October 16, 2004

DVD Review: Godsmack: Changes

Godsmack was a band that I haven't followed terribly closely over the years, but was always on the fringe of my listening habits. I always thought their singles were good, but I was never terribly interested in getting their albums for some reason. I do have the first album, I got that way back around the time it originally came out way back in 1998, I got hooked on the song Whatever, it was great heavy track. One of the things that had attracted me to them was their sound, it was reminiscent of early Alice in Chains, dark, heavy, and melodic. Well, fast forward six years and the band is releasing their third DVD, the first of which I've watched. It is a very good disk, with it's share of flaws.

The disk is a combination documentary/live show, with the live performances intercut with the documentary footage. The best way to attack these is to separate them as two separate beasts. Like the disk as a whole, they have their drawbacks, but taken together they combine to make a very entertaining set.

The documentary footage is split between the band getting their stage and set together and getting ready for the tour and putting together this DVD, he other portion is interview and candid footage. We hear how the band members came together, their feelings about the group and dealing with life on the road. Interesting stuff, it's great to see a band stick together as a support group for each other, out on the road all they have is each other and their crew. We see them testing the pyro and getting the stage setup in preparation. We see each of them during soundchecks and showing off some things that they don't normally get to do. These guys are very good musicians, and we get a taste of some sacrifices they make in their playing for the sake of the song. Sully Erna is clearly the leader of the group taking front and center keeping everyone on track. Tony Rambola, guitarist, seems to be the quietest member and a dedicated family man, not to mention a talented guitar player. Something that made me smile right at the start of the disk was seeing Tony on the phone talking to someone in Poughkeepsie, that's near me and the home of good rock club. Robbie Merrill displays some really good bass playing ability beyond the sometimes simplistic playing, watching him made me wonder if he has any other ambitions with regard to his playing, perhaps a side project which would allow him to showcase that playing. Lastly we have Shannon Larkin, the newest member to the group, and an amazing drummer, and someone who clearly wants to be there and is loving every minute of it.

Next up is the concert itself. Filmed at the Wachovia Center in Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania, we get 12 tracks which play like a greatest hits collection, all of the big ones are hit. The performances are top notch. They are on that stage giving it their all. The set begins with Straight out of Line and they come out heavy right out of the box. Their songs all translate very heavy live, it's good to hear straight ahead heavy rock, with a relatively unique sound, still getting out there and drawing the crowds. They make their way through Awake, Faceless, and Bad Religion, Moon Baby, Changes, and Re-Align before switching gears and slowing down the pace for Serenity. Serenity was good live, a little different, a little faster, no percussion, but played wonderfully. The show picks back up with Keep Away and Voodoo. Next up is the best segment on the disk, Batalla de los Tambores, a drum dueling segment between Shannon Larkin and Sully Erna. This is an incredible segment with some great in synch drumming mixed with alternating fills, it is a site to behold these full drum kits on stage battling. Once that segment completes the set is closed out with Whatever and I Stand Alone to the raucous crowd which was into every minute of the set.

OK, now for my minor complaints. I wish there was an option to play either all of the documentary or concert footage together, rather than the split up way it is presented here. The other problem I had is that two songs, a couple of my favorites, were glossed over during the concert. Both Voodoo and Whatever have some of the doc footage intercut over it, this was just a poor mistake, both of those songs should have been presented in their entirety. Outside of those two things, this is an excellent DVD.

Video. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, which appears to be about 1.78:1, the image looks fantastic. The show was shot with 14 cameras in HD, the image is crisp and bright with deep blacks and good representation of the lighting effects. The documentary portion is a mixed bag, but on the whole looks good.

Audio. We get 4 flavors, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 3.0, and PCM 2.0. For my viewing, I used the PCM track, I sampled the others, but this sounded the best. The instrument separation was good, the music was well represented, excellent recording of the live performance. The documentary audio, like the video, is a mixed bag but it does the job.

Extras. There is a photo gallery of 87 pictures which is played as a slideshow set to some Godsmack riffs. The images range from crew members, to band members, to stage setup, to the live show onstage. Not bad. Although I would have liked a couple of their videos, or maybe lengthier one on one band member interviews.

Bottomline. Minor complaints aside, this is a very good disk, and makes me more interested in checking out their other albums. Excellent A/V quality, great performances, some interesting behind the scenes footage. Very good music DVD.



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