Review Summary: A truly sick and twisted affair.
My Darkest Days weren’t exactly a band known for pushing boundaries.
Pandering to the most basic radio rock audience you could possibly imagine, the sub-par Nickelback clone did little more than indulge itself in pointless music about pointless things. Sure, harmless radio rock can be a fun, enjoyable endeavor, but My Darkest Days seemed more than content to just continue writing music with little to no personality, and riding off the coattails of success the few hit singles they were able to churn out brought them. With that in mind, the moment former My Darkest Days lead guitarist, Salvatore Costa, announced his intention to leave the Canadian hard rock effort to form his own band, an assumption that it would probably be just much of the same uninspired mediocrity was probably well deserved.
As it turns out, joined by Hey Ocean! and Beekeeper’s Devon Lougheed, along with bassist Mick Valentyne and drummer Mykey Thomas, that assumption regarding Sal Costa’s Smashing Satellites debut album couldn’t have been more incorrect. That is, if you disregard the ridiculousness of the title SonicAluzion
, and the absurdly terrible artwork.
The moment introductory track and hit single ‘Waterfall’ begins, it’s evident Smashing Satellites are far more focused on conceptualizing themselves as an exquisite electronic rock effort; with ‘Waterfall’ and follow up track ‘Like A Feather’s gorgeous synthesizer-laden soundscapes and dramatic strings doing much of the heavy lifting. The bombastic style simply oozes similarities to the likes of modern rock giants Muse and space rock outfit, Starset, with further influences such as Pink Floyd and Queen cited by the band as playing their part impacting the direction of the record.
’s fantastically strong opening, Smashing Satellites stride forward with ‘Calm Me Down’, a superbly ethereal track that fully takes advantage of Costa’s vocal delivery; the chorus thrives in haunting ambient synthesizers before the track gives way to a short but sweet guitar solo that compliments the track perfectly. Taking things in a different direction, ‘Hounds’ Arctic Monkeys-esque introductory riff instantly launches things into more garage rock territory, with much of the track seeing Costa channeling his inner Jack White. And yet, ‘Hounds’ also marks the first instance of some seriously evident influence from the likes of Prince and Nile Rodgers on the record, the track itself embracing a far more funk orientated vibe for the verses that actually works to some really great effect.
Unfortunately, despite a hugely promising first half, SonicAluzion
’s second half completely takes something of a nosedive in terms of quality and overall personality; ‘Living Loud’ and ‘What It’s All About’ stumble infuriatingly around in an attempt to bring forward a more uplifting middle section to what has so far been an extremely effective electronic rock album, and end up sounding like horribly similar to your average Imagine Dragons pop rock ballads aimed for the Billboard Top 20. Lyrically the two tracks boast feebly about "starting a new life"
and "laughing and dancing like no one's around"
, but the complete lack of life
within the two renders them a pathetically failed pair of endeavors. The Prince-esque funk riffage returns in an attempt to compliment ‘This Is Paradise’ and ‘Us’, and of the more poppy
tracks on the record, ‘Us’ easily stands as the best of the bunch, even if it’s not saying a lot. The album’s second half finally claws back a little dignity when ‘Love Is Forever’ is shoved into the spotlight, a rare acoustic guitar appearance cautiously leading the track forward into a lovesick ballad regarding the everlasting qualities of the human heart. For the most part, it succeeds.
Ultimately, Smashing Satellites easily establish themselves as a band with a huge amount of personality and potential, which has regrettably been squandered on an album so frustratingly half-hearted it’s sickening. It’s no coincidence that the original SonicAluzion A-Side EP
, which contained the first five tracks of the record
, ended up being the infinitely superior half; the remainder of the record just feels so despairingly generic, save for ‘Love Is Forever’ and perhaps ‘Us’, and it can’t help but be questioned what happened during the process for such a promising start to be so brutally crushed. It was said at the beginning of this sick and twisted affair that the assumption of uninspired mediocrity was completely unjustified, and that statement still rings true; Smashing Satellites are a band full
of inspired ideas, it just turns out that half of them were wasted on pointless music about pointless things.
What a goddamn waste.