Along The Shadow

Written by: TL on 28/05/2016 13:02:51

In 2003, the then recently formed Californian band Saosin went into the studio with a session drummer subbing for their unavailable actual drummer, and with a bassist that would leave soon after, yet somehow the young quintet came out with a five track EP that would proceed to spread through the alternative music scene like an incurable virus, eventually defining the post-hardcore genre until this very day. It is hard to point out a more important release for the genre than the now legendary "Translating The Name" EP, although it is also hard to say how much its myth has been bolstered by how singer Anthony Green left Saosin soon after, helping to found Circa Survive and make himself a career with them instead. Regardless, despite a relatively successful run, things were never quite the same for Saosin as they moved forward with Cove Reber, eventually sending them off on indefinite hiatus.

Considering "Translating The Name" 's legend, however, a reunion was continually whispered about as wishful thinking among fans, and finally the bug bit Green and Saosin in 2014, with a succession of reunion shows eventually forging the basis for work to commence on the first actual full-length with Green on vocals. Which leads us to today and to "Along The Shadow", which has been out for just over a week now. But what was the right attitude to approach such an album with? Blind hype? Trembling trepidation? Healthy skepticism?

To let the cat out of the bag, no, "Along The Shadow" is not quite an instant return of the same magic Saosin wielded back in those young and miraculous days, although that would probably be unreasonable to expect in the first place, considering the time the band's members have spent making music and developing apart from each other. It does, however, refortify the Saosin name as one that stands for a unique post-hardcore sound that holds the genre to a higher standard, and it delivers some strong singles during its runtime, but with that said, there are pros and cons to talk about when you listen closely.

To begin with, guitarist Beau Burchell and bassist Chris Sorenson can generally be absolved of most criticism here, as their work is consistently as dynamic, characteristic and all around air-guitar-worthy as you could have hoped for, sounding like a resurgence in form following the mostly forgettable later records they made with Reber. The only noteworthy concern is that fans can speculate how much of this is attributed to Justin Shekowski, the band's original second guitarist who was replaced by former As I Lay Dying member Phil Sgrosso before the new album's release. Regardless, quality guitar playing is generally all over the album, but a good point of reference could be where it hits you on the head in the opening of the album's hardest and best song, the single "Racing Towards A Red Light".

Interestingly, Sorenson has revealed in interviews that members have been reconnecting over a love for Deftones and wanting to make heavier music in general. It's interesting because this ambition seems to have been a bit of a challenge to the band. The drumming from Alex Rodriguez can be described as dynamic yet anonymous - It gets the job done, but you kind of wish it had been a little wilder to emphasise that heaviness. And then there's Green himself, the singer literally every single frontman in post-hardcore has wanted to be at one point in their lives, who has recorded absolutely brilliant songs with Circa Survive as well. He screams more on here than he has in years, yet sadly, it mostly shows how one-dimensional he is at it, and how unimpactful his attempts at working screaming into the vocal arrangements have been.

The best place to observe this is in another standout of the album, the overall pretty awesome single "The Silver String". In this song, though, the verse is the chorus. Here Green slides from clean melody up to scraping screams at the end of his lines, sitting on top of a great signature riff, and you instantly want to hear more of it. Yet the chorus of the song is a more Circa Survive-like dreamy melody, which is ok, that's good too, but here the screaming rummages aimlessly in the background. And that's predominantly what it does on the album at large when it isn't installed in by now genre-typical call/response patterns. The more dynamic back and forth from "Translating The Name" and the intangible feeling that the screams and cleans were echoing each other's emotion have seemingly been out of reach during the band's efforts to merge again.

The result is a quite decent first half, which also makes an impact via "Count Back From TEN" and the unusually bright and rollicking "Second Guesses", but after this impatience starts to set in gradually, however. As mentioned, paying attention to the guitar work frequently yields the impression that things are consistently engaging there, but as the magic we all dreamt of stays noticeably absent from the overall impression, one starts to wonder if the band's approach of writing the music first and only then sending it off to Green for him to try and inject himself into it, is actually going to yield optimal results.

Eventually then, what we have here is an enjoyable record, charismatic enough for Saosin to still stand out even in today's post-hardcore landscape, but not one that makes you well up with all the feelings and energy you had hoped for when you first heard of the reunion taking place. Between them, Saosin's current members have made better works in "Translating The Name" and "Saosin", and in Circa Survive's "Blue Sky Noise" and "On Letting Go" ("Juturna" as well, you could argue), but with that being said "Along The Shadow" does position itself above the rest of their combined discography.

Download: Racing Toward A Red Light, The Silver String, Count Back From Ten
For The Fans Of: Circa Survive, Secret And Whisper, Night Verses, Artifex Pereo

Release date 20.05.2016
Epitaph Records

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