Beginning life as a mix of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, each of Silverchair’s albums was a stepping stone in the band’s slow departure from the sound on their dark, grungy debut to becoming much more pop driven and experimental. The band’s fourth album, Diorama, was their most musically adventurous and artistically diverse album to date and expressed the biggest change in style between albums in the band’s catalogue. Neon Ballroom, which preceded Diorama, although much more experimental than the band’s first two albums, still contained a good deal of grunge influence and the band seemed to have trouble developing a complete musical identity for much of the album. However, on Diorama, Silverchair have left almost all of their roots behind them and have developed their sound to the most complete it has ever been.
For Diorama, guitarist, singer, and chief songwriter, Daniel Johns, began writing most of his material on the piano, which made for a much less guitar focused album than the band’s past efforts. The album contains a wide range of instruments, with almost all of the songs being accompanied by a full orchestra. The band demonstrates this right out of the gate with Across The Night. Starting with just Johns’ voice and harpsichord, the song explodes into a wall brass and strings, which would turn out to be a great preview of what the album has to offer.
Daniel Johns’ singing contributes just as much to the albums overall sound as the instrumentation. Instead of growling along with dark, heavy guitars as in earlier albums, he sings with a much softer, more tuneful head voice and high, delicate falsettos that add to the albums light and theatrical feel. He displays much more range and confidence this time around and his ability as a vocalist has grown substantially to make for one of the strongest elements of the album.
While most of the album consists of dramatic orchestral pop rock, a small handful of songs offer a bit of a departure from the rest of the album. The Lever and One Way Mule bring back some of the band’s grunge sound and are characterized by heavy guitar riffing and a much rougher, growled vocal performance. However, the two songs are much cleaner than the bands early material and Johns’ vocal improvement is still vastly apparent. Without You, though not grunge sounding like the other two black sheep, is still dissimilar from the rest of the album with its wall of sound guitars and being one of the few songs lacking an orchestral accompaniment.
The dramatic, acoustic guitar driven Tuna in The Brine makes for a fantastic centerpiece, easily being one of the best songs on the album and a great showcase of Silverchair’s new sound. Tuna is darker and more subdued than most of the other songs on the album. The song swells and falls expertly with sweeping horns and woodwinds and is filled to the brim with thought provoking lyrics, and haunting vocals.
With Diorama, Silverchair have crafted an incredible work of art. The band combines fantastic orchestral arrangements complete with horns and woodwinds, catchy alternative rock, great vocal performance, and introspective lyrics to form an ambitious musical adventure that is unlike anything like they have done before.