Shinedown's Sophomore effort, not quite great

May 16, 2012 (Updated May 16, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:*Has some of the band's best lyrics

Cons:* lots of filler

The Bottom Line: Us & Them. 3*

Shinedown is a mainstream American rock band that has slowly been finding a commercial fanbase. Their debut album, Leave a Whisper, come to favorable reviews as the band combined successfully heavy distorted riffs and clean catchy vocals. ‘Fly from the Inside’, ‘Burning Bright’ and ’45 were all successful singles, and after a highly successful tour Shinedown were starting to look like a force to be recon with. Us & Them was released in October 2005.

 Us & Them was a relatively successful album; with lead single ‘Save Me’ maintain the number 1 spot on the Active Rock Chart for a consecutive 12 weeks. ‘I Dare You’ and ‘Heroes’ were also released as singles.

Despite the positive commercial reception, the album was not too well received by the fans, as the album is generally softer than its predecessor and also has more filler than Leave a Whisper.

After a short poem for an intro, ‘Heroes’ opens the album. A great riff driven track that seems to be influenced by Soundgarden. The lyrics seem to be about remembering heroes; maybe it was influenced by the Dimebag tragedy which had happened the previous year. Brent Smith’s shows what an underrated singer he is as he delivers a really powerful performance here. ‘Trade Yourself In’ is similar in style to the opener, with a catchy riff and aggressive lyrics. Both songs both have catchy choruses’ as well. ‘Trade Yourself In’ also has a very short but decent solo, something that is quite rare for Shinedown.

‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Begin Again’ seem to try to replicate the style of the previously mentioned tracks, just too much less successful level. The lyrics are mediocre, and the choruses are quite generic. The singing is good and aggressive, but neither song has a memorable riff to compensate for the other shortcomings. ‘I Dare You’ is a decent rock song with a memorable chorus. Once again Smith’s voice caries the song above mediocrity.

‘Save Me’ is a mid-tempo rock song that was clearly written with the radio in mind. Smith gives a more melodic performance here and the lyrics are pretty good as they focus on how we sometimes need some help but we simply can’t find it. The instruments are okay, but like most Shinedown songs it’s pretty simple stuff. ‘Beyond the Sun’ is a brilliant cover that demonstrates the range Smith has. This track constantly changes from slow paced acoustic guitars to a heavier, dark and deep chorus. The lyrics can be interpreted in different ways, could be about a suicide pact or maybe just simply lack of communication between two lovers.

‘Yer Majesty’ is a poor rock track, there is really nothing special at all in the song. A forgettable riff and lousy lyrics make this a track to skip. ‘Fake’ is better, with an interesting guitar intro and an aggressive chorus. ‘Lady So Divine’ is the longest track Shinedown have ever released, clocking in at over 7 minutes. The best guitar work on the album can be found here, as Jason Todd and Brad Stewart both try to push beyond their capabilities with a couple of memorable riffs and even a couple of good solos. The bridge and chorus are impressive and at 7 minutes ‘Lady So Divine’ doesn’t feel overwrought or too long, it just works.

‘Some Day’ closes the album, and follows the pattern of the previous album with ending the album with a slow ballad. Not as good as ‘45’, but hardly bad either. The song is simply about a lost love, with the verses sung to a quit instrumental background which rises in intensity for the chorus. ‘Some Dat’ is a good way to end the album.

Us & Them is the Shinedown most experimental album to date, and also the only album were the guitar work actually shines. The lyrics are good most of the time, but songs like ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Yer Majesty’ bring down the quality of the rest of the album.

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