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Sully Erna Avalon Album Review

14 October 2010 8 Comments

by: Darius

Sully Erna, lead singer for the most, dare I say, “consistent” mainstream heavy metal band of the last decade, has released his first solo record through longtime major label home, Universal Republic. After years of writing, recording, touring and conquering terrestrial radio with Godsmack, Sully found time to write his personal opus, titled Avalon, and it was released on September 14th, selling a respectable 14,000 copies in its first week. Before I delve into my thoughts on this album and Sully Erna, in general, I’m just going to point out that the timing of this release is questionable, considering Godsmack is currently in the middle of their promotional cycle for their latest album, The Oracle.

The Oracle is the best Godsmack album in years, and the band is once again kings of hard rock radio. It garnered significant press before it was even released, due to the excessively controversial lead single “Cryin’ Like A Bitch,” which is a home-run track that slams Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, who is…. well, a bitch, in the eyes of Sully Erna. You’ve probably all heard the story by now, but the Crue, or those that are employed by them, didn’t exactly play nice during Crue Fest 2 a couple of summers ago, when Godsmack was direct support. They were very arrogant in their dealings with the band and were also unnecessarily strict in regards to backstage rules and limitations with friends and family of Godsmack. Are the allegations true? Probably but Motley Crue won’t own up to it. Perhaps the Crue were in petulant moods because they had trouble selling tickets for the second edition of their traveling festival during a miserable economy. Or maybe Sixx and company had a chip on their tattooed shoulders because Godsmack made them work their asses off night after night.

Trust me, I was in attendance at the Vegas show, and Godsmack was every bit as good as Motley. I was more pumped for the Crue, but Godsmack played an equally tremendous show. That band, most notably Sully and drummer Shannon Larkin, were just insanely great. I was blown away. Regardless, Sully didn’t take things too well and wrote “Cryin’ Like A Bitch”, and the track slams Sixx because he apparently “strut on by like a king, telling everybody they know nothing” and that he is “blinded by [his] sacred faded pastimes.” Obviously, the song made its rounds and had the media salivating at the thought of another high profile rock star feud. However, Nikki wisely kept his ego in check and refused to give the song anymore unnecessary attention, so the whole “controversy” eventually died.

Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue

Anyway, The Oracle is released and Godsmack is on top again, with yet another #1 debut and the same remarkable nationwide radio audience. This band has been around for so many years, released numerous #1 albums, a stellar 19 top ten singles, and has never had trouble getting their music played on terrestrial and satellite radio, TV commercials, MTV2, etc. Like I said…. Consistent. Turn on your radio right now to your nearest hard rock station, if one hopefully exists where you live, given the depressing plight of rock radio. Got satellite? Turn it to Sirius XM Octane. The point is I guaran-f*cking-tee you that a Godsmack song will be played within one hour. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve got no choice but to respect a band that can deliver such mainstream domination with every single record for this many years.

So The Oracle hasn’t even been out that long and they are just beginning their theatre and ballroom tour, so it’s kind of an odd time for the band’s frontman to release a solo record. One would think it would come out next year sometime when Sully will actually have time to properly promote the release. In my opinion, this decision will likely harm the record’s full audience and sales potential. This, my friends, is a shame because believe it or not, Sully Erna’s Avalon defied my expectations 100%; it is an excellent release in song writing, production, and scope.

Furthermore, this is a solo debut that can appeal to people way beyond the traditional Godsmack audience. If you sample Avalon and expect to hear “Cryin’ Like a Bitch” or “Whatever”, than you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you are a fan of some of the more atmospheric and tribal Godsmack songs, a la “Voodoo” or anything off of The Other Side acoustic EP, than you will be thoroughly delighted as Sully challenges his inner-hippie, brings aboard an amazing female vocalist in Lisa Guyer, and delivers one of the most surprisingly solid solo debuts I have ever heard. Seriously, I expected to be wholly unimpressed with a solo offering from Sully Erna. I could not have been less excited to listen to this record; I just never gave Sully the kind of credibility to deliver a thoughtfully written and beautifully composed album that can reach so far beyond the Godsmack demographic. Let me put it to you this way: I’m a huge Zeppelin fan; they’re the greatest band of all time, in my opinion. I have Robert Plant’s new solo record, Band of Joy, which was also recently released and is attracting some stellar reviews and decent sales to boot. But for my money, Sully Erna whips Robert Plant’s ass on this one. Lord have mercy, that felt weird typing that just now.

My respect for Sully Erna has gone through the roof; he just said to hell with it and recorded the album he wanted. In a recent interview with the Boston Herald, he says “I knew there would be Godsmack fans that would embrace this, but I also knew there would be Godsmack fans who would be like, ‘Why’s he playing the piano? What the f*ck is this?’ But it was about something I had a calling to do. Even if it was the last thing I did. Love it or hate it, it’s something that was a necessity.”

I know many of you out there are incredulous to what you’ve just read. I just ask that you give Avalon a chance. Don’t listen to it once and immediately dismiss it, especially if your mind still conjures images of motorcycles, the ARMY, or moshpits whenever you first hear Sully’s inimitable croon. Give Avalon a few spins, whip out some incense if you must, and go with it. It’s really good.

Sully deserves even more credit than previously given; he delivered a solo debut that goes against the Godsmack grain and still delivered. He brought aboard a female counterpart and the harmonies are outstanding. He produced the record himself and it sounds fantastic. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by a solo debut as I am with Sully Erna’s Avalon and I am anxious to see what the man does with it once Godsmack’s current album cycle winds down. Avalon deserves some proper attention, and I hope to see a solo tour in small, intimate, venues with Lisa Guyer in tow. In my opinion, that’s really the best way to give this record its proper due. Regardless, my respect for Sully Erna went up a few notches; he’s always been considered in the top tier of hard rock frontmen but now you can add solo artist to that list as well.

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8 Comments »

  • Brian Doran said:

    This comes off as Darius is swinging from the man’s ball sack but the CD is good. I listened on Rhapsody and while it’s not excellent I respect Sully for taking the leap. I do think he’s a bit of a dick and has a chip on his shoulder but that will wear off as their albums get progressively worse.

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  • godblessya said:

    Avalon > Another Animal

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  • Uriah Heep said:

    This type of music is not my style so to come here and say it sucks wouldn’t be appropriate. I will say that it murders that hunk of crap the other three put out.

    Since when does AKF love Sully Erna so much? There was never a mention of Godsmack on your radio show in 5 years and now all of a sudden you guys are hanging on his nuts. Just an obseration.

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  • its-electric said:

    I agree with the poster above me. This tribal stuff isn’t my bag. From a lyrical standpoint this blows anything he did with Godsmack out of the water.

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  • Carla said:

    It’s not my cup of tea either but he’s one of the best frontmen in rock and roll.

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  • Oscar said:

    I checked this out based on this article. Dude, are you smoking something? This is average at best. Nothing special here.

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  • Lisa said:

    I completely agree with the writer!! I am HUGE Godsmack fan and have been since the beginning. Although I have always loved Sully, this album has taken my respect for him as an artist to a whole new level!! I will be at the front of the line for tickets to this show, regardless where it is.

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  • T said:

    Sully Erna is brilliant. The songs on Avalon have the capability to take you on a musical journey. I was fortunate and got to see Sully solo in Hampton Beach, NH. I heard Until Then and The eyes of a child that night. I can’t even begin to express how thrilled I was when I heard he was recording a solo album. From seeing that performance I saw the diversity that Sully has shown whether solo or with Godsmack. I am a huge Godsmack fan and have been for years, but something about Sully intrigued me. He is a very spiritual man who helped me find the beginning of my path. Thank you Sully for Avalon. I couldn’t be more pleased. Keep on rocking with the boys. Just saw you in Bangor, ME last month and looking forward to the next time.

    Blessed Be…

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