Godsmack tones down its explosive live show

The band's drummer isn't a big fan of all the pyros.
Bombs bursting on stage have been the modus operandi behind the thunder of the rock gods for decades.
After all, nothing punctuates a heavy solo or wailing guitar jam more than TNT surprisingly exploding on stage with a thunderous roar of crowd approval following. One contemporary band that seemingly epitomizes this bombastic archetype is Godsmack, which since 1999 has become a bastion for hard rock fans seeking old-school arena rock metal.
However, at what point do the explosives begin to outweigh the music? This perplexing question was recently pondered by the members of Godsmack. The Boston-based band is currently touring its latest effort, "IV," with an Oct. 26 date at the CSU Wolstein Center.
Unfavorable view
"Pyro, I can take it or leave it," said drummer Shannon Larkin, calling from his home in Cape Coral, Fla. "Sometimes I even feel silly up there, like we're Kiss or somebody. We've tried not to make that a crutch and we've already talked about not using it at all, just to prove we are a band here, and we really take pride in our playing of instruments."
Perhaps slightly less earth-shattering than Bob Dylan plugging in or Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a bat, such silly talk in the Godsmack fan base is tantamount to heresy. What's next, potpourri and scented candles at the Bean Town band's shows?
"We decided what we're going to do is just cut down instead of cutting everything out altogether to make some kind of statement," Larkin said. "We'll keep the video, the killer light show and the moving stages and all of that crap. We'll just cut the pyro a little bit."
Different process
All is well again in Godsmack's world, which wasn't the case a few years ago when the band convened to write "IV" without singer Sully Erna in the mix. The charismatic singer-songwriter was struggling through a dark time in his life with personal problems and addiction issues.
So as the band's official leader sorted things out, the remaining Godsmack members -- Larkin, Tony Ramola (guitar) and Robbie Merrill (bass) -- did something they had never done throughout the band's existence. The threesome wrote upwards of 40 songs, which not only provided a good base of material to work from for the "IV" sessions but also bonded the band members unlike ever before.
When a healthy Erna, who no longer smokes and now drinks beer over hard liquor, rejoined the fold, the outfit collaborated to create "IV."
"I think this was a huge leap for the band because not only does it make everything more rounded, since you're using your direction and influence from four different individuals rather than just one dude, but it also makes the band feel more involved in Godsmack," Larkin said. "Therefore, we're happier because we don't feel like we're just riding somebody's coattails or whatever. After all of these years in the business, it feels nice to contribute to this thing that's paying your mortgage."
The result is a somewhat different Godsmack album, with "IV" featuring a bluesy approach. Tracks such as "Living in Sin," "Speak" and the slow "One Rainy Day" position the group for future success.
Add in its powerful, albeit pyro-enhanced, live show, and Godsmack appears back on track.
"Our shows are great tension relievers," Larkin laughed, "because we'll smack you around in concert."

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