Godsmack, "The Oracle"

A pause has certainly refreshed the members of Godsmack, who've been on a recording hiatus since 2006's sonically adventurous "IV." But the New England headbangers have returned with a sinewy, muscular set that harks back to their 1998 debut. Despite its back-cover pronouncement that "the old me is dead and gone," "The Oracle" boasts a pleasantly vintage sound that opens with the punchy rhythm and grooving riffs of the song "Cryin' Like a Bitch" and works through the taut arrangements of tracks like "War and Peace," "Good Day to Die" and the gallopping "Forever Shamed." And with a title like "Love*Sex*Hate*Pain," it's evident that frontman Sully Erna remains all about the angst. Those seeking a change-up can check out "Devil's Swing," three-and-a-half minutes of metallic funk with a harmonica break, while the album-closing title track is an epic instrumental with a cinematic soundscape. While "The Oracle" is certainly familiar, it still sounds fresh enough and well worth the wait for fans who prefer their Godsmack served up straight.-Gary Graff

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