Pop quiz: Name the best selling openly Pagan American musician over the last ten years. If you say Tori Amos, you’re wrong. (She really doesn’t say one way or the other.) It’s not Faith and the Muse, or S. J. Tucker, no matter how we might wish it to be. It isn’t some obscure New Age act.
It’s Godsmack, fronted by openly Wiccan singer Sully Erna. I can hear the groaning from segments of the audience already. Even if he wasn’t openly Wiccan, he’d be a divisive figure. He and the band are blatantly pro-military, not big on subtlety, and have gotten in trouble for using bigoted language onstage(Though let’s be honest, how mad can you be at a guy for cussing out Creed fans?)
As America’s biggest selling Pagan artist, there hasn’t been much in the way of openly religious commentary from the band, except for their breakout single, “Voodoo”. Featuring tribal drums ,and a video starring Laurie Cabot, it seemed at the beginning that Godsmack were poised to make somewhat intelligent, world based metal. What followers of the band got were less and less interesting touches, and more and more basic mid-tempo nu-metal. The band faded from most Pagans view.
Pagans should look again, not to the latest Godsmack CD, but to Sully Erna’s first solo disc, Avalon. People expecting metal bombast and songs about drinking and rock and roll should look elsewhere. Avalon is a surprisingly, mostly satisfying slice of acoustic music, with world music touches and occasional rock flourishes.
The disc kicks off with the smooth sounding title track, “Avalon” which gives us only a taste of the discs secret weapon, singer Lisa Guyer. Her vocals and harmonies are a welcome counterpoint to Erna’s gritty vocals. It has to be said that Erna stretches his voice on this disc, showcasing greater range, yet somehow still holding onto the rasp that sometimes overtakes his vocals on Godsmack songs. This trend of smooth ,flowing songs continues for the next couple of songs, until the only road block on the disc comes up at track four.
Track four is the only single from the disc, “Sinner’s Prayer”. Whoever decided this floating chunk of a song should be the first single should have been fired. From it’s inane imitation jungle chants, to the lyrics(If you’re professing to be a Wiccan, how do you sin?) it’s horrible. If I had heard it before getting the disc, I would have never picked Avalon up. Reading interviews with Sully, I learned it had been written for use in the Stallone flick The Expendables, but then Stallone passed on it. Maybe if the guy who keeps using his brother on soundtracks is not liking your song, it should be a sign,
Thankfully, the disc improves greatly from there, only hampered briefly by an occasionally random guitar solo(My Light) or some ham fisted lyrics (The Departed). Otherwise, it’s a pleasant hour of soothing, occasionally energetic music, with some nice touches
Avalon may not be some folks cup of tea. Most of the fans of Godsmack won’t get it, but judging from the sales figures, I could be wrong. It’s a fine addition to any Pagan’s CD collection, just do yourself a favor and avoid track four. I’m really interested to see what Sully does for his next solo CD.
My rating: Three out of five stars(four if you don’t listen to Sinner’s Prayer)