Splice Magazine

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Album Review: Planet Zero By Shinedown

Photo Credit: Sanjay Parikh

Shinedown has a strong history of crafting melodic rock albums loaded with hit songs. With Attention Attention they started to depart with what they’ve done in the past. On this particular album, Brent Smith and his band of brothers dipped their collective toes into the concept album waters. Now, Shinedown has come out with a fresh new album, Planet Zero. This time, they have dove right in and created their first full fledged concept album.

With the pandemic in full force and the world locked down. This was the perfect time for the group to work on new material. Besides offering them plenty of downtime to concentrate, it also provided plenty of material to integrate into Planet Zero.  As the world has shifted from a visceral reality to a digital one, it has also given rise to the cancel culture and group think which has spread like wildfire across social media. It is with this state of society that this album draws its life from.

The lead track “No Sleep Tonight” hits hard. This may be the most aggressive song they have written to date with it having elements of thrash. This song sets thematically sets the tone for the rest of the album. With in your face lyrics like “Speak up, Or they will bleed your courage dry, No they were never on your side, Strike down the golden rule, As if they know what’s best for you, Speak up, Or they will bleed you dry” The band firmly has the cancel culture and our need to think for ourselves firmly in their sights.

While the album seems lengthy at twenty tracks, not all of them are songs. The band has made use of interludes featuring ‘Cyren’ a robotic voice delivering dystopian messages to those that are visiting Planet Zero. While these messages on the surface may seem Orwellian, in many ways this is playing out today. The message and placement of each one works as the band has envisioned. With each following song acting as a counterpoint. A perfect example is the first time Cyren is heard. It welcomes you to Planet Zero and says” Planetary regulations require that you check your screens for a list of all approved speech, protected classes, and accepted behaviors”. This Is followed up with the song “Dysfunctional You” which celebrates everyone’s unique individuality.

If there is one song on the album that could very well be another hit single is “Dead Don’t Die”. From the arena ready rock riffs to the catchy chorus that will have an audience singing along with ease, this is the song that sonically could be on any of their albums. But it’s lyrical content fits the overall theme like a glove. With Brent singing “Life’s killed me a hundred thousand times, You can try, You can try, But the dead don’t die” you know he is referring to the cancel culture really can’t cancel you if you don’t let them.

The album changes its pace and slows things down with the songs “Symptom Of Being Human” and “Hope”. Both tracks share a similar message that it’s ok to be different and we need to celebrate our individuality. “Daylight” the latest single off also falls into this tempo as well. In interviews Brent Smith has stated this single is about the importance and need for relationships in everyone’s lives. While the song stands well on its own, when listened to in the context of the entire album the message truly resonates.

The final track “What You Wanted” is a true departure from what Shinedown has done in the past.  Featuring a staccato pace and accompanied with orchestration, Brent Smiths vocals is the most recognizable part. On paper this may be alarming to ardent Shinedown fans. But, with the powerful material of the song as well as its placement in the album it’s easy to see why the band crafted the song this way.  It really is a perfect way to cap off Planet Zero.

Planet Zero deftly dances a fine line. With this release they speak out on group think and the cancel culture without preaching. They challenge the listener to be a critical thinker while refusing to name issues, take political sides or push an agenda. Their mix of heavy and soft songs as well as the lyrical content keeps the listener on their toes and engaged throughout. As with seemingly every Shinedown album it is filled with hit singles. With two out there already in the title track and “Daylight”, and you can be sure that there will be more. While all the songs all stand up on their own, as with any good concept album the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When you listen to the album in its entirety you gain a far greater understanding of what Shinedown was aiming for. Instead of making an album built around several hits they have crafted their most mature, raw, and complete album to date.

Track List:

  1. 2184
  2. No Sleep Tonight
  3. Planet Zero
  4. Welcome
  5. Dysfunctional You
  6. Dead Don’t Die
  7. Standardized Experiences
  8.  America Burning
  9. Do Not Panic
  10. A Symptom Of Being Human
  11.  Hope
  12. A More Utopian Future
  13. Clueless And Dramatic
  14. Sure Is Fun
  15.  Daylight
  16. This Is A Warning
  17.  The Saints Of Violence And Innuendo
  18.  Army Of The Underappreciated
  19.  Delete
  20.  What You Wanted