Godsmack Spreads Divine Word Of Raucous Rock

Most of self-titled debut dates back to 1996 session; album filled with breakup songs, loud guitars.

Godsmack is not a band for the faint of heart or the hard of hearing.

The members of the heavy-rocking, crunching metal quartet do not just

play their instruments; they bash them. Singer/songwriter and producer

Sully Erna does not sing in the traditional sense; he emotes in a pained

yell.

Lucky for the members, the band's noise factor is spreading quickly.

Sales of their self-titled debut album have climbed steadily since last

fall, when the album was released following a two-year stretch of

success in the Boston area. Godsmack stands at #80 on this week's

Billboard 200 albums chart.

And truth can be stranger than fiction -- it is not the band's original

song list for the album but an added 12th track and current single,

"Whatever"

(RealAudio excerpt), that has driven the record up the national charts.

The tune, which has received national radio play, is a blistering,

grinding industrial track that suggests the work of Helmet, highlighted

by a monster-of-screeching riff from Tony Rombola and a rapid-fire drum

part from Erna. Its lyrics show a man gleefully coming to terms with a

recent breakup: "And I wonder from day to day/ I don't like you anyway/

don't need your shit today/ You're pathetic in your own way/ I feel for

you/ Better fuckin' go away."

Their sound, their music, the edgy imagery of their self-titled debut

album -- black background, sun logo, perturbed woman with three lip

rings -- and, hell, even their name might remind casual observers of

storied Seattle metal band Alice In Chains. Erna, who along with

guitarist Rombola, bassist Robbie Merrill and drummer Tommy Stewart

comprises the band, is sensitive about the connection but takes it as a

compliment when some compare the two groups.

"If people want to compare us to them, then I'm not complaining," Erna,

31, said. "It's better than being compared to f---in' Poison. We just

like loud rock with a groove to it."

Erna, who formed Godsmack with Merrill four years ago, speaks with a

thick Boston accent and with the hyper-sheepishness of a lower-middle-

class fan who is used to the cheap seats but is fortunate enough to sit

for once in the front row. The music is a product of that energy.

The grooves on Godsmack were born of a low-tech, low-rent

recording session at a generous friend's studio in Boston in 1996. The

session, which produced an album of 11 tracks, cost $2,600. Stewart

joined the band several months after the session.

A push from Boston rock station WAAF (107.3 FM) lifted the Salem, N.H.

-based band to a measure of local prominence and made them a staple of

station DJ Rocko's evening shift.

Rocko, known to Massachusetts listeners for his bawdy humor and for high-

octane musical choices, said he took notice of the band after it sent

him a CD blindly, a disc that included the throbbing

"Keep Away"

(Real Audio excerpt). He immediately began airing the song.

"When I first heard it, I loved it. It was straight ahead rock 'n' roll,"

the DJ, who would not give his real name, said.

The exposure, said Erna, helped land the band its current distribution

deal with Universal Records and added national radio play. The first

album for the label is essentially a remastering of 1996's bargain

recordings.

Erna said that "Whatever," as well as other songs on the album, evolved

from his hurt feelings over a girlfriend's rejection. "I wrote those

because I was sick of beating myself up," he said.

In his personal life, Erna takes solace from the world in witchcraft,

which he practices with the help of a Salem witch. He described the

religion as an extension of his desire to find peace within himself,

allowing him to view humanity as an organic part of nature.

"It's really simple. There's not much to it," Erna said. "A spell to a

witch is like a prayer to a Catholic. It's the same idea but a different

art."

Despite the album's dark tones and the inclusion of the nine-minute

"Voodoo" -- a bizarre ode to the obscure 1987 Wes Craven film The

Serpent And The Rainbow -- witchcraft is not a musical theme for

Erna.

Rather, he says, his songs are pure expressions of his emotions and his

aggression.

"Music is a way for me to vent energy, that's all," he said.