For Fans Of
Silent Planet’s music has always been a part of something bigger; like what you were listening to was only a small piece of the larger world they were offering glimpses into. The American metalcore band immediately invoke these same feelings with the opening track to their third full-length release, ‘When The End Began‘. Opener ‘Thus Spoke‘, is in reference to their two previous records, with vocalist and all-around good bloke Garrett Russell declaring via his hearty roars that “the night God slept, everything was sound”. In the grand scheme of the sounds of Silent Planet, ‘When The End Began‘ certainly arrives as a continuation of their own sonic development. 2014’s debut LP, ‘The Night God Slept‘ was an intensive metalcore record of binaries and duality, of light and shade, of dark and light. After which their 2016 masterpiece, ‘Everything Was Sound‘, explored in greater depth the blurred areas between those binaries – the personal and mental struggles within and without – yet once never surrendered the gripping atmosphere, smooth melodies or the crushing riffs in its beautiful process. ‘When The End Began‘ continues these progressions; literally in the sense that it is continuing the sentence comprised of their album titles, and sonically in that it contains the darkest, murkiest and heaviest material of the group’s career thus far. All the while also somehow placing a far stronger emphasis on melody through the moving vocal pipes of bassist/clean singer, Thomas Freckleton; capturing the band’s new-found four-piece dynamic so well.
Now, is this a major improvement from ‘Everything Was Sound‘? No, I don’t think so. Is this Silent Planet’s best record yet? No, not quite. However, is it still an essential release? Yes! Because even through my own slight disappointment in this realisation, I had to keep reminding myself that the towering standard Silent Planet set themselves and by extension, their listeners, are all far above that of a “normal” band in today’s heavy music climate. For make no mistake, while they may not have matched the dizzyingly ambitious heights of ‘Everything Was Sound‘, Silent Planet have done “it” again: they’ve released the best metalcore album of the current year. (Well, assuming a certain English band don’t prove me wrong in a couple of weeks).
Given how staggering conceptual the lyrical content of their music is, I’d highly recommend diving in and providing yourself with some context to frame your experience; both past albums and the lyrical references and footnotes of these new songs that the band have released. While I’ve done that, I don’t want to merely spew my thoughts and theories onto this platform – that’s for you to either dive into or leave untouched at your own speed. Either way, deep or surface level, the beauty of this album is that you’ll still have a grand listening experience on your hands! It is worth noting, however, that very much like ‘The Night God Slept‘, this is much less a personal affair as it is an examination of humanity, mortal ills, modern society and just how far down the drain our species and world are all headed. Russell has managed to throw in a number of colourings of extremely personal experience and thoughts within, allowing many songs off ‘When The End Began‘ to sit somewhere between the lyrical spectrum of ultra-personal (EWS) and ultra-objective (TNGS). Where you place this LP on that spectrum will depend entirely on how strongly you connect with the issues raised on this album; harrowing drug addiction, war and political deception, consumerism, a loved ones’ memory withering due to time and age, the human condition, and more. I actually think this will make the well-read nature of Russell’s lyrics more palatable for listeners not as in tune or interested with the engagement required to fully appreciate the time and effort that’s clearly been breathed into these words. So for the sake of brevity, gloomy ideas of apocalypse and doomsday (both micro and macro, internal and external) exist across this LP, as does the cyclical nature of epiphany that’s interwoven much more tightly than the thematic content of past records.
There are plenty of highlights musically: the one-two punch of ‘Thus Spoke‘ and ‘The New Eternity‘ open affairs in a fashion akin to what we have come to expect from Silent Planet; swelling from nothing a retrospective intro on what has come before, before exploding into the supernova that catapults us into the rest of the album. It’s immediately clear at this very early stage that this new Silent Planet album is damned heavy; appropriately so given the subject matter. I don’t mean heavy in the popular sense of the word, but seriously dirty and sludgy; dark and weary, like it’s a weight upon your chest. In a single word, immense. Silent Planet has always been a band that falls into the “heavy” category, but that has never been the calling card by which they are known. Basically, there’s a lot more emphasis on heavy themes and instrumentals here: a necessary progression to allow each album to stand out from those around it in the wider Silent Planet discography.
But back to the music itself, there’s that breakdown in ‘The New Eternity‘. Trust me, you’ll know the one! That in conjunction with the fantastic chorus driven along by Freckleton’s grittier vocals are great signifiers for what is to follow. And can I just say how impressed I am with the singing from Freckleton too. For in a scene that seems to be filled to the brim with clean singers who just cannot kill it on stage, a lot of whom seem to play bass too, this band’s Sydney show in support of Make Them Suffer was an absolute showcase for how it’s goddamn done. In the past, I’ve praised Silent Planet’s sparse use of Freckleton’s voice as an example of how to inject heavy music with vocal melody and not come off as generic or over-played. Yet here, his increased presence on this record is definitely a surprising highlight. ‘In Absence‘, almost entirely driven by his wonderful clean singing, is as far Silent Planet have leant towards a straight musical line and is a really refreshing change up. Meaning that when the song reaches its peak and when Russell enters with his own powerful screams, the song unfolds magically. On top of this, the riff-heavy and hard-hitting ‘Northern Fires (Guernica)‘ shows off his ballsy snarl, and ‘Lower Empire‘ (fast becoming one of my favourite Silent Planet tracks ever) makes great, tasteful use of what vocoder-affected vocals. Silent Planet have clearly learnt so much from their time on the road over the years and their time together as a band making music, and that shows in the performances and song-writing here on ‘When The End Began‘.
Two of my favourite tracks by a great distance are ‘Visible Unseen‘ and ‘Vanity of Sleep‘. Both are absolute monsters, and seem to encapsulate what this new era of Silent Planet is all about; the heavier moments are purely ‘shit-yourself heavy’, the choruses are absolutely huge, and the lyrical content feels significantly more urgent. ‘Visible Unseen‘ shows the band really stretching their wings musically, particularly in regards to the wicked guitar work from genius/madman Mitch Stark. This isn’t something that the band have been known for in the past, and have even stated that their not particularly interested in being the best musicians in the scene, but rather crafting a body of the best songs possible. So these guitar antics here are a welcome addition to both ‘Visible Unseen‘ and the record itself; walking a fine line between musical fire and effortless showmanship, never sounding like they are taking a cocky break to say “hey guys, look what we can do”. It just feels natural. ‘Vanity of Sleep‘ is also a contender for my personal standout, partly to do with the music and partly to do with the lyrics. The intro is evocative of ‘Wasteland‘ – which can only be a good thing in my books – but the most impressive thing for me is the way the deliciously sinister mood gets set by the synth-coloured opening, which is then woven throughout the entirety of the track. Lyrically, this is my favourite track too. Between quoting one of my favourite novels, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, referencing previous work from ‘EWS‘, and engaging in Scripture in a way that’s not cherry-picking but actually wrestling with the material and not content to settle into the meaning our current context requires us to see, it’s a bonafide masterpiece of a song.
And hey, outside of a Silent Planet record, it’d be absurd to expect lyrics like of this calibre in most other heavy releases in 2018:
“All we know is all we love, and everything I know is destructible. Artificial heart, obsidian soul: encircled by dreams that are combustible. We trade the Garden for Cities, the Tree for a Tower, surrendered our faith, became addicted to power.”
It’s worth acknowledging that this kind of thing won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s fine. But I froth over this kind of material so hard. To hear a band engaging in a meaningful way with the constructs and culture of consumerism and how it relates to faith in modern society on a metalcore album? Shut up and take my money! And given that said concept is explored in a way that doesn’t feel incomplete over the course of a four-minute song, you can imagine the sheer rewards that can be reaped by doing a full dive into the record, as I have been doing over the last couple of weeks. ‘When The End Began‘ is no doubt a dense listen, and the more you uncover, the more you will understand, and thus the more you will learn. What you get out of a very special album like this what you put into it. Plenty of writers and reviewers will parrot these ideas to you as this record comes closer to release. I’m of the opinion that this is something you need to experience for yourself, in many ways.
lastly, I couldn’t think of a better way to finish off this record than return to the recurring dream sequence that is the “Depths” tracks – this time being ‘Depths III‘, calling lyrical and musical motifs back to part one and part two. Without completely ruling out a fourth entry, Russell has said that this feels like the end. Which seems fitting, given the way this recurring dream slots in perfectly at the conclusion of an album about the recurrence of truth and extinction-level events. Not only does it bring the album back around full circle thematically, but it ties this new body of work into the suite of masterpieces that are steadily growing across the larger Silent Planet discography. If this is potentially the end of the “Depths” series then I’m sure looking forward to the next chapter this closure implies. Or, just maybe, things of this great an importance really do return again and again.
For me, ‘When The End Began’ just doesn’t quite top 2016’s incredible ‘Everything Was Sound’. But that’s not what ‘When The End Began’ ever needed to do. It exists here in 2018 and it has some honest-to-god shit to say and share with any and all who will listen. And you’d do yourself some real good by giving over your time and mind to the powerful music that the four men behind Silent Planet have excellently crafted here. I’m not even concerned about the bias that comes from me reviewing one of my favourite current bands either, as I just love this album too much to care about any of that stuff, quite frankly. Lyrically and musically, this LP is profound, nuanced, heavy, beautiful, layered and confronting, ‘When The End Began’ is not just one of the most important metalcore albums of the year; it’s one of the most important albums of 2018 in general. Do yourself a favour, and take their word for it, not mine; “trade your certainty for awe”.
The New Eternity
Northern Fires (Guernica)
Look Outside: Dream
Vanity of Sleep
Share The Body
Look Inside: Awake
The Anatomy of Time (Babel)
‘When The End Began’ is out November 2nd via UNFD.