Review Summary: "Diversity really drives this concept album and keeps the music interesting and the story relevant."
After their 2007 release, Arrivals and Departures, Silverstein seemed to have lost focus. It was not well received by fans and the band alike. Lead singer, Shane Told, even admitted that their recording experience was subpar, one of the main reasons why they returned to Cameron Webb, producer of the successful Discovering the Waterfront. It seems as if the band made the right decision as a Shipwreck in the Sand is by far their greatest release to date. The record improves on every single aspect of all of their previous efforts. Diversity really drives this concept album and keeps music interesting and the story relevant. The story itself is easily the weakest part of the album, but that certainly isn't a bad thing. It is not clever by any means as it deals with all the themes (love, loss, and deceit) of a typical Silverstein record. However, it is easy to understand and follow unlike many other concept albums by other artists.
A Shipwreck in the Sand kicks off with "A Great Fire" which proves to be the perfect intro with a heavy verse and a soaring chorus. Shane's voice is accompanied by an eloquent guitar riff as he sings, "I can see through the flames that the fire cleanses me / Mind and soul now the same and my body guides the way." Right away you get a good feeling about what's to come as this song outdoes any and all of their previous works. The album continues with its first single, "Vices" which starts with a gripping drum intro leading into a distorted guitar lick. Shane quickly comes in screaming with the verse and jumps back and forth between his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vocals. This is an effective approach as it leads into a catchy chorus, "Throw it back behind my lips the pain is gone / Line’em up and knock'em down the night goes on..." After the first verse deals with the main character hearing his wife with another man, the second verse is centered on his own temptations of being unfaithful. The breakdown has so much energy and anger as Liam Cormier (Cancer Bats) lends his voice in helping Shane sing, "I'm not coming home tonight I'd rather sleep on the street / I'm not coming home to you I won't sleep with the devil."
The next song "Broken Stars" is almost too generic and doesn't seem to advance the storyline. It has a decent breakdown which closes out the song but other than that there's nothing special to report about here. "Broken Stars" is followed by "American Dream" which begins slowly and the verse is driven by a fitting bass line. The lyrics here are simplistic and somewhat childish but it still works with a sparkling chorus and a brilliant complexion of high note hammer-ons similar to "A Great Fire." The song truly comes to life, however, during the bridge when Shane sings, "My American dream wasn't ever to lie, steal, and cheat." Here we get a glimpse of another theme that Silverstein has never tackled before and the band digs deeper into the political realm later on.
"I Knew I Couldn't Trust You" comes after a short transition and the main character immediately attacks his best friend and Shane shows that he can write meaningful lyrics. "Thrill don't mix with reason and cheating's ultimate treason / And I can see through you like glass, slither below the grass / Garden of Eden burning, forbidden fruit you won't discern it." The next number "Born Dead" gives the feeling of a hardcore atmosphere especially with the addition of Scott Wade (Comeback Kid) trading lines with Shane. Silverstein does an excellent job here with a politically driven anthem which attacks America's health care and insurance system. "You call this a privilege / No I call it a right / There's no respect for life, no compromise, coverage denied." Both fast-paced and to the point "Born Dead" is one of my favorites on the album.
The song entitled "A Shipwreck in the Sand" takes a break from the main story and serves an allegory for the rest of the story. This could never prepare you for what is to come in the next track called "I Am the Arsonist." It opens with a blazing riff of tremolo picking and goes into one of Shane's familiar screaming verses. The chorus then rises above everything else and Shane's voice sounds better than ever. The metal influence is shown throughout this song and the perfectly layered breakdown is the highlight of the entire album. Right after the heaviest song on the album comes a much softer one that can easily grab the listener's attention. The main character is preparing to lose the most important thing in his life, his daughter. Yet another catchy chorus and beautiful melody make “You’re All I Have” an easy choice for a future single. The lyrics are also noteworthy because you can feel the passion in every word that Shane sings throughout the song. It ends with another fantastically layered bridge and breakdown that you will have trouble not singing along to.
The setting of "We Are Not the World" is inside a court room where the main character's wife is accusing him of being crazy and attempting to take custody of their daughter. The second verse takes another stab at the American government. "We fight for billionaires who bomb our city streets / Divide the youth for corporate greed, here's to the propaganda / And then they take your life away." The next song "A Hero Loses Everyday" shows the main character losing his wits and finally ending his life. The band gives the listener no choice but to sympathize with what they call the "protagonist" in this one. Very well done.
Finally the album concludes with "The End" which is mostly acoustic. Once again Shane's voice sounds wonderful but he is topped by Canadian singer Lights who contributes to this duet. Here we finally get to hear a direct conversation between the main character and his wife as they reflect on everything that has happened. It took a few listens but this one has really grown on me and serves as a great finale to this superb record.
While Silverstein is far from weeding out all of its flaws they have delivered a record that they should be very proud of to say the least. I would recommend this album to anyone who can handle some screaming as Silverstein never force it on this album. The screams only add to the music and never detract from it. This Canadian five some have proven their worth and will hopefully be around for the long run.