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Album Review : Shinedown – Planet Zero

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Review by Maria Glover for MPM

In February 2021, frontman Brent Smith announced that the band had started working on a seventh studio album, written through the worst and most isolated time of the pandemic; when most of us were without a voice it seems Shinedown had plenty to say.

Planet Zero’ is a narrative of the last few years and a lament of what is happening to our society. It touches on social media, cancel culture and mental health, all the while pairing a serious and sombre message with the killer tunes the band are known and loved for.

The story being told by the lyrics throughout is of a disenfranchised society in trouble and either largely unaware or unaffected, trying to remind us who we are and to get back our sense of self. The robot who accompanies us on our journey through the album gets annoying for me after the first couple of interludes, much like when Alexa starts to talk and you haven’t asked her to. But the music…well, that’s a different story.

‘No Sleep Tonight’ is ferocious and so fast it’s almost manic, a pounding beat that drives the track along and a melodious vocal, all providing a joyous cacophony which is a triumphant start to the album.

Title track ‘Planet Zero’ keeps up the pace with a chunky riff and incredibly insightful lyrics which highlight Smith’s saccharine-coated vocals, as the chorus entices you in. As someone who likes to sing along, this is the song for me! It’s raw and powerful and quite faithful to previous Shinedown records so bound to be a fan-favourite.

‘Dysfunctional You’ is simple and uncluttered, and truly beautiful inside and out – not the shallow, plastic-coated type but pure magnificence. The hook at 2 and a half minutes just grabs you and brings you back for air, or you’d be lost in the song forever. Disclaimer: you cannot listen to this song just once.

The anthemic ‘Dead Don’t Die’ brings back heavier riffs and some scorching guitar work, while ‘America Burning’ adds a little folk-inspired whimsy to the sound alongside the powerful lyrics “Pray for your family and cry yourself to sleep.” Is it insanity kicking in? or a Benny Hill theme-tune moment which captures the ironic hilarity of the situation? Or is just a good tune? You decide. I love the lyrics “You might be woke but not awake” so hard. This track is followed by the robotic message ‘This world is not on fire…’ yeah right.

I find ‘A Symptom of Being Human’ amazingly emotional, an inspiring song that I take to be about not fitting in, of feeling different and being ground down by that feeling; is it you who are wrong or everybody else? This is simply stunning. I have most definitely got my invitation to the lunatic’s ball, have you? ‘Hope’ shares a similar message of it being ok to stand out and be different or think differently, and I believe it’s important to keep drip-feeding these message to our young.

With a title like this, ‘Clueless and Dramatic’ is surely my anthem. This is a party in my headphones and although the message can be taken quite seriously, it can also be you just laughing to yourself about all the fakery and drama out there. I chose the latter and danced til it hurt. ‘Sure is Fun’ is a little pop-like and commercial for my tastes but is a lighter track and follows this one quite well.

‘Daylight’ is where you are reminded just how soulful and sinfully melodic Smith’s voice is as it soars above the piano. The choir backing vocals add a touch of class to a superb balled which focuses on the power and importance of feeling connected to others.

‘The Saints of Violence and Innuendo’ may be the longest title on the album and the gnarly, heavy style returns in force. The boom of that bass is sensational.

The punkish yet polished ‘Army of the Unappreciated’ and the more commercial-sounding ‘What You Want’ close the album, and this is where the album trails off for me, I’m afraid, losing my attention a little.

This album signifies a blissful return for Shinedown after a traumatic few years in everyone’s calendar. I don’t know how I feel about this being a ‘concept album’ but I do think each song can stand alone and only becomes a concept when put together in this format. Sometimes you don’t want a three course meal, just a snack, and you can dip in and out of this album as you wish and enjoy the ride all the same, without focusing on the ‘concept’ but all the while knowing it is still there.

I love that bands like this are always trying to push the boundaries and try new things and they should never be afraid to.

A delightful album I have happily added to my collection.


Standout tracks: Planet Zero, Dysfunctional You

PLANET ZERO tracklist:
No Sleep Tonight
Planet Zero
Dysfunctional You
Dead Don’t Die
Standardized Experiences
America Burning
Do Not Panic
A Symptom Of Being Human
A More Utopian Future
Clueless And Dramatic
Sure Is Fun
This Is A Warning
The Saints Of Violence And Innuendo
Army Of The Underappreciated
What You Wanted

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