Certain things just don't seem to cross the Atlantic very well. American sports, we don't get. American cars are, on the whole, pretty crap. And we better not even mention politicians. A lot of musical trends don't survive the crossing either. Take Godsmack for example. Allegedly "one of North America's most successful hard-rock bands", prior to this DVD I'd never heard of them.
Although that might be because they are proponents of a musical style I have difficulty in taking seriously. Hard-rock, heavy-metal, call it what you want, but bands from Maiden to Priest to Slipknot to Slayer are just parody to me, so intrinsically intertwined with angsty sixteen year-olds dressed in black, hands raised, fingers twisted into devils horns taking everything far too seriously, that I've never had an interest in it and never really considered it a particularly worthwhile musical form.
Which serves as a short disclaimer before I barrel into this review and start making elementary errors and offending fans of the genre. Changes consists of a live concert, filmed in Pennsylvania, plus backstage footage and short excerpts with band members that you can choose to watch either combined into a feature-length piece or as two separate entities, one gig and one documentary.
On the simple, technical levels the DVD succeeds: it's beautifully packaged, and both the audio and the visuals are great. But when it comes to the more subjective things, I can't really say this did anything for me. It didn't bore me to tears but I'm not exactly desperate to go and buy all of Godsmack's back catalogue either. The band come across quite well, self-deprecating and surprisingly humble, they are all undeniably solid musicians and they make no excuses about their desire to entertain, it's just after a while I did have the sneaking suspicion that they were just playing the same song over and over again.
All of them had the same sludgy bass line, BIG riffs, intricate guitar fretting and growled vocals about pain, suffering and loss and for all their decelerations about wanting to put on a show they don't exactly push the boat out. A few occasional streams of fire and beat marking pyrotechnics are hardly the stuff Jean Micheal Jarre's dreams are made of. The big attention-grabber is probably the Batalla De Los Tambores, a two sided-drum face off, which is pretty entertaining, if borderline comedic, especially in the way the two drum kits rather sheepishly slide and pirouette on platforms to centre stage like two rotund ballerinas.
When you get down to it Godsmack seem to be a pretty straightforward band, closer in spirit to the rock than the heavy. Which is fine, they admit as such, and would certainly put them more in my field of enjoyment, but as a rock band they just aren't interesting. Indeed when they through all of the metal toys out of the pram and go all out to that most predictable of trad-rock staples, the slow acoustic one (Serenity), it plays like a bad cliché, complete with seated singer and lighters in the air.
Throughout the concert I was waiting for a hook, a difference, something to separate their wheat from the herd's chaff - some of Tool's prog-rock pretension maybe, a charismatic Ozzy-like lead singer, hell I would've settled for some boiler-suit-wearing-dead-crow-sniffing gimmickry like Slipknot. Or, ideally, some better songs.
For fans of the band I think I can probably give Changes a pretty solid, if slightly veiled, thumbs up. During the concert the band is tight and look as if they're enjoying it, the crowd seem pretty happy about the while thing and, as mentioned, the whole disc is produced to a really high level. However, it definitely isn't good enough to make a non-fan rue the fact I had never heard of Godsmack before.