Faceless

With riffs as thick as its collective skull, Godsmack is a band of unabashed metal meatheads, which doesn't necessarily invalidate the music; as with Jean-Claude Van Damme films, there's something to be said for mindless kicks. But after three albums of crushing monster-truck rock, Godsmack's dirt-simple approach is growing exceedingly monotonous. Initially dismissed by critics as an Alice in Chains knockoff, Godsmack now borrows more from Pantera. The barbarous Faceless track "Releasing the Demons" is a straight Far Beyond Driven rip, and Godsmack front man Sully Erna apes the polar-bear growl of Pantera's Phil Anselmo on several occasions here. Matters aren't helped any by slack-jawed stompers such as "Fucking Hate You" and the band's ham-fisted experimentation (see the lame Indian incantation "The Awakening").

Godsmack does work itself into a good lather on occasion. The first single, "Straight Out of Line," and the catchy knuckle-duster "Make Me Believe" are memorable combinations of overdriven guitar and muscular melody. And new drummer Shannon Larkin (Amen, Wrathchild America) has long been one of the more underrated stickmen in hard rock. But it's not enough to keep Faceless from being just that.

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Jason Bracelin