After a few weeks’ extra delay due to vinyl production issues, Shinedown’s new slab of hard rock is upon us. Planet Zero is (lucky?) album number seven for the Jacksonville quartet. Production duties have once again fallen to bassist Eric Bass (the most aptly named 4-stringer since Mark Plunkett) after his successful debut on Attention Attention.
Planet Zero is a concept album with the theme being… us. The Planet Zero of the title is our current dystopia, or at least that’s my take on things – we didn’t get any blurb with the promo! The twenty(!) tracks on offer include a handful of intro / scene-setting tracks which only run for a short while but we’re still being gifted with thirteen quality rock songs on what is a very strong collection indeed.
After “2184”‘s intro synths fade out (I think Brent has been at the Stranger Things Kool-Aid), Kerch’s drums thump in to replace them driving us into one of the band’s most frenetic tracks to date, “No Sleep Tonight”. Certainly it’s a track to wake you up! The title track you may already have heard and it’s a very different beast, much darker and really counterpoints the opening number. As catchy as anything they’ve ever released, it’s definitely one that grows on you.
“America Burning” talked about being “woke but not awake” and includes a riff that sound very folky and dancy, yet you know the song carries a message that belies its cheery musical tones. It reminds me a little of something The Offspring might do for some reason. “Clueless and Dramatic” is a bit Shinedown-by-numbers, but still a decent rocker, but then so is “Sure Is Fun” and it’s great. Shinedown can be quite quirky and, though the band claim that this album is less “frilly” and more stripped back than Attention Attention it’s still a bit generous in the production department at times. “Sure Is Fun” is one of those moments.
You may have encountered “The Saints of Violence and Innuendo” as it was released recently, with a fairly basic video – definitely tiding things over for the delayed album date. Bouncy, catchy, tub-thumpy… again it’s a fairly typical Shinedown number, and in my humble opinion a little bit of an unimaginative choice as a single. A safe option, but there are much better songs on the album.
Thing is, much as Shinedown do great hard rock songs their strength really lies in tweaking at the heartstrings with their more gentle numbers. They seem to know how to hit the feels both musically and lyrically. Planet Zero contains three absolute pearls in this respect: “A Symptom of Being Human”, “Hope” and album closer “What You Wanted”. The first two could appear in a live set, whereas the final number is great for rounding off the album. It’s somewhat Beatles-esque and a fitting way to bring things to a close.
Planet Zero was, like most Shinedown releases for this reviewer, a grower rather than one that hit me from the start. Amaryllis is still their finest overall hour, but I’ve had this one on repeat since the hooks sneakily made their way under my skin and it’s definitely up there. One person on Reddit said that they’re more of a singles band than an album one, and I see where they’re coming from. Planet Zero, however, has more than its fair share of great singles if we’re going to look at it from that perspective.
Header image by Jimmy Fontaine
Planet Zero is out on July 1st