2017 has seen some shit, my friend. From the stellar to the strange, the landscape for heavy music this year has run the full gamut and we’re not even through our third month.
Apart from some great releases from Code Orange, Iron Reagan, Kreator and Power Trip, we’ve also seen the likes of Emmure, Six Feet Under and Sepultura drop hohum albums that neither add nor detract to their respective legacies (In the case of the Emmure, the term “legacy” is used loosely. This is, after all, a band that dropped a song called ‘Bring A Gun To School’.)
Included in this pack of new entrants to the 2017 Metal Pool For Your Listener Consideration is Suicide Silence’s fifth full-length (and second with singer Eddie Hermida), aptly named… Suicide Silence.
The pre-album release of the song ‘Doris‘ indicated a definite shift away from the general chugga-chugga that defines this deathcore band. The backlash from their fanbase was immediate; the off-key vocals on the chorus and the tempo of the song weren’t kvlt enough for the diehards. The band doubled down on their defence of the track (and ergo the album) through the press, and release day was a true day of reckoning for the band. The album has sold less than its predecessor – first-week sales were down 69% compared to 2014’s You Can’t Stop Me.
I profess that Suicide Silence is not a band I actively listen to – I’ve largely stayed away from the band over the last decade or so – barring the occasional detour into Youtube search territory to hear tracks like ‘Witness The Addiction‘, their 2011 collaboration with Jon Davis (of Korn) off of The Black Crown, which also had the creatively-titled ‘Fuck Everything‘ and ‘You Only Live Once‘ on the tracklist.
I first became aware of their presence due to the proliferation of scene kids wearing their (in)famous “Pull The Trigger Bitch” shirt in the late ‘00s. (Amusing sidenote: The best associated Internet Thing™ I’ve seen about this shirt is an old thread over at the Ultimate Guitar forums where a poster asks if it’s illegal to wear the shirt due to “I don’t want cops or anything to think it’s supporting Terrorists for any reason.”) This sort of merch is certainly eye-grabbing and visceral, but also a turn-off to anyone over the age of 16.
With that out of the way, back to our regularly-scheduled review. Recorded by nu-metal godfather Ross Robinson to analog tape, the album’s got a lot of surprises to it that stray from the deathcore norm. Decidedly, two of the biggest of these surprises: 1) Hermida’s decision to go for clean singing all over the place and 2) the lack of proper song structure, choosing to go with emotion over order. The second point is the album’s largest upside, while the first point is decidedly its biggest weak point. I understand that Hermida feels a desire to better express himself through other forms of singing and were he a better classically-trained singer then I could definitely appreciate what he’s trying to do. Instead, his (mostly) on-key singing displays a punk-like DIY attitude to it. While I can mostly respect the ‘Can Do’ attitude, it doesn’t mean that I have to cotton to its actual performance.
Apart from the aforementioned singing, the album’s instrumentation most liberally borrows from metalish projects that were popular 15-20 years ago – the song ‘Listen’ has guitar tones that wouldn’t be out of place on Korn’s 1996 outing Life Is Peachy. The bass tone also pays strict homage in this respect: ‘Run‘ and ‘The Zero‘ display Fieldy-like touches.
The band also borrow liberally from another prior Robinson project: the merry masked men of Slipknot. Suicide Silence’s ability to mimic latter-day ‘knot (oh yes I did indeed do that) on tracks like ‘Conformity’ does indeed distance themselves from the deathcore pack – it includes an honest-to-goodness reverbed out guitar solo and ample clean vocals.
Some have argued that this band is aiming for the rock radio brass ring; while some of these tracks could do well there, they’re definitely not positioning themselves as the new Five Finger Death Punch – the material is almost too obtuse to be considered for playlisting.
Music listeners are often great examples of walking contradictions: they often want bands to break out of their genre boxes and explore new avenues but when an act does decide to do that then they take to their keyboards in all caps protestation through comment sections across the web.
It’s not a coincidence that the band has decided to self-title this album; it certainly is a new beginning of sorts. Consider this as Suicide Silence growing up, begrudgingly. Listening to it is certainly an adventure and has features that their previous albums do not share. It’s certainly worth at least one full listen to before passing judgment on whether this is career suicide or a hidden masterpiece.