Shinedown will follow up their massive hit record 'The Sound of Madness' with what's expected to be one of the biggest rock albums of the year, and depending on it's direction -- possibly one of the biggest albums released in any genre.

It may not seem like it, but it's been almost four years since the release of the platinum-selling album 'The Sound of Madness' -- the fact that they've had a single in heavy rotation at rock radio consistently since a month prior to the album's release has made it feel like they've never left. Their landmark record got an extension on it's success with last year's deluxe edition that included the radio hit 'Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom)' -- a song originally recorded for 'The Expendables' soundtrack that ended up being one of the most played rock songs of 2011.

'The Sound of Madness' brought all kinds of new ears to Shinedown thanks to the crossover success of mega-hits 'Second Chance' and 'If You Only Knew.' Now the question is will they return to more rock-oriented fare -- like Theory of a Deadman did after dabbling with success at Top 40 radio -- or will they walk the line between both genres like Nickelback? Vocalist Brent Smith said this this of the new record speaking to Artisan News last May:

"We can’t compare any of the other records to this one — just like we can’t compare the first one to the second one or the third one to the first one. We pride ourselves on being a band that each record sounds completely different than the last. The beautiful thing is the journey and finding out where you are in your life, not only as a person, but where you are as an artist and as a musician and how far you’ve come and how far you’ve grown. So, for us, we tour a lot — our last record, we toured for almost three years — so it’s very, very crucial and very, very important for us for this fourth record [to be as strong as possible], so we take our time."

The band began recording their fourth record in August so it is likely that the new material will surface sometime in 2012 -- but not definite. Guitarist Zach Myers said their previous record took 24 months to write, and that Smith will remove clocks and calenders from the studio while recording because he doesn't like to put a time limit on creativity. However, Myers did recently tweet that the album title and release date are coming soon and according to the video update below -- they are in the process of mixing the record.

Update: Shinedown are releasing the first single 'Bully' on January 3rd, 2012 -- the still untitled album is set for a spring release. Rob Cavallo will once again be credited as producer on the album, he helmed the band's previous effort 'The Sound of Madness' as well.