Album Review: Silverstein - 'A Beautiful Place to Drown'

3 March 2020 | 10:50 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

A waste of a perfectly cool album title.

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It seems like throughout their lengthy, hard-working career, Silverstein has somehow always remained consistent with their music. They’ve never had a noticeable departure from their usual 2000’s emo post-hardcore sound, only making small tweaks and additions here and there with the passing of time and each new album. With the consistency in their songwriting, they’ve also kept up a fairly good quality streak too, even putting out arguably their best effort only a short few years ago in 2017’s ‘Dead Reflection.’ While other massive names from Silverstein’s era have come and gone, either cutting their discographies too short or even writing one too many stinkers, Silverstein have managed to remain at the top of the post-hardcore scene, and for good reason.

While not perfect, every Silverstein album has a fair deal of charm that hits a nostalgiac sweet spot for a large population of older listeners, while also winning over the hearts of the younger generation as well. It’s for this reason that I began to worry about Silverstein upon first hearing the incredibly lackluster ‘Burn It Down,’ featuring Caleb Shomo from Beartooth, in the summer of 2019. This track showed off a lazy, watered downside of Silverstein that hadn't been revealed before, and this trend gained even further momentum with the written-for-Octane ‘Infinite,’ released earlier this year with the announcement of ‘A Beautiful Place to Drown.’ And I’ll admit, I lost a hefty amount of faith in the band's upcoming material then, and unfortunately, hearing this record did nothing to combat those torn feelings.

Truth be told, I don’t know who ‘A Beautiful Place to Drown’ is meant to cater to. It seems like it’s trying to be three different sub-genres of rock music at once; some songs are straight-up piss poor pop-rock numbers, whereas others sound like a bad cover of a mid-2000s radio rock song, and then there’s even a couple of half-decent, throwback Silverstein numbers too. Leading up to this record, Silverstein made it known that they were done playing it safe, which can be commendable. In reality, this LP instead seems like the safest potential move that a veteran post-hardcore of their caliber could make, making an album that relies on the repetitive and stale tropes of contemporary pop and popular rock music. While it is very true that Silverstein could most likely use an experimental album thrown into their discography by now, ‘A Beautiful Place to Drown’ definitely does not seem like the answer.

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This disc is nothing short of an overproduced, underwritten, lifeless collection of songs that only remotely sound like something Silverstein would release. ‘Infinite’ and the atrociously annoying ‘Shape Shift’ reach for a way more generic rock sound, complete with big but hollow choruses and extremely simple guitar work. This is where Silverstein falls the hardest here, with the songwriting being completely devoid of the charismatic personality that they're so well-known for. Many of these tracks rely heavily on stagnant chord progressions and irritating guest performances that add nothing overall - despite the high-profile names, like Underoath's Aaron Gillespie or Intervals (Aaron Mashall) - making the album seem more like Silverstein’s ‘No. 6 Collaborations Album.’ A harsh description, but I’m rolling with it.

At other times, Silverstein shoot for a repetitive, trendy pop-rock sound that's physically painful. This can be found on this album's worst song, ‘All On Me,’ armed with its own bizarrely autotuned saxophone solo. Whoever made the decision to add that part into the song’s bridge should get a stern talking to, as its easily the most jarring moment of the entire album. With the rise of synth-pop and synth-wave over the last few years and the subsequent resurgence of saxes in pop and rock music (metal too), maybe this was inevitable for a band like Silverstein. The irony is that bands like them often pride themselves on not chasing trends, yet that's not the case with the actual music. (This record's neon-purple aesthetic is another trend-hopping move as well. Also, see The Word Alive.) It’s in these moments of odd, pop sentiments that I'm left scratching my head, simply wondering: “who is this album really for?"

Across ‘A Beautiful Place to Drown,’ Silverstein trade their organic post-hardcore sound for unusual fusions of pop and indie. Bassist Billy Hamilton might as well have not even shown up to the studio sessions this time around, as many of his parts are replaced with weirdly-arranged 808 sections that seem like they would be much better off left for acoustic instruments. The jittery, glitchy guitar sections of ‘Say Yes’ ruin what is an otherwise a mostly fine enough song, feeling something like a song off of a high school’s prom playlist. These moments on ‘A Beautiful Place to Drown’ are meant to be experimental and "new" for the sound of Silverstein, but don’t serve any further purpose. It simply comes off as annoying, making me miss the natural, excellent sound of ‘Dead Reflection’ or ‘This is How the Wind Shifts.’ These overly-polished, unfitting production techniques coincide with the lazy, redundant chord progressions to drain any lasting emotion and life from the countenance of Silverstein's sound, with any shred of character only coming from the fantastic soaring melodies of Shane Told.

When I write my reviews, I usually keep any major or minor criticisms I have with a record until the final segment of the piece. Well, Silverstein has broken that approach for me, as now I must conclude with what few positives that their eighth record has to its name. As with all of its many, many missed marks, ‘A Beautiful Place to Drown’ occasionally does obliviously stumble into the territory of greatness. ‘September 14th’ makes for one of Silverstein’s best tracks in years, with a somber string intro that pushes the track into a more old-school early 2000s emo-punk banger, complete with its own instantly iconic chorus. While extremely corny from a lyrical standpoint, ‘Say Yes’ scratches that very same itch, being an unapologetic nothing-but-fun pop-punk cut that radiates the good kind of angsty teenage energy. (Well, ignoring those aforementioned glitchy guitars, but you get me.)

Even the album’s closer, ‘Take What You Give,’ does a great job at striking an emotional chord, which reverb-soaked arpeggios building a more atmospheric, beautiful tone. The guest feature on this track from Pierre Bouvier of Simple Plan is also the only feature on this album that feels like it blends seamlessly into the band's songwriting, with Mr. Bouvier giving an excellent, memorable performance. It’s on these few and far between great tracks where I find myself to be the most disappointed, as it gives me a fine taste of what could’ve been with this low-balling album.

As much as I have adored Silverstein over the years, I can’t lie to myself or you and pretend like ‘A Beautiful Place to Drown’ is a good album. Because this new LP falls flat on its face at almost every single track, losing all of the liveliness and personality that this Canadian band has created across their expansive, accomplished catalogue. While I do still admire Silverstein for taking risks within the context of their own band, this album does absolutely nothing to further or expand their sound, instead reeking of regression and simplicity; it ironically feels quite safe. There is barely any substance to be found. The saddest part is that after a great run of substantial, solid albums, we all know that Silverstein are capable of so much more than... this. In fact, this might be the only album in their release history that I would legitimately call a 'bad record.' Very few bands are immune to the one write-off. Regardless, I still have high hopes for this band in the future, and can only hope that they find a newer, better way to further their sound.

Bad Habits (feat. Intervals)

Burn It Down (feat. Caleb Shomo)

Where Are You

Infinite (feat. Aaron Gillespie)

Shape Shift

All On Me

Madness (feat. Princess Nokia)

Say Yes


September 14th

Coming Down

Take What You Give (feat. Pierre Bouvier)

'A Beautiful Place To Drown' is out Friday, March 6th.