It’s fair to say that Shinedown are the kind of band where you know exactly what you pay for. Mixing hard rock with flavours of heavier post-grunge, The Sound of Madness effectively stands as a near-perfect example of fun and catchy rock music; it wasn’t anything revolutionary, but that was hardly the point – you’re here to have a good time, and Shinedown were pretty damn good at that. Fast-forward a decade, and despite what some have considered a misstep with tamer 2015 effort, Threat to Survival, the Jacksonville hard rockers are still going strong if Attention Attention’s ‘Devil’ is anything to go by. Indeed, the slick Zach Myers guitar riff and explosive Barry Kerch percussion saw the band returning to exactly the kind of sound that made the likes of ‘Devour’ so much fun, and with vocalist Brent Smith roaring “cause it’s about to get heavy” it certainly appears that Shinedown’s sixth studio effort is going to be a hell of a ride.
Regarded as something of a concept record by the band, and focusing on the struggles of overcoming personal negativity, Attention Attention’s hefty collection of 14 tracks quickly sheds the far safer direction of Threat to Survival, and this is certainly rewarding; ‘Pyro’ and ‘Black Soul’ both benefit immensely from allowing guitarist Zach Myers a little more room to stretch out and put some really solid riffs on the table, while ‘The Human Radio’s huge, Royal Blood-esque bass guitar sees Eric Bass stepping into the limelight a little to an extremely satisfying result. At a glance, the band definitely feels reenergised, far more akin to The Sound of Madness’ heavier territory and seemingly delivering on their promise: “it’s about to get heavy.”
Continuing this frame of mind and true to the assured direction of the album, the thunderous and somewhat cinematic ‘Evolve’ roars triumphantly and embraces the signature Shinedown hard rock delivery, while ‘Monsters’ joins the ranks of Skillet’s ‘Monster’ and Three Days Grace’s ‘Animal I Have Become’ with Smith lyrically dehumanising the negative side to human personality. Taking a more mellow approach, ‘Kill Your Conscience’ flows back and forth between soft synthesisers and a more energetic, percussion-driven pre-chorus, and generally makes for a nice change of pace, while album closer ‘Brilliant’ dabbles ever so slightly in ‘Summer of 69’s classic guitar riff, before leaping into far more recognisable post-grunge Shinedown territory and ending the record on a noteworthy high.
Unfortunately, while Attention Attention shows once again that Shinedown definitely have a knack for getting your attention, where the album falters shows in what seems a classic case of quantity over quality; while the album’s 14 tracks (and 50 minute runtime) is certainly generous, it also feels somewhat oversaturated compared to the far brisker 40 minute runtime of Threat to Survival. This is first indicated ironically through title track ‘Attention Attention’, feeling much more like an underdeveloped addition to the album or even an unused Threat to Survival B-side, while ‘Get Up’ and ‘Special’ both try their hand at being a little softer compared to the album’s heavier style and end up not really achieving anything worthwhile as a result. That being said, ‘Special’ does actually utilise some particularly stunning acoustic and string elements, but the self-congratulatory applause at the end of the track feels just a little too much on the nose and comes across somewhat hubristic.
As a whole, Attention Attention is an easy step up from the band’s previous effort and offers something that is generally fun and rewarding; it’s nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking, but then it was never going to be. It may not be a perfect record, but there’s enough here to get into that will appease any Shinedown fan, and the band’s energy is infectious enough to hold your attention. In short, it’s everything it needed to be to be a Shinedown record, albeit a little overlong and perhaps a little too pleased with itself at times, but plenty enjoyable to warrant more than a few listens.