Shinedown is the latest rock combo to be signed out of Florida (in this case, Jacksonville) since the popular explosion of Creed and, to a point, Limp Bizkit. Shinedown has much more in common with the former on its Atlantic debut, Leave a Whisper -- in fact, there's little on the album that doesn't have something in common with another group that listeners have heard before. The layered harmonies of Alice in Chains dominate the set, which musically is cousin to post-grunge types like Saliva and Puddle of Mudd. When not acting as the grateful recipient of studio trickery (his voice layers over and harmonizes with itself almost continuously), Brent Smith's vocals fall somewhere between Glenn Danzig and Layne Staley. He also channels Aaron Lewis for a little of that oh-so-marketable heavy band balladry on the predictable "Better Version" (sample lyrics: "...Caught a glimpse, but the reflection's only mine"; "It's almost like I'm paralyzed"). Elsewhere, chunky guitar riffs try to at least establish Shinedown as a capable hard rock band. But "Left Out" and "In Memory"'s thundering power chords inevitably fade to chorus-channel dynamics in the verse, timidly making room for more blustery lyricisms about personal pain, relationship woes, and other "boy, is life sucky" stuff -- essentially, the same set of issues that seemingly all of these aftermarket grunge rockers rant about. Coupled with a plodding, two-dimensional sound (sound number one: heavy! sound number two: brooding!) varying little from song to song, let alone from the sound of its peers, Shinedown's debut offers scant hope that heavy music will right itself from the nasty stumble of its last few years.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus