Review: Sully Erna and Avalon
It's been a while since I actually sat down to write a Wheelspin editorial. Between work, running web sites, and working on my house, I've barely had time to just sit down and breathe.
Recently somebody asked me what I usually listen to when I take the Vette out for a drive. I was about to answer with my usual response: Alice in Chains, Rush, Metallica, Godsmack, etc., but I actually had to think about it.
In the past, I always found myself downshifting and stepping on the gas during songs like Metallica's "One", Rush's "Red Barchetta", or Godsmack's "I F***ing Hate You", but the last year or two, that's changed. With the ever growing responsibilities of house and yard maintenance, most of my weekends were spent around the house while the Corvette sat in the garage. When I did take it out for my usual run up through North Hampton and Rye, New Hampshire, I ended up chilling out to Loreena McKennit, Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard.
With most of the house projects now complete, I'm looking forward to enjoying the Vette more this coming summer and getting back to making my bi-weekly run up along the coast of New Hampshire and Maine to recharge my own batteries. What will be playing over the speakers? Sully Erna's "Avalon" CD.
Sully Erna is the lead singer of Godsmack. Sully grew up in Lawrence, MA, and for those of you that are familiar with Lawrence, you know that growing up there couldn't have been easy. I still have many fond memories of it during my high school years. LOL
Sully started Godsmack around 1995 and over the years, the band played the local music scene; moving up the ranks and amassing a loyal following. It wasn't until the debut of their first album that I had even heard of them. During that time frame, the majority of the music being played over the radio was grunge, which I really detested. It seemed like everyone was entrenched in Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. Just as I was starting to wear out my Alice in Chains CDs, along came Godsmack.
The music was electrifying, the sound - rough and harsh, and the beats - tribal and entrancing. From "Moon Baby" to "Voodoo", I remember thinking: "if this band can stay off the path of so many other bands before them who ran into drugs, alcohol and the rigors of the road, Godsmack is going places. Sure enough - they have.
Ever since that first album, the band has continued to mature and produce some incredible music. From the very first Godsmack show I saw at the Hampton Beach Casino, to the solo show that Sully Erna did a couple of years ago at the same venue, I have been constantly reminded of how music is truly a gift, and how important bands like Godsmack and people like Sully Erna are to those of us that understand this gift and enjoy it day in and day out.
Sully recently released his very first solo album called "Avalon". He recruited Lisa Guyer, whose dynamic and etheral voice can be heard on "Hollow" off of the Godsmack "IV" album. Sully and Lisa are joined by Irina Chirkova, a classicly trained cellist, and Niall Gregory, the percussionist from Dead Can Dance.
The album is basically an incredible collection of compositions that stir your emotions and entice your soul to dance. The combination of tribal rhythms and beats with bluesy, passionate vocals literally grabs you and pulls you in.
The album begins with the title track - "Avalon". With it's ancient rhythms and Middle Eastern sound, you can almost picture yourself standing on the Isle of Avalon gazing out over the water.
"Sinner's Prayer" will have you tapping your foot at your office desk (as it did to me the other day), while "My Light" will remind you of that one thing in your life that is the most precious to you above all else, and the amount of joy and peace it brings to you.
Last but definitely not least, "The Rise" and "Cast Out (Spirit Ceremony)" are a percussion aficionado's dream come true. Coming home from the gym tonight, I found myself finger-tapping on the steering wheel listening to Lisa Guyer chanting... "From within, you'll begin to feel the rise! That which is like, unto itself is drawn..."
There are so many awesome songs on "Avalon", that it's almost an injustice to try and pin point one that could be considered a favorite. If I had to do it, it would probably have to be "Cast Out (Spirit Ceremony)". That song just makes me want to start dancing while air-drumming.
If you buy this album expecting to hear Godsmack, you will be sadly disappointed. Other than hearing slight wisps from Godsmack's "Voodoo", "Hollow" and "Serenity", the entire "Avalon" album is a refreshing gift for the ears in a world currently plastered by Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. "Avalon" will bring you on an incredible musical journey that will stir your heart and soul at their very core.
This coming fall, my two best friends have invited me to accompany them to England to stay in a castle and help celebrate their ten year wedding anniversary. It's a trip I've been dreaming about for years, and I'm honored they asked me to join them. Part of the trip includes a stop at The Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
Lindisfarne is home to the monastery founded by St. Aidan in 635AD as well as the Lindisfarne Mead factory. Once there, I will be standing on the shores gazing out over the water with a goblet of Lindisfarne Mead in hand, listening to Lisa Gerrard's "The Unfolding", followed by Sully Erna's "Avalon".
Sully Erna - Avalon: Sinner's Prayer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlK5N-Lcvjc
Just some additional commentary I wanted to make outside of the review:
The very first Godsmack show I saw was at the Hampton Beach Casino around 1999/2000. The HBC is a relatively small venue here in New Hampshire as compared to larger arenas and concert halls. Back then, they put on an awesome show.
Ever since, I've seen them perform a couple times at the Verizon Wireless Arena here in Manchester, NH. One of those shows was called "An Acoustical Evening with Godsmack". Each show seems to get better and better.
One of the highlights for me is "Batalla de los Tambores" which is a 5 1/2 minute drum duel between Sully Erna and Godsmack's drummer, Shannon Larkin. (Shannon actually reminds me of Animal from The Muppets - he's an amazing drummer) The precision and synchronicity between Sully and Shannon is incredible to witness live.
A couple years ago, Sully came back from being on the road for quite a while and basically got bored. As a result - he decided to go on a short, personal tour, performing by himself at small venues - one of which was the Hampton Beach Casino again.
I've seen some amazing concerts in my time - from Godsmack, and Australian Pink Floyd to Robert Plant / Jimmy Page and Lorenna McKennit. Sully's show at the HBC ranked right up there.
When I walked in before he appeared, the stage was dark with candles lit, and Lisa Gerrard's "Yulunga" was playing over the speakers. I knew right then and there, this was going to be a cool show. I was right.
The show consisted of Sully, a couple guitars, a piano and the chair he was sitting on! He played some Godsmack songs, some Metallica, and a couple songs off of Avalon - which obviously wasn't even finished back then. However, he didn't just come on stage, whip through a set and wave goodbye.
He talked to the audience. He explained why he wrote some of the songs he wrote, their meaning and what he was feeling at the time he wrote them. Throughout the entire show, he talked about the importance of music - how a song - played one way, can stir certain emotions within us - and played a slightly different way, can stir the total opposite emotions.
The connection he established with the audience was incredible, and the passion and energy he exudes into the audience whether he's singing or playing an instrument, is intoxicating.
On Monday, January 3rd, it was rumored that he and Lisa Guyer were going to make a surprise appearance at Whippersnapper's - a local pub in Londonderry, NH. I left work a little early, picked up a buddy, and headed over there.
I really didn't think we'd get near the door, but surprisingly, we were able to walk right in and grab a table not far from the stage.
Sully and Lisa came out a few hours later, and played a couple songs from Avalon. They did an awesome job. It was the first time I had seen Lisa perform and the only word that comes to mind is "spitfire". She really gets into the music and has a great time on stage. Her voice is powerful and she harmonizes very well with Sully.
One of the highlights of the night was that Barry Goudreau, guitarist for the band "Boston" got up on stage and jammed with them. It was awesome!
On Rock 101's Morning Buzz show, (local radio station), Sully mentioned that they were going to try and bring Avalon on the road. If you get a chance to see them - don't miss out. You won't be disappointed.
Last week, I was at a local sushi restaurant for lunch with co-workers. Who walked in - Sully.
I really wanted to walk up to him and just simply say: "Thank you", but didn't want to be like most other fans that would probably disturb his lunch.
So Sully: if you come in at lunch-time again and I happen to be there...if the waitress drops a Corona off at your table - it's just me saying "Thank you for the many years of music you have made and don't stop doing what you're doing!"
Jam night @ Whippersnappers with Sully Erna, Lisa Guyer, and Barry Goudreau 01-03-11 (Disclaimer: I found this video on YouTube - I didn't record it as I was sitting at the opposite end of the room by the door and the security guard) YouTube - Jam night @ Whipps w Sully Erna + Barry Goudreau 01-03-11
YouTube - Godsmack Live - Drum Battle Sully Erna VS Shannon Larkin (High Quality)
YouTube - Lisa Gerrard - YULUNGA
YouTube - Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke - The Unfolding
My God....this is the first time I've seen this video of The Unfolding, or seen Lisa perform. Speechless..
Avalon tour dates for anyone interested:
More information on Sully Erna and the tour can be found at: sullyerna.com
May 13 -- Concord, NH -- Capitol Theatre
May 14 -- Wilkes-Barre, PA -- Kirby Center
May 15 -- Syracuse, NY -- Crouse Hinds Concert Theatre
May 17 -- Boston -- Wilbur Theatre
May 18 -- Bridgeport, CT -- The Klein Memorial Auditorium
May 19 -- New York -- Grand Ballroom @ Manhattan Center
May 21 -- New Bedford, MA -- Zeiterion Theatre
May 22 -- Albany, NY -- The Egg
June 1 -- Lawrence, KS -- Liberty Hall
June 3 -- Detroit -- Motor City Casino
June 4 -- Columbus -- LC Pavilion
June 10 -- Atlantic City -- Music Box
I've never heard of Sully Erna before. Fascinating rhythms... very powerful... Are you a fan of Evanescence?
YouTube - Evanescence - Bring Me To Life
I do like some songs by Evanescence. I think the female has an amazing voice.
Originally Posted by Mac
My favorite song from them is My Immortal.
I'm also a huge fan of Loreena McKennett, especially her early stuff.
I've always been a big Loreena McKennit fan. I saw her at The Wang Theater down in Boston a few years ago and she was amazing. I do like her new album, The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
Originally Posted by Mac
If you like Celtic music, are you familiar with "The Rankins"?
YouTube - Fare Thee Well Love
Or perhaps "The Celtic Woman"?
YouTube - Celtic Woman - A New Journey - You Raise Me Up
I love Celtic music. I haven't heard of the Rankins before. I have heard of Celtic Woman. I like some songs from them, but haven't developed as much of an appreciation for them as I have for Loreena McKennit.
Originally Posted by Mac
McKennett is unique, not question of that. I can't think of another artist or group who've produced such a variety of subtle yet evocative music. Others manage to create one or two songs which have that kind of impact; McKennett has dozens.
The Rankins are a Celtic family group out of Nova Scotia who have been making music since the 80s. The composition of the group has changed as different family members have stepped aside or died. They're best known for their intricate vocal harmonies.
YouTube - Bells
Gone but not forgotten
That drum battle is incredible! After listening to the Avalon sample cuts on CDNow, I'm going to have to buy that one - good selection, Rob.
The two songs mentioned by Evanescence are already on my iPod: Bring me to life is a great song and My Immortal brought me to a standstill the first time I heard it.
My favorite Loreena Mckennitt will always be Mummer's Dance!
You guys are helping me add to my music files!
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It's funny how some songs grab your ear, isn't it? For instance, I don't much care for rap music but this rap & rock combo song...
YouTube - Linkin Park - "In The End"
My favorite by Loreena McKennitt, bar none, is this traditional Irish song...
YouTube - Loreena McKennitt - Bonny Portmore HD (Live in Granada)
Gone but not forgotten
Yeah, the drum battle between Sully and Shannon is amazing to see in person.
Originally Posted by XLR8
Since I'm basically stuck in the house with this damn broken ankle, I've been on a DVD buying binge lately.
I recently bought a DVD of Godsmack performing at the Worcester Centrum back around 2000 / 2001 and Sully was doing the drum duel back then with the drummer they had prior to Shannon Larkin. The drum kit Sully had was very small compared to what he has now. It was pretty cool to watch back then, but absolutely nothing in comparison to the drum duel they do now on stage.
Avalon is really an incredible piece of work. I always admired Sully Erna because I felt that he was extremely talented and dynamic - much more so than most lead singers of a band. When I first heard Avalon, I was blown away.
It touches on many forms of music that I grew up listening to that most people my age growing up were like: "dude....WTF are you listening to!?" Celtic music, New Age Music, Native American music, and even a little rock music ("Seven Years") is wrapped up and intertwined quite masterfully in this album. He really took his talent and song writing to a much greater level.
With all the spare time I have now waiting for things to heal, I've finally had a chance to pull all of my CDs out and start loading them on to my iPod. Even I'm blown away by the mix of music I have: Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Heart, Nickelback, Godsmack, Pink Floyd, Lisa Gerrard, Loreena McKennit, Mendelsohn, Vivaldi, Spanish Classical Guitar, Flamenco, Flute and Sitar music from India....the list goes on.
In a matter of seconds, I can turn my house from being a hard rock concert hall, into a far-east Asian opium den.
As for Evanescence's "My Immortal"...eeeeeek. That song really wrenches me. That song started getting air play years ago just as I had gone through a bad breakup. Many tears were shed and many bottles of wine were consumed while listening to that song. lol
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