Godsmack fans are pretty damn dedicated. At a Memphis show in May, floods, tornado-caliber winds, and, ironically, Osama bin Laden caused a show that neither Godsmack nor its fans will ever forget. The stage was flooded, tornado sirens were wailing, and thousands of fans had mud up to their ankles all day. "A makeshift stage was created from literally 200 pieces of plywood," Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin says. "Then, right when we started our second song, 'War and Peace' — a total power blackout. In short, we played the whole show with no lights and just sound, because the fans deserve it."
And the forge-ahead-no-matter-what mentality was appropriate for what happened next: "If none of that drama happened, we would've been playing when the news came in that bin Laden was killed," Larkin says. "Our tour manager informed [vocalist] Sully, who announced, 'We got fucking bin Laden! America, we stand alone!' And thousands were chanting that. I'll never forget that moment in my life."
But Godsmack is no stranger to dramatic discourse. Since 1995, the band has been cranking out hits with minimal promotion. With influences like Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains, and Rush, Godsmack's music seethes with dark, layered riffs, commanding lyrics, and immense yet nimble percussion. They've performed on Ozzfest, toured with such legends as Metallica and Black Sabbath, and their instrumental track "Vampires" earned the band its first of several Grammy nominations. Their live shows are filled with gothic undertones and a shitload of pyrotechnics, making them an appropriate headliner at the Mayhem Festival.
"This is a heavy tour. We will be playing a lot of favorites from our albums, along with a drum solo where Sully comes out and plays the giant double-toms," says Larkin, who got his first drum kit at age 8 after his sister repeatedly made him listen to Rush's Hemispheres and Led Zeppelin. Known for his work with Wrathchild America and Ugly Kid Joe, Larkin has been in Godsmack since their third CD, Faceless.
Godsmack's fifth and most recent album, 2010's The Oracle, contains some of the heaviest tracks they've written. And the band members are only picking up speed: Larkin, guitarist Tony Rombola, and bassist Robbie Merrill are all involved in Another Animal and Ugly Kid Joe (both currently recording in the studio), and Sully's 2010 debut solo album, Avalon, has been well-received.
While Godsmack's repertoire is a mix of extreme energy and power, their range of interests is something to keep an eye on. From Sully's Avalon, which is full of tribal rhythms and bluesy vocals, to some of Larkin's new drumming muses ("Chris Adler and Jamie Miller") or his current musical obsession ("Beady Eye, baby"), Godsmack seems poised for a new trajectory.
"Godsmack will get together around next spring to plan our next move, and Another Animal is going to record in the fall while Sully's touring," Larkin says. "Who wants to take a break? We're all on the other side of 40. We want to enjoy every second we have on this planet to write."