Godsmack is an American hard rock/alternative metal band from Lawrence, Massachusetts, formed in 1995. The band is composed of founder, frontman and songwriter Sully Erna, guitarist Tony Rombola, bassist Robbie Merrill, and drummer Shannon Larkin. Since its formation, Godsmack has released five studio albums, one EP (The Other Side), four DVDs, one compilation album (Good Times, Bad Times… Ten Years of Godsmack), and one live album (Live and Inspired).
The band has had three consecutive number-one albums (Faceless, IV, and The Oracle) on the Billboard 200. The band also has 20 top ten rock radio hits, including 15 songs in the top five, a record number of top ten singles by a rock artist.
Since its inception, Godsmack has toured on Ozzfest on more than one occasion, and has toured with many other large tours and festivals, including supporting its albums with its own arena tours. Godsmack has sold over 20 million records in just over a decade, yet despite the decline of album sales in recent years, they have proven to be one of the highest-grossing artists in the United States.
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Formation and early works (1995–97)
In February 1995, Sully Erna decided to start a new band as the lead singer after playing the drums for more than 23 years, including more than two years in the now-defunct band Strip Mind. His new band, The Scam, formed with Erna on vocals, Robbie Merrill on bass, local guitarist and friend Lee Richards on guitar, and Tommy Stewart on drums. The Scam quickly changed its name to Godsmack, after recording one demo. The newly formed band started playing small bars in their hometown of Boston, Mass. Locally popular songs such as “Keep Away” and “Whatever” soon brought them to the top of the hit charts in the Boston/New England area.
The band’s name, according to Merrill in the Smack This! DVD, was taken from the Alice in Chains’ song “God Smack”. However, Erna stated in a 1999 interview, “I was making fun of somebody who had a cold sore on his lip and the next day I had one myself and somebody said, It looks like God just smacked you in the face for making fun. The name stuck and they went by Godsmack from then on. We were aware of the Alice in Chains song but didn’t really think much about it. It’s a cool song and the name had meaning for us. However Shannon Larkin stated that the band name was taken from Alice In Chains Song.
In 1996, Tony Rombola and Joe D’Arco joined Godsmack as the guitarist and drummer, after Richards had left upon learning he had a six-year-old child and Stewart had left due to personal differences. In the same year, the band entered the studio for the first time, recording its first CD titled All Wound Up. The CD was recorded in just three days for $2,600.
For the next two years, the band played throughout the Boston area. Eventually Godsmack’s CD landed in the hands of Rocko, the night-time DJ for Boston radio station WAAF (FM). The radio station put “Keep Away” into heavy rotation and the song rose to the number one spot at the station very quickly. Newbury Comics, a New England record store chain, agreed to sell the CD on consignment. Shortly after the success of “Keep Away”, Godsmack went back into the studio and recorded a single titled “Whatever”, which became the new local favorite on WAAF (FM).
In an interview Sully Erna stated, “We had been selling maybe 50 copies a month at the time WAAF picked up the album. All of a sudden we started moving over a thousand records a week. It was insane. Even crazier, I was doing all this from my bedroom. After years of grinding away, things finally started taking off”.
In mid-1998, Universal/Republic Records signed the band to their label. Joe D’Arco was dismissed from the band. He was replaced by former drummer Tommy Stewart, who returned after expressing a desire to be in the band again. The band’s first studio recording All Wound Up was re-mastered, and the finished self-titled debut CD album Godsmack was released to the public six weeks later. This led to the band’s first headlining tour, “The Godsmack Tour”. After the album’s release the band went on the road playing club shows as well as playing at Ozzfest and Woodstock ’99. This was followed by a tour in Europe supporting Black Sabbath. Roxanne Blanford from Allmusic gave the album three out of five stars, stating, “Godsmack confidently brought metal into the technological age”. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number twenty-two, and was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA in 2001 after being initially certified gold in 1999.
The album sold well despite being initially pulled from the shelves in some stores due to concerns over some of its lyrical content. The band and its record label later added a Parental Advisory sticker to the album, and some stores ordered amended copies of the album. Erna commented in Rolling Stone magazine stating, “Our record has been in the marketplace for more than a year now without a parental advisory sticker and this is the one and only complaint … Stickers and lyrics are by nature subjective … We have decided to put a sticker on the record”. This controversy did not appear to adversely affect album sales but, according to Erna, helped, “It’s almost taunting kids to go out and get the record to see what we’re saying on it”.
In 2000, Godsmack returned to the studio after the multi-platinum success of Godsmack to start recording Awake. The album was released on October 31, 2000. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, and has been certified 2x platinum by the RIAA. “Vampires”, a song on the album, also earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 2002. With the release of Awake, Godsmack toured Europe supporting Limp Bizkit. Erna said at the time, “we’ve been touring nonstop since August 1998, So most of Awake was written on tour while we were ping-ponging between America and Europe, building up the band. “Ozzfest” was actually the only big tour where we rode under someone else’s wings; we did a lot of work on our own”. The band played Ozzfest in 2000 again as they had in 1999.
Two of the songs on the album were used in United States Navy commercials (“Sick of Life” and “Awake”) as background music. Erna stated, “Someone in the military is a fan, and they asked if they could use the music, and we accepted”. However, Erna insists that Godsmack does not support any war stating; “By no means has this band ever supported any war for any country or that we support government decisions or why we’re sticking our nose in other people’s business at times. What we support is our troops. And the women and men that go over there—or anywhere—to fight for our country and our lives and protect our freedom and I feel that.” Sully has said in an interview that the girl on the cover of Godsmack, their first album, is the girl on the Greed music video.
Faceless and The Other Side (2002–05)
In 2002, Erna was asked to write and perform a song for the soundtrack to The Scorpion King. The motion picture was the third in the Mummy saga, and was a spin-off prequel of the Mummy series. The song Godsmack wrote and performed was titled “I Stand Alone” and became the number 1 single at Rock Radio and the most played Active Rock song in 2002 for 14 weeks straight. It was also used in the game Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.