Review Summary: "For you to bounce right back, pick up right where you left off..."
This is the first full-length LP from Saosin with Anthony Green.
I still think that’s difficult to process, because no one involved in Saosin is anyone remotely new to the scene. Frontman Anthony Green is one of the hardest-working men in post-hardcore today, with numerous side projects, a successful solo career, and his experimental post-hardcore group Circa Survive
. He’s not a stranger, and neither are the rest of the members of Saosin, who plugged away with vocalist Cove Reber after Green’s departure. Saosin’s first two LPs were, if anything, straight-ahead. While I don’t have strong feelings for their sophomore LP, In Search of Solid Ground
, their self-titled debut was quite good. The musical discipline behind their debut EP Translating the Name
was, for the most part, preserved. But that EP still dwarfs both LPs. It was such a promising start to a bold and energized future for the group, a future that seemed impossible to achieve after Circa Survive began gathering attention. But Green and Saosin are now back together and have brought forth an LP that’s been years in the making: Along the Shadow
. This is the first Saosin LP with Anthony Green at the mic, and it’s really good.
Anthony Green’s return to the Saosin lineup is easily the most noticeable feature of Along the Shadow
. 2003’s Translating the Name
is still Saosin’s strongest release, a five-song EP that showed Green’s definitive melodic tenor alongside a textured ballistic of post-hardcore energy. But Green has since established a career of challenge. His work in his band Circa Survive is much more experimental than his work on Translating the Name
, so having him return to Saosin’s spiraling, more punk-inspired aesthetic sounds like a difficult role to settle into again. Does Green’s performance on Along the Shadow
bring back the sound of Translating the Name
? Honestly, no. This doesn’t sound like Translating the Name
, but that’s not a bad thing by any means. Green has taken the melodic experimentalism from his times in Circa Survive and readjusted it to all the right frequencies. There’s still a great deal of vocal energy behind Along the Shadow
, as Green’s battlecries on “Racing Toward a Red Light” or “The Secret Meaning of Freedom” stand just as tall as his crooning on the breathtaking “Second Guesses.” Green’s lyricism catches the Circa Survive vibe as well, suggesting poetic, but personal experiences that still manage to fit inside the more aggressive post-hardcore rock hitters. Anthony Green’s time in his more curious projects haven’t hampered Saosin in the ways you might expect. He has accommodated this style of music and his creative spark only serves to provide just enough artistic swerves to keep Along the Shadow
from feeling too obtuse. He makes it fit.
But the additional members of Saosin stick to more familiar territory, but that’s also not a deficit. Saosin’s mixture of rhythm section blitzes and guitars that carefully walk the line between punk noise and post-hardcore precision; they’re all on full display. This collection of musicians, despite the hiatus, picks up right where In Search of Solid Ground
left off, but also sifting out the missteps from that LP. Alex Rodriguez’s drumming roars on “Racing Toward a Red Light” and “The Secret Meaning of Freedom” is furious, echoing the stampedes of At the Drive-in
’s Tony Hajjar with a touch of technicality for good measure. “Old Friends” manages to feel full and aggressive despite a steadier tempo, making it one of the best performances from Rodriguez and bassist Chris Sorenson alike. Beau Burchell still commands the guitars like a pro, remaining a powerful cornerstone for Saosin’s songwriting and performance alike, but his experience in mixing channels all of the better moments of the group’s self-titled debut. In fact, Along the Shadow
emits a lingering sense of technicality that Translating the Name
never seemed to show. “Sore Distress” is a densely packed slow burner, while the opener “The Silver String” paces itself more carefully. The moments where Along the Shadow
really hits home are these points of challenge, where the catchiness is dropped, but the energy stays.
If Along the Shadow
has any noticeable faults, it’s that its middle portion doesn’t have the same kinds of standout tracks like its opening and closing segments. “Count Back From Ten”, while decent, is a shockingly settled follower to the majestic “Second Guesses.” Most songs stick to less intense tempos, which is also a smaller bummer, because the shining rhythm section doesn’t get as many chances to really accelerate and blast down the doors. Saosin’s works with Green have never had a desire for control of choruses and catchiness, but these songs feel rewarding. Green’s experimental lyrics give the songs a sense of depth beyond the music alone as well. Along the Shadow
isn’t accessible in the same ways that their self-titled debut was. Instead, it’s intricate, subtly complex in structure, something that Saosin has been searching for since Translating the Name
I can’t say in confidence that Along the Shadow
matches Translating the Name
, because it’s clear that these two releases are not similar. While the group’s debut EP felt comfortably unsteady, piquing Green’s musical ambition enough to fuel Circa Survive’s creation, it still felt accessible enough to fuel the mosh pits. Along the Shadow
isn’t as accessible. The choruses are off-kilter and Green’s lyrics are still vague and ambiguous; this isn’t a post-hardcore record that displays its appeal immediately. Very much like Anthony Green’s other projects, Along the Shadow
is a slow burn, but like those projects, it’s one of brightness and congealed ambition. The time Green took off Saosin has paid off for everyone in the band, because Along the Shadow
is proficient in creating a rewarding, but proud post-hardcore record that probably couldn’t have been done without some independent soul-searching from everyone involved. Saosin walk with confidence again.