Saosin – Along the Shadow Review

Final version of this review available here.

For Millennials, the term “comeback album” has taken on a different connotation than it holds for older generations of fans. In an increasingly fast-paced industry, the elapsed time required to peg any release a “comeback” has shrunk exponentially. After the multiplatinum 1984, Generation X and the latter portion of the Baby Boomers had to wait 28 years to hear another Van Halen studio effort with David Lee Roth. Ace Frehley of Kiss took 20 years to follow up his 1989 solo record Trouble Walkin’ with Anomaly in 2009. Meanwhile, in the 2000s, fans of the Yellowcard or the Backstreet Boys had to sit patiently through excruciating two-year hiatuses before both bands emerged with triumphant “comebacks” (2011’s When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes and 2005’s Never Gone, respectively).

So whether or not Along the Shadow – Saosin’s third full-length LP and first after years of speculation regarding the band’s future – is a “comeback” album is up for debate. It’s perhaps a fitting term for vocalist Anthony Green, who rejoined the band in 2014 over ten years after he was initially replaced by Cove Reber. But musically, Along the Shadow presents itself instead as a distinct third era for one of the few bands still standing after the mid-2000s emo explosion.

Along the Shadow finds the California post-hardcore act pooling together a breadth of influences for a dynamic yet focused affair. The flailing hardcore punk agita of “The Secret Meaning of Freedom” instantly establishes itself as one of the most aggressive cuts in Saosin’s catalogue, even when taking a slight breather towards the end. Elsewhere, hints of Sing the Sorrow-era AFI are all over these 40 minutes, especially on the stellar “Ideology is Theft”.

Then there are the LP’s thinly veiled nods to Metal, which shouldn’t be all too shocking to fans that have been with the band since 2003’s Translating the Name EP, which snuck in some metallic worship in its final minute (the latter half of “They Perched on Their Stilts”). 13 years later, the sludgy intro to “Old Friends” is pure Black Sabbath, while sugary Iron Maiden-style guitar harmonies close out “Control and the Urge to Pray”. Along the Shadow features a more muscular and less neutered guitar tone than the solid but underwhelming In Search of Solid Ground, allowing these passages their proper crunch.

Green pounces on this varied musical bed by alternating between a piercing screech and a more polished croon. The somber “Sore Distress” gives the latter center stage, with Green overwhelmed by his own despondency as he sings lyrics like “Your voice is unforgiving/this feeling’s eating me alive”. On “The Secret Meaning of Freedom”, he swaps the two vocal approaches in and out constantly, and on “Old Friends” uses them simultaneously in a twisted layering.

At its worst, Along the Shadow can be merely inoffensively dull. “Racing Toward a Red Light” finds its forgettable refrain whizzing by without a trace, upstaged by a melodic bridge that is more attention-grabbing than the song’s main course. “The Stutter Says a Lot” suffers from similar faults. The trite “Second Guesses” completes a trifecta of misses, drenched in an excessive vocal harmony assault that leaves it feeling claustrophobic.

But these brief lows are compensated for by “Ideology is Theft”, “Count Back from Ten”, and the closing one-two punch of “Illusion and Control” and “Control and the Urge to Pray”, all outstanding justifications for the hype train behind the LP. In addition to Green’s strongest singing on all of Along the Shadow, the infectious guitar riff in the “Ideology is Theft” chorus makes the song immediately satisfying. “Count Back from Ten” is reminiscent of the band’s excellent self-titled debut, except its apex is a commanding harmonized guitar bridge that could wander its way onto a New Wave of American Heavy Metal album by the likes of Avenged Sevenfold or Trivium. Finally, “Illusion and Control” and “Control and the Urge to Pray” conclude the record with tight and compact embodiments of Saosin circa 2016.

Along the Shadow successfully revives the shining bullet points on Saosin’s resume and builds on them with vigorous performances, inspired songwriting, and a touch more aggression. It maintains its integrity while successfully adapting to a musical landscape ten years beyond its style’s heyday.

 

 

May 2016 Album Round Up!

Here it is everybody! Below is a recap of ten releases from this past month that I was checking out. I fucking finished college while these albums were dropping…so I’m finally free to allocate more precious brainpower for passions like this! Looking ahead, I’m incredibly psyched for the avalanche of big records dropping this coming month. Stay tuned for reviews, rants, and one of my personal favorite endeavors, mid-year lists!

(PS: I did not include Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool here because I STILL haven’t wrapped my head around it. I’m not going to disingenuously hurry my thoughts in the absence of a firm verdict.)

The Concrete Confessional – Hatebreed

Hatebreed’s seventh album is a solid offering, with crushing modern classics like “A.D.”, “Remember When”, “Seven Enemies”, “Serve Your Masters” and the near-perfect “Something’s Off”. For much of the LP, Jamey Jasta veers away from the typical Hatebreed optimism and dives into some dark and confrontational subject matter, which adds substantial muscle and does wonders for the album’s vicious aesthetic. Unfortunately, there are three or four fillers weighing the track list down. But overall, diehards will be stoked. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED

Misadventures – Pierce the Veil

I went into this one completely cold. Sure, Pierce the Veil is a name I’ve heard tossed around a fair amount. But I’ve never heard a note of their music. Given that I haven’t loved a post-hardcore record in quite a while, it was time to take a crack at something like Misadventures. And my God am I glad I did. These 11 tracks feature fantastically written hooks and tight, reasonably heterogeneous compositions. It’s an efficient 44 minutes, whether it’s the explosive pop-punk of “Circles”, the thumping midtempo of “Bedless”, or doses of Metal on “Dive In”. A worthy successor to genre benchmarks like AFI’s Sing the Sorrow, yet revitalized for 2016. RECOMMENDED

At Night, Alone. – Mike Posner

This was so fucking frustrating. Not only did Posner have a stellar pop smash on his hands with Seeb’s remix of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”, but I was 100 percent on board with the concept of At Night, Alone. “Maybe this’ll be another Man on the Moon type album,” I thought to myself gleefully. And the first four tracks suggest that – the subdued version of “Ibiza” is great, with an additional third verse that rounds the song out, and “Be as You Are” is some sweet mother-son bonding. But all that is quickly ruined by the stomping “Silence”, the acapella “Only God Knows”, and the bouncy “Jade”, all of which completely disrupt the mood of the LP. I can barely listen to these songs at all, much less at night alone. Posner is talented, and I still believe in him, but At Night, Alone failed to commit to and execute its theme. NOT RECOMMENDED

Top of the Line – Rittz

“Third time’s the charm,” says Georgia double-time spitter Rittz on the opener to album number three. The standard edition of Top of the Line clocks in at just under 75 minutes, but it’s remarkably consistent despite its lengthy run time. A workhorse, the Strange Music signee and Yelawolf protégé is incredibly meticulous with his bars, making for a rewarding listen for lyricism purists. The LP is often deeply and heartbreakingly personal, addressing fun and bubbly topics like infidelity, drug addiction, and suicide. Rittz isn’t afraid to give the white rapper perspective on racial tension on “Until We Meet Again”, and delivers plenty of jaded rhymes against an industry full of “a bunch of wanna-be Futures”. His execution of his own melodic hooks is also as sharp as ever. People need to wake the fuck up and support awesome Hip-Hop like this. Seriously, shame on Complex for not even reviewing this. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Dangerous Woman – Ariana Grande

In the months since Carly Rae Jepsen released the unexpectedly phenomenal Emotion last August, I’ve been on the hunt for another bubbly Pop album to shamelessly enjoy. I never thought it would come from the somewhat vanilla Ariana Grande, but I’ll take it! Her third LP is full of slick smashes that show just enough teeth. Particularly recommended are the roaring title track, the smooth “Sometimes”, and sensual numbers like “Into You” and “Let Me Love You”. Even Nicki Minaj, who I am not a fan of, delivers an attention-grabbing verse on “Side to Side”. The second half of the LP does peter out slightly, but Dangerous Woman is one of the best Pop releases of 2016 thus far. RECOMMENDED

Terminal Redux – Vektor

If you’re a Thrash guy but you need a little less ‘80s rehashing and a little more forward thinking to keep you interested, this band’s first two records should’ve caught your ears. But Terminal Redux, their third, should fucking floor you. It’s a concept record that’s as intricate and crushing as any Metal release in 2016. I’ve got a feeling this one’s gonna mosey its way into the “album of the year” conversation. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Ripcord – Keith Urban

Bleghhh. First, I’ll give serious kudos to the track “The Fighter”, an awesome duet with Carrie Underwood, and “Wasted Time”, a decent nostalgia trip. And I enjoyed other moments on here. But this watered-down Pop Country stuff takes years off of my life. And even though Ripcord is definitely listenable compared to its contemporaries, Country music needs more Sturgill Simpsons and less Luke Bryans. NOT RECOMMENDED

Trust No One – Devildriver

Let me begin on a positive note. “Daybreak”, “Testimony of Truth”, and “My Night Sky” are kick ass Metal songs. And if I heard this in 2009 (a.k.a. Pray for Villains, a record I dug the shit out of), I might feel differently. But there’s nothing on here that hasn’t already been done by now-defunct bands like As I Lay Dying and Chimaira, and this redundancy leaves me indifferent to Trust No One. Dez Fafara’s lack of range as a vocalist also grows monotonous as the album drones along, and his occasional Nu-Metalish lyricism on songs like the title track and “Above It All” is a turn off as well. Look, don’t get me wrong, Devildriver are a ripping band. And if you’re looking for another balls-out 21st Century American Metal record, give Trust No One a spin. But personally, I feel I have elsewhere to turn. NOT RECOMMENDED

Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper

Man, I was taken aback watching the hype for Chance’s third project reach the level of insanity it did. At this point when he drops music, the Chi-town indie sensation gets the same frenzied response that Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Beyonce get. And only off of two – now three – mixtapes. It’s remarkable. Chance has enjoyed universal acclaim for Coloring Book so I’m not gonna be another blogger shoving it down your throat. Give it a listen and enjoy it at whatever level it speaks to you. Oh, and check out my throwback review of his debut. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Cloud Nine – Kygo

Frequent readers may be aware that I don’t know shit about EDM. But if an album crosses my path, I’ll give it a casual chance. Numerous times I’ve been enamored by what I’ve heard, as with Madeon’s Adventure and Porter Robinson’s Worlds (and stuff like Tiesto’s Elements of Life if we’re reaching back a ways). This Kygo album is NOT one of those times. It might have several decent bangers like “Stole the Show”, “Raging”, and the over-a-year-old “Firestone”, but that’s where its merits abruptly end. Just listen to the giant, cheeseball hook on “Raging”. Or that piece of shit “Happy Birthday”. Borderline offensive. This is by-the-numbers nonsense that makes me wanna head straight for the zoo and leap into the gorilla cage like that dumb little kid did. NOT RECOMMENDED