Sully Erna isn't going to miss 2005 at all: The Godsmack frontman characterized the year as "the worst of my life." Along with a whole host of relationship woes, Erna quit drinking, put the cigarettes down and exorcised several "negative" individuals and influences from his life.
However, it was also a seriously productive year for him and his band. "The results are so amazing," he said of the album Godsmack plan to release in late April. Although Erna had served as a co-producer on the band's three previous outings, for this one he rode solo in the producer chair. In about a month, he'll be finished with the final mix, at around the same time the album's first single will hit rock radio.
"It's a killer record, and I'm really curious to see what the public's going to think of it," Erna said, noting that he feels the album is his band's first true attempt at sonic experimentation. "It's still Godsmack — I don't think it's lost the integrity of what Godsmack has built our career off. The toughness of the sound is still there. But we've expanded a little bit more. After [2003's] Faceless, we started to spread our wings a bit and reintroduce guitar solos and stuff like that. The acoustic record [2004's The Other Side] was a departure and it was very well received. It opened up a new audience for us — a lot more adults were coming to the shows, bringing their kids and having a glass of wine. That gave us a permission slip to take it to the next level."
Which, according to Erna, is exactly what Godsmack did. The record, which he said has a working title of Four, will introduce a "blues edge" to the band's brawny sound.
"It will perk people's eyebrows up again," he said. "The first couple of records were kind of the same record, in a sense. They were sort of bordering that metal sound and then the third record had more rock mixed into it. [The Other Side] really softened up the sound. This one is more rock and roll, and some songs are very epic, in a Tool[-ish] sense. Some songs are like old-school Godsmack, like 'Bad Religion.' It's going to service the core fans and introduce some new music to those fans. It's also going to recruit a bigger and broader audience, because the songwriting has matured so much."
Erna said the band wrote 35 tracks for the album and recorded 17. Between 11 and 13 of those will make the cut, including "Speak," which he said will probably wind up being the first single.
"We've got a few in the running, but the band seems to like 'Speak' because it's melodic in the chorus and the opening's really tough," he said. "The drum groove is killer. The verses are cool and mystical. It's got a little bit of everything Godsmack has done over the years." Other titles likely to make the album include "Livin' in Sin," "Shine Down" (which comes complete with "killer harmonica") and "Voodoo Too."
"It wasn't even done intentionally," he said, "but it's sort of like the sequel to 'Voodoo,'" from the Smack's self-titled 1997 album. "It's got the same vibe. It's very tribal and cool-sounding."
The leftover material may surface in time — without Erna. The singer said that while the songs weren't appropriate for the album, the rest of the band is considering forming a Sully-less side project that would release an album but not tour. And Erna's got a few side interests, as well: In addition to producing demos for several up-and-comers, he's working on a track for his favorite team: the New England Patriots.
A few years back, Erna said Jonathan Kraft, the Patriots's vice chairman and president, contacted him. "He wanted to use 'I Stand Alone' as the team's theme song, but he asked me if we could change it to 'We Stand Alone,' " the singer, fresh from belting out the national anthem before the Patriots' loss Sunday to the Miami Dolphins, said. "I tried [to re-work it], but it sounded goofy. But I've got this cool instrumental I wrote [for the new album], and I may insert some sort of a chant for the fans or player sound bites."