Ask frontman Sully Erna how he thinks Godsmack will measure up against co-headliners Disturbed and Megadeth at the Mayhem Festival, and you get a take-no-prisoners response befitting the man whose guttural, metal-inspired growls propel the intense hard-rock band's assault.
"I truly believe in my heart that, pound for pound, Godsmack is one of the best live performances out there," says Erna. "We've spent the last 15 years performing. We are good at it, great at it."
In fact, he says he believes that Godsmack is as good as there is in the rock game, capable of competing with the upper echelon of hard rockers, not just the other Mayhem Fest bands.
"I believe we can go up against anybody live," he says. "Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, those guys are unbelievable live. They're so good, so intense, so powerful. I think we're that good. We take a lot of pride in what we do and put on the best show we can."
Since the Massachusetts-based band first came together in 1995, it has released five studio albums and 21 singles, a half-dozen of which hit No. 1 on Billboard's mainstream rock charts. One of the most popular rock bands in the world, Godsmack has sold 17 million albums. Its last three albums — 2003's Faceless, 2006's IV and last year's The Oracle — have debuted at No. 1.
Given that those singles alone are more than a concert's worth of material, it's not so surprising that the band won't be debuting any forthcoming Godsmack songs on this tour. Fact is, they haven't composed any yet.
"We just finished doing The Oracle and I just got the solo record [Avalon] out," says Erna when asked if there'll be a new Godsmack album anytime soon. "For me, the biggest reward is doing the live performance and touring. I'm always writing. But the short answer is 'no.' I'm not going to write for a while, and just enjoy the tours."
Tour plans are clearly not in short supply. In the months before Mayhem Fest, Erna had his solo band on the road, delivering soft, more seductive sounds from Avalon. And when the Godsmack tour ends, Erna will be back on the road with that band.
"It's 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,'" Erna says. "That's what it is. It's an extreme change to jump from one to the other."
Still, Erna wouldn't have it any other way. The solo record, which was released last year and hit No. 24 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, means as much to him as his work with Godsmack.
"It's a huge part of me," he says. "I need Godsmack to be loud and crazy and bring the chaos. I needed the solo project for the spiritual, seductive side. I need both for balance. There's no way I can be on 10 all the time, but there's no way I can be on two all the time, either."
While it can make for a tricky balancing act, Erna figures it's a necessary one.
"Over the years, I stuffed a lot of stuff inside me," says Erna of the impetus for his solo project's more open, confessional lyrics. "I wanted to use it as therapeutic, a release through art."