Those expecting a dash of insanity from Shinedown's third album, The Sound of Madness, will have their hopes crushed, but chances are that fans of the Jacksonville-based active rock band not only don't expect madness, they'd recoil if that's what the quartet offered. Few bands have embraced convention quite as enthusiastically as Shinedown, who play every post-grunge cliché as if it were dogma, something never to be questioned or debated, something that is incontrovertible fact set in stone. They doggedly hit every mark -- winding up their guitar riffs with thin, flattened distortion, pumping up rhythms with steroids, punctuating melodies with familiar fills, writing vaguely inspirational lyrics that come close to confirming the group's rumored Christian rock origins -- and their precision is accentuated by producer Rob Cavallo's pristine production, digitally designed to push Shinedown over into the big leagues where they can have the occasional adult rock power ballad hit without losing their testosterone-fueled audience. Nothing is left to chance so nothing surprises, which is not only the way Shinedown like to play it, but that's the way their fans like it. Some of those fans -- the ones who like to see them on the WWE, where "Devour," the first song on The Sound of Madness and its first single, is 2008's Night of Champions theme song -- may carp slightly about that slight increase in gloss and almost imperceptible uptick in power ballads, but most won't notice these subtle shifts as Shinedown serve up what they always have: active modern rock embodying the sound of post-grunge in the new millennium without offering much that is memorable, either for better or for worse.
The Sound of Madness Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine