Zach Myers is well aware that Shinedown has a tough act to follow with its new CD, “Amaryllis.” It follows the 2008 release, “The Sound of Madness,” which featured six singles that went No. 1 on various airplay charts, including “Second Chance,” which crossed over to pop, cracked the top 10 at Top 40 and introduced the band to a whole new audience.
Still, Myers says he thinks “Amaryllis” is a better album.
“I think we did write a better record than ‘Madness,’” he said in a recent phone interview. “I think ‘Madness’ is a great record for what it is. I think it’s the best possible picture taken of who we were at that time. But I also think that in 2012, this is the best picture of us at this time.”
Myers might like Shinedown as it exists today because the band is in a much better place than it was during his first three years as a hired gun for the band.
He came into the band as a touring guitarist in 2005, in time for touring behind Shinedown’s second CD, “Us And Them.” That CD followed a 2003 debut, “Leave a Whisper,” that topped one million copies sold and established Shinedown as a band to watch on the mainstream rock scene.
But all was far from well at the time.
“When I joined Shinedown, it was an utter nightmare,” Myers said. “I mean, Brent (singer Brent Smith), who I had known for awhile and cared about, was completely a drug addict. Jasin (guitarist Jasin Todd), the same thing. Our bass player at the time Brad (Stewart) hated the fact that I was in the band, which now being a grownup, I understand it. No one asked him. Brent wanted me in the band badly and asked me to do it and basically didn’t tell the bass player. I would have been pissed off, too, if I were him.”
Myers, in fact, briefly left the band in 2006, only to return after being told Stewart was being dismissed from the lineup. Eric Bass replaced Steward, and Myers was then elevated to full-time member in place of Todd, creating a lineup (which also included original drummer Barry Kerch) that worked much better together.
And the four band members took a step before work on “Amaryllis” began to help make sure that the chemistry the group had built while touring “The Sound of Madness” continued during the writing and recording of the new CD.
“Before we did this record, we all sat down and we had a big talk,” Myers said. “We got a lot of things on the table that were bothering us and it just helped out so much now that we know everything. It got everything out.”
“Amaryllis” may surprise some fans of Shinedown – particularly those that got to know the band because of “Second Chance” (a lush, full-bodied ballad with a soaring vocal melody).
Rather than playing up the pop ballad style of that single, the band focuses even more on the hard and heavy side of its sound than on the first three albums, which were predominantly hard rocking in the first place.
Songs like “Adrenaline” and “Enemies,” in fact, have the kind of crunching guitars and aggressive drumming that may be too extreme for rock radio. But there are also rockers like “Bully” (the popular first single that boasts a hugely melodic vocal as well as a wickedly catchy opening guitar lick, and “I’m Not Alright” (a track sweetened with bursts of synthesizer) that are more suited to airplay.
And power ballads like “Unity,” “I’ll Follow You” and the title track sound like candidates to be singles from “Amaryllis.” (“Unity,” in fact, is the current single and has cracked the top 15 on “Billboard” magazine’s Rock chart.)
According to Myers, there was no plan to make “Amaryllis” the group’s hardest hitting album. In fact, he said, for a time he thought the CD was going to fall to the other side of Shinedown’s sound.
“Honestly, this album could have ended up sounding all like ‘Second Chance.’ Those songs were there for the record to be that,” Myers said. “But the heavier songs just kind of stood up and that’s what it was. And there are still some great ballads on this record, but yeah, this is the heaviest record we’ve ever made.”
Shinedown is still in the early stages of what figures to be an extensive tour in support of “Amaryllis,” and Myers is happy to be back on the road.
“We’re just basically trying to get this new album out there, and we’re super proud of this record,” he said. “We just want people to hear it. Granted, we’re not going to play the whole record live, but we definitely want to get it across.”