Review Summary: Evidently broken is easily fixed.
Pretentious, disastrous and insensible are all adjectives with one thing in common: they were expected to summarize Silverstein’s latest record. If their last effort (or lack thereof) was any indication, the Canadian five-piece was no longer able to consistently craft quality songs and was low on new ideas. While the group was once considered to be a front runner in their genre, Arrivals and Departures saw the group slipping from the top. Two years later, the screamo genre is so dead that the word can actually be typed and read without being followed by the gritting of teeth and the cringing of the face. When Silverstein revealed that their fourth record would be a concept record and released the story it was telling, it seemed like a band desperately trying to stay relevant. A Shipwreck In The Sand
was supposed to absolutely suck; and evidently Silverstein missed the memo.
After a brief piano introduction and a thunderous instrumental opening, “A Great Fire” makes no mistake in turning feelings of potential apathy into fascination. It becomes crystal clear that Silverstein has found their niche once again and seems to be firing on all cylinders. These preliminary thoughts end up holding true, as the group has come correct in nearly every aspect of their sound. The opener displays a pummeling verse progression, an emotionally charged pre-chorus and a soaring chorus with a pleasant guitar melody compliment. The quieter bridge flows seamlessly into it all, marking a much improved aspect of the group and establishing a sensible array of melody and aggression. In “I Knew I Couldn’t Trust You” the group effectively brings the nostalgic factor into play, taking a poppier approach throughout the majority of the song. The upbeat verses, the melody rich chorus and the heavier bridge serves as a reminder as to why many fell in love with the group. A subtle switch up between the bridge and final chorus shows a slight break from the conventional structure persistently [ab]used by the group in the past, as they deliver a memorable and single-worthy performance.
Those both expecting and anticipating the heavier portions of the record are unlikely to be disappointed. Both “Vices” and “Born Dead” feature guest vocalists Liam Cormier (Cancer Bats) and Scott Wade (ex-Comeback Kid), respectfully. As advertised, the tracks feature some of the heavier moments on the record. The aforementioned delivers a blend of hardcore progressions and riffing throughout the verses and an intense chord driven bridge, yet still manages to tastefully utilize melodic bursts in the choruses. The latter track is a relentless display of their punk influences, presented in a fast tempo and high energy manner. Vocalist Shane Told and Wade rotate lines throughout the majority of the song, keeping the oomph factor at a constant peak throughout the song. The brief gang vocals are a welcomed add-on, further showcase Silverstein’s punk influences. Despite these punk influences dominating the group’s heavy moments in the past, they embrace a more metallic style with “I Am The Arsonist.” The tremolo picked intro suggests a noticeably heavier sound, which the track is filled with. Plenty of the riffs displayed wouldn’t sound out of place on a mid-90s melodic death metal record. The track is topped off with a rare breakdown, marking one of the group’s heaviest songs in their discography.
Even with one of the better displays and performances of their poppy and aggressive elements, the make-or-break factor of A Shipwreck In The Sand
was without question the execution of its concept. The 14-track record is divided into four chapters, each telling a different piece of the puzzle. From a musical standpoint the shifts in chapters are incredibly evident. “American Dream” introduces a noticeably softer in opening the second chapter while the transition into “We Are Not The World” and its dramatic introduction into the final chapter reveal that the end is approaching. Lyrically speaking the topics have a broad range from personal battles and shortcomings, to worldly struggles and political snit bits. Told’s lyrics by no means have turned into poetry and are still at times plagued by some childish rhyming patterns and lines. Nevertheless, they are fitting for the concept and are by no means the biggest downfall of it. That honor belongs to the collective efforts of the band for trying a bit too hard to incorporate the concept into the record. While the two interludes are spread far enough apart and transition well in their respective sections of the record, a spoken monologue opening the self-titled track simply tries too hard. The [in]famous storyline revealed on the group’s website prior to the record’s release is quoted word-for-word atop of an ambient section. Like the majority of the song, it aims to be dramatic and ends up cheesy, forced and, ultimately, unnecessary. Needless to say, this being the biggest complaint with the record would imply that things are in rather good shape.
Thankfully and surprisingly that is the case, as Silverstein has had a full pull and returned to proper form. Following their most disappointing release to date, the group laid out the biggest challenge of their musical career and has surpassed expectations with it. There are lyrical faults; there are conceptual faults; and there are musical faults; as expected. There are also triumphs which make up the bulk of the record. A rather persistent and superb combination of heavy and melodic sections, improved song construction and memorable hooks all contribute to a strong release from the Canadian quintet. Throughout their career Silverstein has never strayed very far away from their initial path. In a genre dominated by trends and flavor-of-the-year sub-genre labels, they have stayed both straightforward and honest; they have remained comfortable with themselves and with their sound. Four albums into their career, A Shipwreck In The Sand
displays these characteristics in an unmistakable manner and shows that despite belonging to a dying genre, Silverstein still has life in them.