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When I first saw that UNFD’s almost-cynical cash grab of ‘Spawn (Again): A Tribute To Silverchair’ was going to be a thing, my first thought was “Man, some of this is going to be quite good and some of this is going to be fucking awful”. And I wasn’t wrong.
Prior to writing this review I actually asked UNFD about how the ten band’s here ended up with their respective Silverchair covers and I was informed by the label that each band chose which song they would cover. Honestly, after hearing this release in full, that explains so much but also raises a few questions. But anyway, for this review, I’m going to start from the bottom of the barrel and work my way up to the good stuff on offer. Let’s get to it.
Kicking off the review and the album itself is The Amity Affliction’s cover of ‘Tomorrow’ and my god, it’s fucking laughable. Whereas this band’s label mates, for the most part, turn the original tracks of these Newcastle grunge/rock icons into their own sound, Amity just water down this much loved Silverchair tune and while faithful, it’s just bloody painful too. Both the plain, plastic-sounding choruses lead by Ahren Stringer and Joel Birch’s lukewarm screams (that are barely present for not even half the song) have zero impact whatsoever, which can also be said for the rest of the song’s instrumentation. Similar to their Lana Del Rey cover of ‘Born To Die‘ and also like their last two albums, this is just a bland, uninspired work that people will still sadly sweat because this is a heavy band covering a non-heavy song. Really, this cover is proof that just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean that you should do it.
Moving on, In Hearts Wake picked out ‘Freak’ as their contribution to this record and holy shit, it’s bad. At least the band is consistent with the quality of this year’s ‘Ark‘. Now, to be fair, it’s not as awful as Amity’s take on ‘Tomorrow’ but it just doesn’t carry any serious weight to it as it comes off as a really cringy attempt. Seriously, I challenge you not to laugh or shake your head when Jake Taylor growls “I’m a freak” and then sensually whispers right afterwards “…of nature“. Apart from accentuating how awful this song’s lyrics actually are and while kinda interesting to hear a heavy take on ‘Freak‘, this is ultimately just another boring metalcore song from a band that’s becoming more and more known for writing boring metalcore songs. Shit, now I’m remembering that IHW once covered Chris Brown – next please!
Faring a little bit better but still sitting within that grey area between ‘stellar’ and ‘shocking’ is Tonight Alive, who not unlike the supposed direction of their upcoming album ‘Underworld‘, deliver a decent take with ‘Without You’, both in musicality and tone. Well, good enough to make me forget about the utter garbage fire that was 2015’s ‘Limitless’. Jesus Christ, I still get flashbacks of that shit. However, with this band’s solid earlier material not leaving the Internet anytime soon and with their recent solid 90’s rock single, ‘Temple‘, indicating that their new 2018 LP is going to be a damn sight better than their last full-length, I just know that I’m going to dispose of and forget about this cover in no time flat.
Likewise, and much like Hands Like Houses original music, the group’s cover of ‘Ana’s Song (Open Fire)’ is just sort of there. Sure, what the band have been doing lately with their own music does work well for this particular ‘Neon Ballroom‘ cut – and it’s a faithful cover, yes – but there’s just no edge, no bite nor any real staying power to it. It’s far from the worst cover on offer here but it just goes in one ear and leaves the other ear not long afterwards. After all, Hands Like Houses are simply the arena rock band who cannot fill arenas. (Although they’re admittedly on their way to doing so after that sold out 170 Russell show, only time will tell if that ever goes any further or any bigger).
So, that’s the bad and the bland out of the way. Alas, we now arrive at the earlier mentioned good stuff.
Upon the announcement of this compilation’s existence, the first piece to be shown off was Northlane’s air-tight cover of ‘Anthem For The Year 2000’, giving good ol’ ‘Neon Ballroom‘ another look in. After spending more time with it, I must say that I actually much prefer this modern version than the original. Mainly because it’s a heavier yet damn faithful update on Silverchair’s original but also because it doesn’t have a cringy “woke” music video about political corruption stating that politicians are mere puppets (“no, wait, really?” he asked sarcastically) and because Marcus Bridge doesn’t make that campy, staring face that old mate Daniel Johns does in the original’s film clip. Which is a fuckin’ godsend.
Now, whichever of the three dudes in Columbus said that they should cover ‘Straight Lines’ for this compilation deserves a gold medal. (This is also the only ‘Young Modern‘ cover present, mind you). Sure, the Brissy pop-punk trio doesn’t upheave the original’s musical foundation but they do provide a true to form, solid cover of one of Silverchair’s later hits in terms of vocal ranges and instrumentation. Elsewhere, The Brave have opted to superbly cover ‘Cemetery’, taken from 1997’s ‘Freak Show‘, whose twenty-year anniversary back in January helped spurn this UNFD roster compilation into life. And look, in all seriousness, this might just be the best song that The Brave have to their name thus far – an all-around solid cover, to be sure.
Void Of Vision’s metalcore sound has always been about short and punchy songs, aggressive vocals, bouncy rhythms and repetitive yet decent riffs. Ergo, the band choosing to create a shorter, heavier cover of ‘Israel’s Son’ was a terrific fit for them. Void have absolutely nailed this cover on all fronts (including that riff) and I cannot fault them for that. Then, on the flip side, Storm The Sky pull off a stunning cover of ‘Emotion Sickness’; creating a dynamic, sprawling, ambient and electronic-tinged composition that’s more akin to last year’s solid ‘Sin Will Find You’ than anything Silverchair. It’s a sweeping, ambitious but also musically interesting cover and one that evolves the original’s emotions and instrumentals to new heights and morphs it into something much larger, much better.
Honestly, the one UNFD band that was always going to feel right at home with doing a Silverchair cover was Ocean Grove because, you know, the grungy Silverchair influences weren’t clear as fuckin’ day on ‘The Rhapsody Tapes‘! Tackling this release’s title track – ‘Spawn (Again)’ – and also truly making it their own in the process, Ocean Grove have created a darker, weirder, at times electronic-focused, but nonetheless tight and aggressive metalcore-grunge crossover; a cover that suits the original, is complimentary of their current sound, where they’ll be going next, and is the real standout here.
Finally, one thing that did slightly lessen my enjoyment of this release at first and is something that I cannot help think about even now, is that the remaining UNFD bands that don’t feature here would’ve done well with a Silverchair song to work with. Due to the time constraints and limited studio time for this release’s production, covers from Hellions and Trophy Eyes do not appear, which is a goddamn shame! (Then again… maybe after that ‘Jesus Of Suburbia‘ cover, missing a Hellions cover is a good thing? Guess we’ll never know). And while I would never expect the wickedly good Cursed Earth to have ever contributed to a cover record of this nature, UNFD’s most recent signees – Shellharbour melodic hardcore sad-lads Easy Life and Newcastle heroes Introvert – would’ve done very well with a Silverchair tune. I’m feeling that ‘Pure Massacre‘ would’ve worked nicely for the former whereas ‘Abuse Me‘ instantly comes to my mind for the latter.
Easy Life and Introvert, if you’re reading this, please record a Silverchair cover and I’ll love you both even more than I currently do. Thanks.
There have been some truly kickass cover songs over the past few years; Cancer Bats’ banging take of ‘Sabotage’, Suicide Silence’s deathcore perspective of ‘Engine No. 9’, Ignite’s brilliant cover of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, Parkway Drive’s awesome metal version of Bad Religion’s ‘Do What You Want’, that Homefront covers LP, and Stray From The Path’s near-perfect rendition of both ‘Back To School’ and ‘Vietnow’. Sadly, when it comes to kickass, memorable cover songs, only half a dozen of these covers actually make a real impact. Six out of ten isn’t quite the worst ratio ever, though. And if you’re a lot more like me, and you do not consider Silverchair’s discography to be an untouchable force, you’re still bound to find some joy and fun in this release… as well as a couple truly painful renditions to wade through.
‘Spawn (Again): A Tribute To Silverchair’ is still ahead of similar compilation records, like the rarely-ever-good Punk Goes Pop albums, or U.K. publication Kerrang!’s continual attempts on such matters, like the abysmal My Chemical Romance and Green Day cover releases from yesteryear. But overall, ‘Spawn (Again)…’ is still not that great. For just like how a couple great songs don’t make an album instantly great, a couple great covers doesn’t automatically make a whole covers album great.
1. The Amity Affliction – Tomorrow
2.Void of Vision – Israel’s Son
3. In Hearts Wake – Freak
4. The Brave – Cemetery
5. Northlane – Anthem For The Year 2000
6. Hands Like Houses – Ana’s Song (Open Fire)
7. Ocean Grove – Spawn (Again)
8. Storm The Sky – Emotion Sickness
9. Tonight Alive – Without You
10. Columbus – Straight Lines
‘Spawn (Again): A Tribute To Silverchair’ is out Friday, November 17th via UNFD.