In 1995 the streets of Lawrence, MA spawned a band that would become known as Godsmack. Nurtured on a steady broth of heavy metal, Godsmack went on to see 3 of their 7 albums surge to the number one spot, creating no less than 25 top radio hits. Godsmack’s hit song “I Stand Alone” from the soundtrack of the major motion picture The Scorpion King (Universal Pictures 2002) was the most played “active rock song” for 14 consecutive weeks and earned a Grammy Award nominations for “Best Rock Song,” “Best Hard Rock Performance,” and a Billboard Music Award nomination for “Top Rock Song.”
Godsmack is the brainchild of Sully Erna from Lawrence, MA. The son of a trumpet player and a drummer since childhood, Erna endeavored to reinvent himself as a front man and reinvent himself is precisely what he did. Recruiting the riffology of North Andover, MA native Lee Richards, bass player Robbie Merrill, from Lawrence, MA and drummer Tommy Stewart, the band was assembled and named “The Scam”. After recording their first demo however, the band was renamed “Godsmack”. The word “Godsmack” inferred that karma had come full circle so completely, as if by the hand of God, i.e.; smacked down by the hand of God. Pretty cool, right?
Sully Erna would prove himself not only as the frontman of a major rock and roll outfit but also as a producer, co-producing all of the band’s albums. On the strength of their first demo “All Wound Up,” the band would soon attract the attention of “Rocko” a local DJ who would prove himself instrumental in the success of the band by driving home his point, playing the songs “Whatever” and “Keep Away” in the after hours slot at WAAF Radio in Worcester, Massachusetts. Incidentally, that first demo was recorded in just 3 days for a mere $2,600.00. “Whatever” later became one of Godsmack’s most successful songs and would find its way onto their first, self titled album, Godsmack (Republic/Universal) recorded in Boston in 1998 at New Alliance Studios, produced by Sully Erna and co-produced by Andrew Murdock.
Prior to recording their first record with a major label, Lee Richards would leave the band in an effort to support his 6 year old child. Because after all, hindsight is 20/20. Richards was replaced by Norwood, MA native Tony Rombola, who would not only provide haunting melodies and thundering power chords but also take on the duties of back up vocalist. At that time, Joe D’Arco would replace on again off again drummer Tommy Stewart, who would rejoin the band in 1998 only to vacate his throne once again in 2002 to his successor, Shannon Larkin. Prior to joining up with Godsmack, Larkin held the line, drumming for the successful band Ugly Kid Joe as well as Souls At Zero and Wrathchild America.
With the milestone creation of Godsmack’s self titled album, Godsmack, with its razor tongued lyrics, the heaviest of heavy metal rock riffs, hooks that would give Jaws a seriously bad day and a major dose of badassery, the band would be propelled to whirlwind success and worldwide tours, both as headliners and supporting acts for the likes of heavy metal rock and roll gods Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne.
Godsmack’s relentless dedication to their goal garnered their album the #22 spot on the Billboard 200 and a 4 times platinum rating by the Recording Industry Association of America. Along with all of the album’s accolades came a tiny bit of that aforementioned karma, when Walmart and K-Mart pulled the album from the shelves and it was godsmacked with a “parental advisory” sticker. Badassery after all, does come at a price. It was later speculated that the addition of the advisory warning only helped sales.
Next up on the charts for Godsmack, recorded in 2000-2001 was the album Awake (Universal/Republic). Recorded at River’s Edge Productions in Haverhill, MA and produced by Erna and Murdock, the album debuted in the number five slot of the Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum. This album would send the band on a European tour in support of Limp Bizkit. Once again, a Grammy nomination for “Best Rock Song Instrumental” (2002) was earned for the song “Vampires” from the same album. The accolades kept rolling in as the US Navy chose two of the bands razor edged tunes, “Sick of Life” and “Awake,” to appear in their multimedia recruitment campaign commercials.
As Tommy Stewart exited the band in 2002 and Shannon Larkin joined, Godsmack entered into a new era of success, creating three consecutive number one albums: Faceless (Universal/Republic 2003) recorded at The Hit Factory in Miami, FL, produced by Erna and David Bottrill, IV (Universal/Republic 2006) recorded at Spiral Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA, produced by Erna and Andy Johns and The Oracle (Universal/Republic 2010) recorded at Serenity West Studios in Los Angeles, CA produced by Erna and David Fortman.
All of the band’s “studio hopping” left them very well travelled with indispensable experience yet they longed for a place of their own. And so, in 2014 the band custom-built their very own digs just outside of Boston. The 4,000 square foot headquarters would be the recording studio for Godsmack’s next two album ventures: 1000hp (Republic/Spinefarm 2014) produced by Erna and Fortman and the 2018 album When Legends Rise (BMG) produced by Erna and Erick Ron. Because after all, there’s no place like home. The “homecoming” of sorts was not lost on the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh who in 2018, officially dedicated August 6 “Godsmack Day”. Rock on Godsmack!
(by John Cappello)
Published on September 23, 2020