They say not to judge a book by its cover, but nobody ever said anything about judging a CD by its cover. And just look at that thing – it’s bloody awful! It’s funny how some commercial rock bands (Shinedown included) are held in reverence whilst others (Nickelback) are dismissed to the point that they become the butt of every music blogger’s witticisms. It’s especially perplexing when, in the case of the aforementioned example, the most notable difference between the bands is the amount of hand tattoos they collectively possess – surely an example of judging the content by the aesthetic.
It’s not that Amaryllis is a particularly bad album. It’s more accessible than an amputee rehabilitation clinic but it’s safer than an afternoon stroll in the gardens of your local retirement home and this completely defeats the point of what rock ‘n’ roll has come to symbolise and what Shinedown are trying to do.
For a song entitled ‘Adrenaline’, the album’s opening ditty has a distinct lack of thrill to it. Far from a rollercoaster ride, it’s more of a trip on the M25 during rush hour with its mid-paced rhythm section and lack of twists and turns. Still, it’s one of the more exciting songs on the record, which can be divided into two distinct categories: stomping slabs of rock ‘n’ roll and cheesy power ballads, the latter of which feature in abundance. The first of these is title track ‘Amaryllis’ which, though undeniably catchy, suffers from a severe deficiency of originality and could have appeared on almost any rock album from the last 35 years.
Making things a little more interesting is second single ‘Unity’, which introduces a string section, whilst ‘I’m Not Alright’ makes heavy use of horns. This orchestral vibe is certainly one of the album’s most intriguing aspects and it steers the music towards the epic with a colossal sound, but one that’s just unjustifiable without the songwriting talent to back it up. ‘Nowhere Kids’, on the other hand, is almost the album highlight, thanks to its snotty attitude and sense of danger; the closest the quartet come to filling those hefty rock ‘n’ roll boots.
It’s hard to completely hate Amaryllis simply because there are so many sing-along moments. With its roaring power chords and drawn out vocal melodies it’s a genuinely catchy album. The problem is that it’s just so predictable; lyrically, musically and structurally predictable. This, coupled with the fact that it never shifts out of third gear, can make it a tedious listen.
But the one thing that makes this album genuinely entertaining and worth listening to? Hearing the vocal part from Alanis Morissette’s ‘I’m a Bitch, I’m a Lover’ laid over the guitar melody from Backstreet Boys’ ‘I Want it that Way’ on ‘Miracle’. Genius.