Shinedown's 2003 single "Fly from the Inside" blended atmospheric Alice in Chains references with a lumbering post-grunge sound similar to Nickelback. The debut LP Leave a Whisper offered more of the same -- a satisfactory sound as rock radio filler, but ultimately pretty calculated. But it became a hit, certainly due in part to radio support, but mostly because of the Jacksonville, FL-based band's reputation as a great live act. The quartet played something like 400 shows over the course of 2003 and 2004, and that gelling process is unquestionably a factor in the more realized hard rock sound of the 2005 follow-up, Us and Them. Shinedown frontman Brent Smith channels Chris Cornell (or at least Alter Bridge's Myles Kennedy) on opener "The Dream," but the song's grunge theft is forgiven by its airtight groove. Shinedown have been road-tested, and they prove it again on "Trade Yourself In" and "Yer Majesty." Unfortunately, for most of Us and Them the band still relies too much on formula. "Save Me" and "Beyond the Sun" are direct descendants of 3 Doors Down. They didn't invent ploddingly urgent post-grunge either, but provided the most recent examples with their string of early-2000s hits. Elsewhere, "I Dare You" is like a formula and an experiment all in one, suggesting light pop like the Calling even as gritty guitars churn up the reverb. It's a confusing song that doesn't do anything for the album's continuity. Shinedown definitely have a rewarding hard rock album in them somewhere. But after all its populist concessions, Us and Them isn't it.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus