Review Summary: Although not as heavy as its predecessors, 'The Silver Lining' proves that Earshot haven't missed a beat since their sophomore release four years ago.
Inscribed at the heart of The Silver Lining
's liner notes, Earshot writes: "Fight 'til you drop, never give up, and remember that every dark cloud has a silver lining. There are many that have inspired, enabled, and helped us to endure in trying times... and also helped to shape this work of art of which we are so very proud of. You all have been, and always will continue to be, our silver lining." By no means do I have a Ph.D. in deductive reasoning, but it stands to reason that Earshot have toiled on The Silver Lining
over the past couple years after being dropped from Warner Bros., later inking a deal with InDeGoot/Fontana/Universal. The music industry is inherently cut-throat and unrelenting, but it's reassuring to have allies in your corner through the worst of times - we all have them, and it's important never to lose sight of their importance in our lives.
That said, The Silver Lining
is a record for the fans without all the over-the-top "We wouldn't be who we are without you!" mantras that are issued all-too-often these days, and the question that remains for the casual listener is whether or not Earshot have achieved anything on this record to retain relevance in active rock today, especially considering Shinedown
, and Sevendust
have all released memorable records this summer. Nearly every Earshot review on Sputnikmusic prior to this review has mentioned how Earshot's "Wait" (from 2004's Two
and arguably Earshot's most-recognized song to date) was featured on Madden, while "Headstrong" and "Get Away" (from their debut Letting Go
) achieved similar success, so another issue to investigate is if there are any tracks that have the staying power of a "Get Away," or, more ideally, a "Wait."
The short answer to the two aforementioned questions is yes and yes, albeit not overwhelmingly resounding ones. However, some concessions can be made here: four years after their sophomore release, it sounds like Earshot haven't missed a beat, exhibiting little-to-no rust. The band's trademark crunching guitars and bellicose percussion are omnipresent on the record, and frontman Wil Martin's signature vocals resonate with impeccable clarity. Early in the band's career, Martin was compared to a younger Maynard James Keenan, but the comparison has been rendered obsolete and Earshot's instrumentation falls far short of anything Tool
or A Perfect Circle
would expect to write. While not entirely a derivative, paint-by-numbers approach, the Earshot formula of explosive intro to palm-muted verses to anthemic chorus (and so on) further rebukes that assertion. In this regard, it's either an argument for consistency or an argument for repetition - take your pick - but what should convince listeners to side with the consistency theory is Earshot's ability to consistently generate a slew of hook-laden tracks for nearly a decade.
The most notable sound change from the band's two preceding albums to The Silver Lining
is the overall more down-tempo speeds the band plays on this record. While far from elegiac and not even close to 140bpm, the album's moderate feel emphasizes and highlights the band's sense of melody while sacrificing previous conceptions that Earshot are a [nu-]metal act. This shift in sound is depicted right from the get-go with album opener "Closer," which simultaneously passes the Jom's Rule About Opening Tracks (i.e., "An album's opening track must set the tone for the album; a weak opener will always lead to a weak album overall, while a solid opener more often than not leads to a solid record") with flying colors. A swift drum fill leads right to one of the band's heralded boisterous guitar intros, which quickly drops to the expected palm-muted verses, as Martin sings, "Hopelessly, silently, I want you to set me free . . . selfishly, carelessly, you thought you could rescue me . . . I can't explain why I feel so strange." Martin continues similar lyricism throughout the track, but "Closer" does not hit its true apex until the bridge and Martin's highest vocal offering in the outro.
If not "Closer," then "MisSunderstood" is The Silver Lining
's "Wait" or "Get Away." The album's lead single has all the elements of a successful radio cut: a catchy vocal hook (the juxtaposition between the spoken and sung vocals in the chorus is a stroke of brilliance to an already-beautiful track), a main guitar riff and lead line that has lasting appeal, and infectious drumming that sets the song's pulse. "Wipe away your tears, put away your pain tonight, run away until you finally see the light," beckons Martin, before continuing: "Sing a song with me, hush the quiet scream inside / See the world through different eyes, hear no more the sound of lies . . . Hear the cold wind blow outside, try to feel the warmth inside / Etch the faces and the words into your mind / As she gently weeps, surface the secrets that she keeps / Like a thief into the night, a love so wrong but right." Reportedly about a girl who moves out to Hollywood but finds herself getting caught up in bad relationships and even worse luck, Martin unfurls a somber, yet impressive story.
Two other memorable cuts include "More Than I Ever Wanted" and album closer "Go." The former is arguably the album's fastest cut with bassist Johnny Sprague and the dual guitar attack ripping out a blistering introduction, which is immediately followed by intense double bass and slick tremolo picking. Martin picks an excellent track to conclude on, delivering one of his best vocal and lyrical performances on The Silver Lining
. Sprague, Arnold, Martin, and the session drummer collectively deliver an excellent performance, with Sprague's captivating basslines and the thick, pounding percussion elevating Martin's vocals and Travis Arnold's guitars high into the mix.
The band does bounce back to nu-metal vibes with the dreadful "Wasted" and its difficult-to-sit-through verses, the haphazardly-plodding "Beside Myself" and "I Hate You," which never seem to establish a concrete direction once throughout their runtimes, and the not-as-irritating "Don't Hate Me," complete with the stereotypical angst-ridden lyrics such as "I've got a fire inside from all your bullshit
and lies and all your efforts to break me" and "Don't hate me when you're feeling alone, don't hate me 'cause I've got something you don't, don't hate me when you freak out." The guitars are again very thick and, aside from the cringe-worthy lyrics, the song emanates a distinct sing-along quality to complement the soaring guitars, squealing pinch harmonics, pounding percussion, and vibraslap additions. The track's effect-laden solo, led by the persistently-stellar Arnold, is unabashedly loud and a tremendous addition to the track.
While certainly not flawless, The Silver Lining
is Earshot's manifestation of nearly four years of hard work and dedication to their loyal fanbase. Label and band line-up changes aside, The Silver Lining
is overall a great listen: the record offers a glimpse of rock done very well (as heard in "Closer," "MisSunderstood," "More Than I Ever Wanted," and "Go") as well as an earful of how nu-metal's elementary lyricism and instrumentation will probably never die (look no further than "Wasted," "I Hate You," and "Beside Myself"). The array of session drummers Martin, Arnold, and Sprague included into the fold is not a distraction, as the drumming is consistently resolute, meshes well with the guitars and vocals, and provides ample pulse to a number of The Silver Lining
's tracks along with Sprague. Martin's vocals sound as if they've transcended time - sounding just as he did years before - and his impassioned upper-register vocals are a true highlight. The record is well-mixed and its production excellent; overall, Earshot's junior effort doesn't break any new foundation (and there are some easily-skippable tracks here), but choice cuts like "Closer" and "MisSunderstood" and the genre-bending "More Than I Ever Wanted" cement the band's deserved standing among the distinguished in the active rock community.
More Than I Ever Wanted
Don't Hate Me