17 Years Ago: Godsmack Issue Sophomore Set ‘Awake’
Godsmack were no overnight success, though it may have appeared that way. They were part of the new wave of hard rock acts in the late '90s who emerged on the music scene, but there were plenty of dues paid before hitting it big. And as they began working on their follow-up to their self-titled debut, they didn't want to forget the hunger that got them to where they were. As such, the band converted a warehouse in Haverhill, Mass. into a makeshift studio rather than using their new gains to setting into a much nicer place.
Frontman Sully Erna stated that this was done to keep their edge and he felt this gave them a tougher sound going into their sophomore set. "It has a very raw edge to it. It's not very polished," said the singer to Billboard. "But it still has a lot of good grooves and it still has a lot of power."
As the band moved toward their sophomore set, there was one big difference as drummer Tommy Stewart was available and appeared on their album. Stewart has played with the band in the mid-'90s, left during the period when they recorded their debut, but returned to handle drums as they started their promotional and touring support of their major label debut. Given the heavy promotional cycle for the Godsmack album, the band wrote a good portion of their sophomore set while on the road.
"We've been touring nonstop since August 1998," said Erna. "So most of Awake was written on tour while we were ping-ponging between America and Europe, building up the band. Ozzfest was actually the only big tour where we rode under someone else's wings. We did a lot of work on our own."
Operating under the idea that what wasn't broke shouldn't be fixed, the production team remained intact. Frontman Sully Erna co-produced the effort with Mudrock, who had done such a solid job on their debut disc.
While Awake did feature fresh material, the band also had the benefit of having some tracks that they believed in that didn't make the cut for the first album. As such, the song "Goin' Down" finally got its due, though it was never officially released as a single.
On Oct. 31, 2000, Godsmack released their Awake album, which was shortly followed by the release of their title track. The hard driving track was bolstered by a very distinctive drum breakdown, one that would eventually catch the ears of the military who began using Godsmack's "Awake" to soundtrack their recruiting commercials after the song had become a hit. The track did rise all the way up to No. 1 at Mainstream Rock and also had a successful run at Modern Rock radio first, but really reached new audiences in the years to come thanks to the TV spots.
"The military came to us, believe it or not. Somebody in the Navy loves this band, because they used 'Awake' for three years and then they came to us and re-upped the contract for another three years for 'Sick of Life,'" said Erna to ArthurMag.com. "So, I don’t know. They just feel like that music, someone in that place thinks that the music is very motivating for recruit commercials I guess."
The placement had Godsmack having to do some clarifying of their stance in the post 9/11 world. Erna stated, "By no means has this band ever supported any war for any country or that we support government decisions or why we're sticking our nose in other people's business at times. What we support is our troops. And the women and men that go over there — or anywhere — to fight for our country and our lives and protect our freedom and I feel that." He added, "I actually sympathize with a lot of the soldiers, and the military in general, that are trained to go out and protect for us, and what they have to go through, it's really kind of shitty in a sense that these young kids have to go over there and die, sometimes, for something that isn't our problem. And that kind of sucks. So what I have to do is at least support them, because they don't have the choice that we do."
After the success of the title track, Godsmack moved on to "Bad Magick" in February of 2001. Keeping the pedal firmly pressed to the metal, Godsmack yielded yet another aggressive rocker to add to their catalog. With a little more rhythmic delivery, the song would start to climb the charts, but not with the success of its predecessors. It peaked at No. 12 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and No. 28 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The band would fare a little better with their third single.
In May 2001, the group would release the third and final single from the album, "Greed." The more chugging rocker was a hit at Mainstream Rock radio, climbing all the way to No. 3 and enjoyed modest success at Modern Rock radio.
It should be noted that Godsmack earned a Grammy nomination during support of this album, but it wasn't for any of the three singles. The band received the nod for "Vampires," an instrumental track that featured minor dialogue from a TV show called Mysterious Forces Beyond. The nod for Best Rock Instrumental came as a shock to Erna, who later told MTV, "I don't even know why we were nominated, because we were in a category with Joe Satriani and these other guys for best instrumental performance. And the instrumental that we had on our record was an accident, so that was pretty bizarre to be nominated for that."
In the end, it was a pretty successful album and touring cycle for the band. Awake debuted at No. 5, yielded three radio singles, found them playing Ozzzfest and headlining their own tours and the disc eventually reached double platinum status. But the creative reunion with drummer Tommy Stewart was short lived as by the time the album and touring cycle had concluded, they decided to make a drummer switch, eventually landing Shannon Larkin before the start of the next release.
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