‘Amaryllis’ shines with hard rock, falls down with radio-friendly tracks

I’ve got this sort of love-hate relationship with Shinedown. On one hand, I really enjoy their punching, groove-oriented hard rock, even if it isn’t unique by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, their dime-a-dozen radio rock songs and pop ballads bore me to tears and annoy me to no end. Their new album, Amaryllis , pretty much epitomizes my feelings for them. Amaryllis actually starts off pretty promisingly, the first track being “Adrenaline,” a hard-driving, double-bass riddled tune that provides a burst of energy like a cheap convenience store energy drink, the second being radio hit “Bully,” which, with its big chorus, electronic bursts, eerie harmonies, and well played guitar solo, is surprisingly good for its enormous amount of airplay. A couple of forgettable tracks follow “Bully,” but the riff-based “Enemies” saves the day and is soon followed by “Nowhere Kids,” an angry and intense track that might actually be the best on the album. While it appears that the album is on the upswing, what follows is the crash from the aforementioned energy drink. The album leaves five songs after “Nowhere Kids.” The next track, “Miracle,” might be the worst of the bunch, a radio-ready ballad that’s reminiscent of “The Crow and the Butterfly” from their previous smash hit album The Sound of Madness , but worse. The rest of the album is utterly dull and forgettable, full of ballads and filler tracks. That said, the good songs on Amaryllis are actually pretty good. Some of the tracks on The Sound of Madness , such as “Devour” and the title track, were good but left a bit to be desired. Drummer Barry Kerch’s playing has improved since their last effort, becoming more dynamic, as is especially evidence by the frantic playing on “Adrenaline.” It’s also worth noting that, while Zach Myers has been in Shinedown for several years, first as a bassist and then as a rhythm guitarist, Amaryllis is his first effort as the group’s lead guitarist. He certainly gets the job done, as is evidence on solos like the one in “Bully” and crushing riffs like in “Enemies” and “Nowhere Kids.” Brent Smith’s vocals are steeped in the post grunge of modern groups like Bush and (yes, sigh) Nickelback (though not nearly that bad, I promise). His delivery is much more suited to the heavier songs, which is probably why they’re so much better. The lyrics, mostly penned by him and co-writer David Bassett, are good in some songs, albeit a bit cheesy in parts. “Bully” tackles the issue of abused children and teenagers, and “Nowhere Kids” pokes at today’s exploitive society, but ballads like “Miracle” have lyrics that are probably best left unwritten. At best, Shinedown are a pretty decent modern rock band, and at worst they’re… well, they’re still a much better Nickelback. Amaryllis has its moments, and some of the tracks are enjoyable and energetic, but the album ultimately will leave listeners wanting more. Overall rating: 6/10 Jack H. Evans is the entertainment editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.