‘I Stand Alone: The Sully Erna Story’ Review – A Rockumentary That Knows Its Audience

Two-faced Greed
Sully won't wait another minute in Godsmack - Greed (Official Music Video), Godsmack VEVO, YouTube

Something you should know about me is I’m a sucker for two things: rock music that slaps and obscure movies that come my way serendipitously.

Black Scorpion stands alone
The sting of the scorpion leaves its mark on Sully’s hand in Godsmack – I Stand Alone (Official Music Video), Godsmack VEVO, YouTube

This is especially true for documentaries I was once unaware of that explore interesting people, music, alternative history, or the inside story of a good movie.

Concerning the first two topics of interest, it doesn’t have to center around the desired genre, but bands and musicians nonetheless make for some of the best human-interest pieces.

There is a reason Behind the Music was such a popular series and why there is still a fascination with Kurt Cobain and the dreaded 27 Club. Tragedy is compelling.

There is also nothing better than a poignant rags-to-riches story; it’s the American Dream all wrapped in one person who gives average people hope by telling their tale.

Sully Erna, the lead vocalist for Godsmack, has a story like that with all the fixings, and it is covered in the feature documentary I Stand Alone based on his memoir – The Paths We Choose. It aired on AXS TV on May 19th, and I gave it a watch with a piqued interest.

Naturally, it’s called “The Sully Erna Story” so the entire thing is centered on him and his journey to stardom. To make that clear, the film starts with Erna visiting a middle school in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to give a motivational speech to some kids.

Sup Sully
Sully Erna stops for a look in Godsmack – I Stand Alone (Official Music Video), Godsmack VEVO, YouTube

It then shifts to talking about his upbringing in Lawrence which was both rough and full of promise.

Erna grew up showing an interest in and a gift for music at an early age. He excelled at the drums, but as his record collection and fascination with rock grew, he decided he wanted to be a rock star more than anything.

Drumming, he joined bands of varying styles starting in the 80s as part of a hair metal act, and later more conventional hard rock bands before Godsmack was ever on the horizon. His calling took him down a few paths, some dark and some profitable.

It's all Voodoo
Sully Erna chants to the sky in Godsmack – Voodoo (Official Music Video), Godsmack VEVO, YouTube

His life events run the gamut that checks all the usual boxes of sex, drugs, rock & roll, trauma, and dysfunctional relationships. He dated strippers involved with the wrong people, he nearly overdosed and died, his first band was signed and fizzled out, strained relations with his father, etc.

The most vivid of these personal recollections was of a party Erna attended when he was 18. Bored and the night winding down, he and his friends were ready to leave when Erna bumped into a random guy, spilled beer on him, and started trading punches with him.

One thing led to another and the fight spilled outside where one of Erna’s mates showed him a shotgun he had stashed in his trunk. Out of desperation, he grabbed it and aimed at the guy trying to get him and he still wasn’t backing down.

dances around the fire
Sully Erna baptized by fire in Godsmack – Voodoo (Official Music Video), Godsmack VEVO, YouTube

Anyone who’s seen enough movies or true crime with adequate twists can probably guess what happened next. Erna pulled the trigger – and it went ‘click.’ The gun was empty precisely in case something like this happened.

I figured it would end like that, but the way they told it had me second-guessing myself. Erna had more stories, and more fights, to tell, but that one was the highlight. From there, the documentary sort of coasts along the same lines as BTM and an episode of Biography.

If you expect the same level of drama when they get to the Godsmack portion of his life, you’re going to be disappointed.

Swallow in you
Sully Erna is alive in Godsmack – Awake (Official Music Video), Godsmack VEVO, YouTube

They devote roughly 20 minutes – if that – to the band and the chapter boils down to their formation, Erna taking up singing, and local radio stations playing their debut album.

It’s by the numbers and a little too clean, which complements the wraparound motivational speech but downplays interesting aspects of Erna’s life that are left hanging.

For instance, we’re introduced to his daughter yet aren’t shown in great detail how her dad’s life on the road affected her aside from a passing mention. His reconciliation with his father is likewise resolved neatly to add to an overall happy ending.

Sully Erna breaks out in Godsmack – Awake (Official Music Video), Godsmack VEVO, YouTube

Sully Erna’s story is an interesting and inspiring one. This telling just has the same elements you’ve heard before multiple times. It also lacks a focus on his career with Godsmack, although he may be saving the road stories of the band for a later date.

It aired on a music channel (the only decent one left) and, in all, I Stand Alone is an eye-opening dab into the singer’s life that should please his fans and rock enthusiasts in general.

NEXT: ‘Cabrini’ Review – The Power Of Love Conquers All

I Stand Alone: The Sully Erna Story



  • Erna's charisma as a storyteller.
  • He has a few tense stories that could have ended badly.


  • Not enough Godsmack.
  • Doesn't do enough to set itself apart from your standard 'Behind The Music' episode.
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