A Shipwreck In The Sand

Written by: TL on 01/04/2009 14:08:07

Yesterday marked the release of the fourth LP from Canadian emocore veterans Silverstein, and after making little to no progress on their last album "Arrivals & Departures", it's safe to say that this new one has been a make or break kind of record in the making. So which is it then? Let me just give you that answer in the following manner; Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the review of the best Silverstein album yet! Welcome to the review of "A Shipwreck In The Sand"!

This new album is one that induces me with such a flurry of impressions that I have a hard time organizing my thoughts into a coherent, streamlined description of it, but in order to just start somewhere, let's talk initially about the album's production. Silverstein themselves have said that their last album was an attempt at a very straightforward rock album, and that the new one was meant to be grander and more ambitious in sound. They weren't kidding, because not only is this the best they've ever sounded, it is also both the grandest AND the heaviest. The band has steadily been putting up the numbers for Victory Records, and it seems that the label has rewarded them by giving them a big rock production in the finest sense of the term. And they sound all the better for it, especially to us that remember the absolute mess that was the sound of their debut (Not that good songs could not be extracted from that though!).

As such the first two songs "A Great Fire" and "Vices" come at you like a slingshot from a cannon, with not only better production, but better singing, better lyrics and better guitar work overall. Both of them are based in the band's affection for hardcore punk with the rhythmic section (guitar included) laying down some aggressive grounding, from out of which the bands trademark bittersweet choruses then proceed to grow. The former of the two is the perfect example with an echoing lead guitar and vocals that take your thoughts back to the classic "Smashed Into Pieces", while the latter is the meaner of the two, courtesy of some rather merciless lyrics and guest screams from Liam Corvier (of Cancer Bats).

"Broken Stars" then softens up the expression a bit, and I can't help but to think of how "The Ides Of March" did the same on the band's seminal album "Discovering The Waterfront". This is the track on which Shane Told really nails down the fact that he can pen a catchphrase like few others, and even if you feel like you've heard enough about daggers from him, there's no way you won't be singing the opening words for weeks to come;

"Shooting daggers at me / Letting it be known you're not impressed / I never fail at failing all your tests!"

In the midst of all its frailty and softness this song then again displays the band's affinity for dynamics by featuring a heavy breakdown that is essentially just as simplistic and stupid as those lot of bands I can't stand, but given the simple melodic fill between each chugging chord, the part is one that you almost hold your breath in anticipation of, rather than become annoyed with. Loads of hardcore bands could learn from this.

That's the first chapter out of four on the record, on which Shane Told continues his style of writing conceptual lyrics. This time around they aren't inspired by Shakespeare though (that was the case on "Discovering The Waterfront" fyi.), rather they tell parallel stories of a harsh break-up, a vengeful arson, and an epic voyage at sea that's struck by mutiny. From what I've been able to deduce from the lyrics, the storylines both deal with the theme of betrayal, but on different levels and with each listen it gets increasingly interesting to learn how they seem to reflect one another.

Leaving the analysis for yourself to do though, let me speak about a couple of more songs before summing up the record as a whole. First, track four, "American Dream" which is a continuation of the move of emphasis from 'heavy and -core' to 'catchy and rock', because even if it retains traces of hardcore, this song is essentially anthemic enough to suggest future stadium singalongs. It pales in comparison to the epic title track however, as this song reaches for the grandeur of Coheed And Cambria's "In Keeping Secrets..", complete with man choir and huge chords that rush over you like waves. It's a song that is pumped to the limit but fortunately not beyond it, as it never gets to the point where it feels like too much.

In between these two songs there are two others worth mentioning, the first of them being "Born Dead" which is by far the fastest, punkiest and most aggressive song on the record, and on which Scott Wade (of Comeback Kid) contributes with screams. Except for its containing of the only breakdown on the album that is too simple for its own good, this is another solid track that shows Silverstein's variety by drawing your thoughts more towards Chuck-era Sum-41 than to anything else. The second of the two I want to highlight is "I Knew I Couldn't Trust You", simply because it contains more perfect examples on Told's borderline cheesy but always memorable lyricism.

"Your poker face concealing / All the cards that you're not dealing!"

Those are just the highlights though, and in general I think the album is a 'tour de force' from the first track to the eight. Over the remainder of the album it seems that focus shifts from screaming to more accessible singing, and as such the dynamics lose strength and it seems that the choruses do the same. The last songs aren't bad by any means, in my opinion they just don't compare to the strong start, and this will cost Silverstein a few grades at the end of this review.

Never you mind that though, because as I've explicitly explained, "A Shipwreck In The Sand" is more worthy of your time than any album by this band ever was, and to give that weight, let's just remember that the previous albums weren't actually bad either. Aligning with Story Of The Year as a band that manages to write music that is both easily accessible, melodic and captivating while still retaining a lot of the positive things that came out of the hard/emo-core scenes, Silverstein step away from the guilty-pleasure status they've shared with bands like Hawthorne Heights and prove that compromising doesn't have to be the same as selling out. Hell, in the better moments of "A Shipwreck In The Sand" I'm even drawn to compare them to Emery, and with me you know that's never a bad thing. The album is worth it though, and it certainly deserves to take Silverstein into the big league of bands, in which they should be able to earn scores of new fans and successes.


Download: A Great Fire, Broken Stars, Vices, A Shipwreck In The Sand
For The Fans Of: Story Of The Year, Emery, Hawthorne Heights, Funeral For A Friend

Release Date: 31.03.2009
Victory Records

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