Formation and All Wound Up (1995–1997)
In February 1995, Sully Erna decided to start a new band as the lead singer after playing the drums for more than 23 years, including more than two years in the now-defunct band Strip Mind. His new band, The Scam, formed with Erna on vocals, Robbie Merrill on bass, local guitarist and friend Lee Richards on guitar, and Tommy Stewart on drums. The Scam quickly changed its name to Godsmack, after recording one demo. The newly formed band started playing small bars in their hometown of Boston. Locally popular songs such as "Keep Away" and "Whatever" soon brought them to the top of the hit charts in the Boston/New England area.
Many people think the band's name stemmed from Alice in Chains song, but according to Erna, the band's name came from a small and personal incident. "I was making fun of somebody who had a cold sore on his lip and the next day I had one myself and somebody said, 'It's a godsmack.' The name stuck. We were aware of the Alice In Chains song but didn't really think much about it." In 1996, Tony Rombola and Joe D'Arco joined Godsmack as the guitarist and drummer, after Richards left upon learning he had a six-year-old child and Stewart left due to personal differences. In the same year, the band entered the studio for the first time, recording its first CD titled All Wound Up. The CD was recorded in just three days for $2,600.
For the next two years, the band played throughout the Boston area. Eventually Godsmack's CD landed in the hands of Rocko, the night-time DJ for Boston radio station WAAF (FM). The radio station put "Keep Away" into heavy rotation and the song rose to the number one spot at the station very quickly. Newbury Comics, a New England record store chain, agreed to sell the CD on consignment. Shortly after the success of "Keep Away," Godsmack went back into the studio and recorded a single titled "Whatever," which became the new local favorite on WAAF (FM). In an interview Sully Erna stated, "We had been selling maybe 50 copies a month at the time WAAF picked up the album. All of a sudden we started moving over a thousand records a week. (...) I was doing all this from my bedroom. After years of grinding away, things finally started taking off."
In mid-1998, Universal/Republic Records signed the band to their label. Joe D'Arco was dismissed from the band. He was replaced by former drummer Tommy Stewart, who returned after expressing a desire to be in the band again. The band's first studio recording All Wound Up was re-mastered, and the finished self-titled debut CD album Godsmack was released to the public six weeks later. This led to the band's first headlining tour, "The Godsmack Tour" with Jim Rose Circus as the opening act.
After the album's release the band went on the road playing club shows as well as playing at Ozzfest and Woodstock '99. This was followed by a tour in Europe supporting Black Sabbath. Roxanne Blanford from Allmusic gave the album three out of five stars, stating, "Godsmack confidently brought metal into the technological age". The album entered the Billboard 200 at number twenty-two, and was certified 4x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2001 after being initially certified gold in 1999.
The album sold well despite being initially pulled from the shelves in some stores due to concerns over some of its lyrical content. The band and its record label later added a Parental Advisory sticker to the album, and some stores ordered amended copies of the album. Erna commented in Rolling Stone magazine stating, "Our record has been in the marketplace for more than a year now without a parental advisory sticker and this is the one and only complaint ... Stickers and lyrics are by nature subjective ... We have decided to put a sticker on the record." This controversy did not appear to adversely affect album sales but, according to Erna, helped; "It's almost taunting kids to go out and get the record to see what we're saying on it." The album also had four successful singles which were "Whatever," "Keep Away," "Voodoo" and "Bad Religion."
In 2000, Godsmack returned to the studio after the multi-platinum success of Godsmack to start recording Awake. The album was released on October 31, 2000. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, and has been certified 2x platinum by the RIAA. "Vampires", a song on the album, also earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 2002. With the release of Awake, Godsmack toured Europe supporting Limp Bizkit. Erna said at the time, "We've been touring nonstop since August 1998, So most of Awake was written on tour while we were ping-ponging between America and Europe, building up the band. "Ozzfest" was actually the only big tour where we rode under someone else's wings; we did a lot of work on our own." The band played Ozzfest in 2000 again as they had in 1999.
Two of the songs on the album were used in United States Navy commercials ("Sick of Life" and "Awake") as background music. Erna stated, "Someone in the military is a fan, and they asked if they could use the music, and we accepted". However, Erna insisted in an interview that Godsmack does not support any war.
The Scorpion King, Faceless and The Other Side (2002–2005)
In 2002, Erna was asked to write and perform a song for the soundtrack to The Scorpion King. The song Godsmack wrote and performed was titled "I Stand Alone" and the song became the number 1 single at Rock Radio and the most played Active Rock song in 2002 for 14 weeks straight. It was also used in the game Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.
With Shannon Larkin (ex Ugly Kid Joe, Souls at Zero, Wrathchild America, MF Pitbulls) replacing Tommy Stewart, who left due to personal differences for the second time, Godsmack went back into the studio to record a new album that was released in 2003. Faceless debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 269,000 copies in its first week, and the album would go on to sell over one million copies in the United States. Faceless also debuted at number nine on the Top Canadian Albums and at number one on the Top Internet Albums and remained at that position for two weeks. A massive Tour of America and Europe supporting Metallica followed.
The lead single "Straight Out of Line" received a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Hard Rock Performance". The award went to Evanescence's single "Bring Me to Life". The album got its name after a swimming-pool incident. However, in a later interview Merrill stated otherwise, making it unclear of how the album's title came to be, "It came from the band's feeling that, despite our radio and sales success, we still flew a bit under the radar".
On March 16, 2004 The Other Side, an acoustic EP, was released. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200; this is a relatively high position for an acoustic EP. It included several previously released songs re-recorded as acoustic versions, as well as three new acoustic tracks. One new song, "Touché", featured Godsmack's first guitar player, Lee Richards, as well as John Kosco, who were at that time in the now defunct band Dropbox, The other two new acoustic tracks were "Running Blind" and "Voices". The song "Asleep" is actually an acoustic version of "Awake" from the band's second album Awake. Godsmack shifted from its "heavy" sound to a more mellow acoustic sound on this EP in the same manner Alice in Chains did in the Sap and Jar of Flies EPs, one of many similarities to Alice in Chains for which the band has been criticized. In 2004, Godsmack opened for Metallica's "Madly in Anger with the World tour", and headlined the tour along with Dropbox. Afterwards, in autumn 2004, the band played several acoustic shows to promote The Other Side, while at the same time continuing to open for Metallica.
IV and Ten Years of Godsmack (2006–2007)
Sully Erna performing during Godsmack The IV Tour
On April 25, 2006, Godsmack released its fourth studio album simply titled IV, followed by a tour that would continue until August 2007, titled "The IV tour". The album was produced by Erna and engineered by the well known producer and engineer Andy Johns, known for engineering Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV. The first single from the album, "Speak" was released on February 14, 2006. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 211,000 copies in its first week.
IV has since been certified gold. The band had written over forty songs for the album, but the final track listing had eleven tracks, Larkin commented, "it's Sully's band and his vision.[...]When it comes time to pick the songs it's all Sully". The album's minimalist name "IV" derives not only from its being the band's fourth studio album, but also from a running piece of backstage humor, as related by Larkin and Erna in an interview.
To celebrate ten years as a band, Godsmack released a greatest hits album entitled Good Times, Bad Times... Ten Years of Godsmack on December 4, 2007. The album debuted at number thirty-five on the Billboard 200, selling 40,000 copies in the first week of release. It includes a cover of the Led Zeppelin song "Good Times Bad Times", as well as a DVD of Godsmack's acoustic performance in Las Vegas at House of Blues. The album was originally intended to be a boxed set, but the band scrapped the plans so they could release a best of album. Godsmack will follow the release of the album with an acoustic tour. Despite rumors of the band going on hiatus as a result of releasing a greatest hits album, Erna was quoted as saying, "we're not going away, we are just gonna take a break and enjoy our 10th year anniversary and kind of recharge our batteries. And then Godsmack will be back, and we will come back bigger and badder than ever."
The Oracle and break (2008–2013)
In November 2008, Larkin announced that the band would be reforming and recording a new album. The following summer, the band toured as support to Mötley Crüe's Crüe Fest 2 tour and released a non-album single, "Whiskey Hangover". After the tour, Godsmack started production for their new album. The album, titled The Oracle was released on May 4, 2010. Arriving to popular reception, The Oracle was Godsmack's third straight full-length studio album to debut at No. 1 with 117,000 sold in the first week of release. Erna had this to say about the early sound album, "It's gonna be really heavy. I mean, it's very aggressive. I'm not really sure; it's very premature right now. Right now we just finished one track for the Crüe Fest this Summer. But as far as the whole record goes, I think it's going to be a lot more in your face. I don't think there's going to be any 'Voodoo's or 'Serenity's on this one. We decided to go balls out!".
Godsmack headlined the fourth annual Mayhem Festival alongside Disturbed. The band entered the studio in January 2012 to mix a live album plus record several covers for an upcoming release. The band then went on tour in the spring with Staind. Godsmack has completed work on an EP of cover songs. Godsmack released their new live album Live & Inspired on May 15, 2012. The set included a bonus EP of cover tracks. In January 2013, Erna announced a short solo tour through America. In February, Sully said in an interview that Godsmack would take a break during 2013. "We are going to take some time away now because we just ran for two years" he said in an interview with Loudwire.
In February 2014, Erna tweeted that the band had made progress in the songwriting process for its next studio album, tentatively scheduled for a late 2014 release. He also mentioned that the band finished 11 songs for the new record in two weeks. In April, the band announced that they had recorded 15 songs, ten of which would make the final cut. In May, Erna announced that the album would be titled 1000hp (1000 Horsepower). The album's title track was released as a single the following month. The album was released on August 5, 2014 and sold around 58,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to land at position No. 3 on The Billboard 200 chart. Since release the disc has spawned the singles Something Different and What's Next. The band have unified a campaign to aid military veterans with their latest single What’s Next.
Godsmack also headlined the 2014 Uproar Festival. They were announced on August 20, 2014, to be part of the Soundwave Festival in Australia. It expanded to a 2-day festival for the first time, in February/March 2015, and was followed by a series of shows and tours around Europe. In July 2015, the band revealed dates for an upcoming North American fall headline tour. The run included dates with Sevendust. Also in August 2015 Godsmack announced a new leg of North American dates that would keep the band busy through mid-November.
On October 14, 2015, Godsmack released a digital single called "Inside Yourself" available for a limited free download. The song was released on iTunes on November 20, 2015.
On September 9, 2016, Erna confirmed that the band had officially left Universal/Republic, and signed a deal with BMG.
When Legends Rise (2017–present)
The band began work on a seventh studio album in 2017. The album, When Legends Rise, was released on April 27, 2018. The album's first single, "Bulletproof", was released ahead of the album on February 28, 2018. Godsmack will tour across North America from May through October 2018. They will play several festivals before embarking on a co-headlining summer tour with Shinedown. Godsmack will then tour Europe in October and November 2018 in support of their new album. However, On October 17, 2018, it was announced that the band postponed their fall 2018 Europe tour, following death of Tony Rombola's son and plan to reschedule in early 2019.