating heavy, southern undertones while still possessing the range to belt out the highest notes with perfect clarity; all one needs to do is contrast the brooding, lower register of ‘45’ with the soaring, melodic heights of ‘Second Chance’ to get the full picture. Anyway, with Attention Attention
placing the impetus behind Shinedown’s aggressive rock tendencies, Brent Smith is back in his element in a way that hasn’t happened since, well, The Sound of Madness
. The albums will almost certainly continue to draw comparisons, because they both excel at balancing the group’s heavy, southern-rock roots with their infectious pop-sensibilities. For a band that was on the verge of flatlining three years ago, earning comparisons to your magnum opus isn’t such a bad spot to be in, even if Attention Attention
falls just short of those lofty standards.
Even if it’s not quite
as good as Shinedown’s very best material dating back to their heyday, Attention
can still claim at least one superlative in relation to the band’s discography. For starters, it may very well be their heaviest album, moving along at a consistent breakneck pace that relents only sparingly. From the raucous drums and crashing riffs that launch ‘Devil’ through the boisterous pace-changes and electric precision of ‘Black Soul’, it’s a tone that’s set early and often, revisited in the album’s midsection with undeniable head-bangers in ‘Pyro’ and ‘Evolve’, and again with the frantically uplifting closer ‘Brilliant’ – a track that continues the band’s tradition of saving one of its strongest songs for last. When Shinedown does slow down the pace, it’s rarely in the form of a dreadful ballad – but rather a groove-laced, cynical crooner – like the twisting, turning shouts of ‘Kill Your Conscience.’ The closest they come to a standard ballad is ‘Special’, but it’s also the closest quality-wise that they’ve come to replicating ‘Call Me’, possessing some of the album’s best lyrics (“We all live to lie, we all fall apart, we all go to war / There are no happy endings…you're not a god or a poet, you're not special”
) , some of its most emotive strings, and easily its most memorable melodic verses. It’s a slow song that is graced with Brent Smith’s angelically soft delivery, the kind that has made so many prior Shinedown ballads enormously successful. Through its abundant loud moments and its quieter, hidden gems, Attention Attention
is a record that reaches new heights of its own – despite the fact that the band will almost certainly never escape their own shadow.
The unanticipated quality of this record could be a rebirth or
a parting gift, but either way it feels like something that should be valued by fans who have been waiting since the waning months of 2008 for such a moment. It’s an apology for the middling ballads and lackluster inspiration that plagued their last two albums, and it’s one that’s good enough to recoup at least a portion of the fan base that may have wandered to greener pastures. It’s not going to turn heads of listeners who have always shrugged indifferently, even during the group’s prime, but this is essentially the best possible outcome that anyone could have expected after witnessing the debacle that was Threat to Survival
. A band once left for dead, they’ve clawed their way to the surface by going back to the basics and invigorating that sound. Thus, Shinedown remains – at least for now- and they’ve redeemed their reputation in the process.