It was frankly surprising when Godsmack lead singer Sully Erna announced that the band’s newest album, “Lighting Up the Sky,” is “the last record we’re ever gonna do,” in an interview this past September with Minneapolis station 93X (transcribed by Blabbermouth). In fact, it’s almost shocking that bands today still have the desire to make these kinds of blanket statements about their future. Motley Crue literally blowing up a contract to keep touring again should’ve signaled that the shark had officially been jumped when it comes to these decisions, but here we are.
According to Erna, the band is shifting focus, following what he describes as Godsmack’s best record yet, to hone in on crafting a great live experience for fans based around the band’s many hits. It’s a unique approach, albeit one that puts quite a lot of pressure on “Lighting Up the Sky” to live up to such lofty proclamations.
Thankfully, there’s a lot to like on “Lighting Up the Sky.” Straight from the grooving opening number “You and I,” it’s clear that this is a band comfortable enough in its own skin to bend some expectations without breaking them.
There’s an assured air in the fist-pumping, head-banging rhythms of “Soul on Fire” and “What About Me” that evoke the feeling of the band’s signature hits like “Awake” and “I Stand Alone.”
More inventive numbers, like the aforementioned “You and I” as well as lead single “Surrender,” also find success through some exceptional musicianship. The latter is especially deserving of its lead single status, hooking you with great performances from each of the band’s members that evoke the best songs off of 2018’s “When Legends Rise.”
Those successes don’t carry throughout “Lighting Up the Sky,” however. Songs like “Best of Times” and “Let’s Go” feel distinctly less cohesive, either lacking a strong chorus or bleeding out into an overly long exercise in stamina.
The ballad “Truth” also feels like a miss. From its opening piano melody, it doesn’t feel as if it fits with the rest of the album, especially when compared to the success of the twangy solemnity seen in “Growing Old” that nearly evokes Metallica’s cover of “Turn the Page.”
It’s interesting that a band intending to put a stamp on their recording career and add a few more hits to their setlist along the way, would throw in songs with such a varied approach like those. It would take some firm convincing to make me believe that “Truth” or “Growing Old” could ever become permanent additions to Godsmack’s live repertoire, yet the band didn’t omit them for more radio-friendly hard rock singles.
That points to an admirable sense of direction and creative drive for the album, even if the results don’t always pan out.
Overall, that makes “Lighting Up the Sky” an album which very much feels like another chapter in a successful band’s long history rather than a definitive conclusion. There are some great highs, perhaps borne from the comfortability that a long and successful career provides, but also some misses that point to a group not quite willing to set its sights solely on the most familiar hits.
Hopefully, if Godsmack ever does follow in the footsteps of the many other bands who have reversed course on these kinds of decisions before, they keep putting out great singles while maybe even continuing to explore and refine the range of their musical talent.
Spotlight Score: 7/10