Review Summary: Silent Civilian get a solid line-up, but they still have some problems to work on.
Imagine the surprise of critics when Silent Civilian’s 2006 debut, Rebirth of the Temple
, was not just another harsh-to-melodic-barf emo-core offering, and when Jonny Santos proved that his choice to leave Spineshank
’s grammy-nominated industrial safe haven in 2004 was, indeed, not actually a foolish one. Yes, to say that the album caught many off guard would be quite true – and boy, did you check out the guy’s guitar playing on that album? His cited Kreator and Testament influences were certainly prevalent throughout, to say the least; thrash-y verses synced into the more traditional modern-day melodic-metalcore clean choruses with ease, and in the bridges of the debut’s songs, Santos showed his more-than-capable fret wizardly, a display of skill that listeners apparently didn’t get to hear all that much in his days with Spineshank
. Despite frequent line-up changes, record labels givings of the cold shoulder, and he having to write the majority of the album’s material by himself – 90%, to be exact – Santos was able to defy the skeptics with a debut that rivaled the best of his nu-metal/industrial past.
And now Silent Civilian intend to better Rebirth of the Temple
with this year’s Ghost Stories
, an album that Santos says is “much more violent
” and will “sonically beat the shit out of the listener without losing their interest
.” As Ghost Stories
goes through its course, though, that promise becomes debatable, as what is presented here instrumentally is much more melodic, and even more commercial, than what was thrashed across in Rebirth of the Temple
. Lyrically, however, I wouldn’t argue with the front man for a second: in the album’s opener, Santos howls in a grizzly breakdown, “The blood will flow in the streets again!
” And fast forwarding to the end of the album in the undeniably angst-y “The Gift (Feeding Time),” Santos throws all the problems of the last four years at an unfortunate other: “Fuck your pride / . . . No apologies / You will die today!
” These kinds of reckless pronouncements ruin a bit of the fun on Ghost Stories
, I must say; and it’s lines like those that make me think that Santos is beginning to miss the days with his old nu-metal buddies a bit too much.
Structurally, despite a now solid band line-up that Santos says that “act and work together like brothers
,” a number of Ghost Stories
’ songs run into a few rough transitions as they play through their harsh-to-syrupy melodic soloing sides. “The Pheonix” is the main offender here: beginning on this chugga-chugga riffing, the song cuts to a competent thrash-y verse, then goes back again to playing chugga-chugga, unexpectantly stumbles into a clean chorus – wash, rinse, and repeat – and then a freakin’ chainsaw solo ensues! The varying elements to the track aren’t the problem, certainly not; it’s how Silent Civilian just can’t seem to be able to keep it all from sounding like a discordant, frivolous mess is what hurts things. Chalk such numbers as the title track, “Murder One”, and closer “The Gift (Feeding Time)” into the same tumultuously rocking boat, and you clearly have a problem. Shame, too, as the melodic Killswitch Engage
-esque “Atonement” and Santos-named personal favorite “Cast The First Stone” are indeed evidence that the Silent Civilian can get their deck together and play a truly great game of melodic metalcore, rivaling the likes of the best of the cleanly sung breakdown-brick-laying crews.
So it’s not exactly true to say that Ghost Stories
fully delivers on the promises of Silent Civilian’s 2006 debut, but neither is it right to say that it fully disappoints either. The classic thrash influences still ring clear here within Santos and new guitarist David Delacruz’s doings, and the catchy melodies still reside, now more so than ever, in a number of the tracks, further benefitting from Santos’ likable and varied harsh and clean deliveries. There are definitely still some kinks to work out, though – mainly the lyrics and the awkward song structures – but a few of these problems can be reasonably understood, given the fact that a couple of these Los Angeles guys just arrived to Silent Civilian last year. Give them some touring and more experience with each other as a band, and Silent Civilian will truly be a great melodic metalcore force to look out for - and God knows we need
more of those in this particular neck of the breakdown!