Review Summary: For the most part it's business as usual, with brief moments of flair and intensity.
Silverstein are one of remaining "Post Hardcore" outfits that surged the scene in the early to mid 00's, they found reasonable airplay and success from their 2005 breakthrough and sophomore album Discovering The Waterfront with their accessible mix of infectious chorus', sing-scream vocal structure, playful guitars and slick production. Fast forward 8 years and five releases later and in that time on the surface they haven't really changed or showed much sign of ever doing so. "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" is a term that can be easily applied, however that wouldn't completely be the case with the Canadian quintet.
Between 2005 and now, the band have kept the foundation or core that is the 'Silverstein' sound. With each release they have focused on keeping this while pushing their craft in different directions. Whether it's the guitar frontal and straight forward rock approach of 2007's Arrivals and Departures or the grand theatrics and conceptual themes of 2009's A Shipwreck in The Sand, Silverstein have always tried to stay creatively open minded while staying true to themselves. However there becomes a point where you can't keep that balance without becoming stale. Enter their newly released (and second conceptual) album This is How The Wind Shifts
This is How The Shifts is clear evidence of the quintets 'middle of the road' approach finally taking it's toll on them. On one hand it shows a band who are confident in themselves and still working hard to perfect their sound, but on the other it shows a band that are stepping on ground that they have repeatedly ventured on time and time before and to less effect. The main problem is Shane's vocals, it feels like he is either recycling melodies and phrasing from previous releases or attempting to try new things but ultimately falls short.
For example "Massachusetts", the lead single from the album kicks straight in and the first thing that comes to mind is "Vices" from A Shipwreck in the Sand". The structure and phrasing in the verses is almost identical in both a musical and vocal sense, and once the comparison is made it is difficult to ignore. The chorus section would have be a perfect opportunity to give the track it's own presence, and as the band have always been more than capable of writing infectious hooks in the past this shouldn't be a problem, however this is not the case. In comes the trademark shimmering clean vocals of Shane Told but almost instantly it sounds like the hook to "Burning Hearts" and from that point, this lead single loses any momentum and becomes nothing more than filler rehashing previous "success'".
Unfortunately the uneasy feeling doesn't stop here. "Hide Your Secrets" is what would happen if you crossed "Giving Up" from their debut album When Broken is Easily Fixed with the grandiose finale "The End" from A Shipwreck... "With Second Chances" sounds like "Worlds Apart" with hints of the arrangements on Rescue. "In Silent Seas We Drown" serves the purpose of continuing the Hardcore Punk sensibilities of Short Songs and offer little else besides a burst of aggression. "A Better Place" is reminiscent of the pop orientated material on Arrivals and Departures ("Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" "Love with Caution" come to mind) and wouldn't have been out of place on that album. Despite this, it's actually a throwback that will please those that enjoyed that album. None of these songs are necessarily poor or unlistenable (in fact they are all fairly good songs), but Silverstein has done them before quite literally.
Although, not all of the album is like this. Some of the songs present are Silverstein's strongest to date. "Arrivals" is a interlude performed/written solely by Paul Marc (Their new guitarist, replacing long time member Neil Boshart), the vulnerable vocals with the plucked resonating chords of the guitar is a refreshing change of pace and something completely unexpected, and is a subtle way to introduce the new member of the band and letting him make his mark on the band. His vocal abilities and song writing attributes should certainly be utilised and more of a focal more point future releases. It's counterpart "Departures" led by Told is just as attentive and stirring. The passionate performance plays off of the bands strengths encapsulating them in a 2 and half minute piece that is nothing short of exceptional. It could be easily be the bands finest closing track.
Other noteworthy tracks are the interludes "This is How" and "The Wind Shifts" although on the surface they appear are pretty tame ambient affairs that provide pacing, they define the themes of the album and connect them all together. If you actually overlap them both together they create an interesting call and response vocal arrangement with some fun harmonies (This can be found on Youtube). It's fun, creative, and shows that when they are willing to experiment and stray from them their tried and tested formula they can create a unique listening experience that's ambitious and separates them from their peers.
This album was never going to reinvent the wheel or be a watermark of modern rock, but there was anticipation that it would be a defining album for the band. Especially with blogs regarding its concept and themes being released beforehand that characterised self reflection, philosophical and life changing moments it was difficult not to expect something more ambitious with themes as bold as that. Instead for the most part it's business as usual, with brief moments of flair and intensity. Enjoyable but presents little new territory. It's a good place to start if you've only just been introduced to the band. Most fans will be pleased with this release and will see it as another strong Silverstein release but this will not particularly win over those whom disapproved of the band previous material, or those yearning for more from them.