This cements Shinedown's full transition into the realms of american post-grunge MOR, radio-friendly pop-rock (bit of a mouthful, granted). They were always headed this way as their grungier debut heralded but there was always the chance that they could exist in that particular arena while still producing slightly left-field tracks. 2008's Sound of Madness managed this perfectly. It had radio-friendly, spangly, acoustic power-ballads that lay next to crushing, iconic anthems like the astonishing title track. And nothing seemed out of place. There's nothing wrong with making music for the masses but it just seems that they did it with a little more integrity on previous releases, with emphasis on decent songwriting over clipped track length. And, no, tacked-on swearing for no real reason does not an edgy album make.
That said, Amarallyis is not at all a bad album. In fact its new design makes for rather pleasant listening. The real problem lies with the strength of the songs. There are some absolute belters on here but only on the first half. There is nothing bad as such on the rest of the album but nothing that truly grabs the attention or is as exhilirating as much as say 'Devour' or as epic or moving as 'In Memory' and 'All I Ever Wanted'.
Openers 'Adrenaline' and 'Bully' are ostensibly the same song. They are both rollicking rockers chock-full of hooks and great choruses, but were crafted for the obvious reason of being singles (well at least 'Bully'). And that's no bad thing in a way as they are both fantastic. The title track is not a patch on the one from Sound of Madness but it is still a very good track. It is more of a ballad, played acoustically and rising to the usual emotional crescendo. 'Unity' sounds like it will end up on a BT advert at some time in the future. Hooks and soaring choruses aplenty vie for space amidst the crystal production. I jest but it really is a great song too. 'Enemies' is where it all gets a bit 'ordinary'. It's quite upbeat and has a pounding, rhythmic chorus but sounds like a track-by-numbers machine wrote it. A little anaemic. 'I'm Not Alright' is similar in tone but actually miles better as the chorus is staggeringly catchy and foot-tappingly addictive. It almost sounds like a Britpop anthem resurrected (almost).
'Nowhere Kids' is another Shinedown bread and butter track. It's very good but you will probably have heard it before. 'Miracle' is similar but does have a stronger chorus. It's a ballad and they usually do these well. 'I'll Follow You' is again very good, a cross between a ballad and a mid-paced rocker but is lacking a spark to rise it to higher status. Ditto 'For My Sake' and 'My name'. Both ok, both not particularly memorable. Closer, 'Through the Gost' is much better and ends on a sombre high at least. It sounds like the Shinedown from previous albums, forging ahead with a song that is both mainstream, intelligent and moving. Hopefully this is a sign of the direction they may take on their next album a few years down the line? We'll see.
Not bad. Not as good as they have been but worthy enough for a listen as there are a handful of great tracks here. And actually it would be a pretty good place to start if you are new to the band.