This is just fucking sad.
In today’s heavy music climate, especially those genres under the extreme banner such as deathcore, having ambition, taking bold stances and taking risks should be deeply encouraged. Music – heavy or not - and art itself won’t progress if we as artists and consumers of art don't take risks in our ideas and our own work. However, by their very nature, risks are just that – risky - and they can backfire on you, even if you have vast ambitions and good intentions. And this is exactly where Suicide Silence finds themselves with their new and very different self-titled album; a complete and utter backfire.
I mean, Jesus H. Christ, this album is such an inconsistent fucking mess!
I came into this album with an open mind, and I came out the other end severely disheartened and disappointed. See, the worst part about it is that each of these nine tracks features these brief moments of brilliance; small glimpses of solid songwriting where you can see the original husk of something great still lingering. There’s the criminally short-lived final flurry in ‘Doris’ or the crushing finale of ‘Silence’; the groovy, Deftones-like opening riff and moody atmospherics of the surprisingly decent ‘Dying In A Red Room’; the punishing, opening breakdown of ‘Run’, or the entirety of the dynamic album standout, ‘The Zero’. These moments, among a very small handful of others, show that Suicide Silence was indeed onto something here with this "death metal Deftones" sound if you will. But that was before they completely fucking lost what that “something” was, as these nine songs simply feel like nine half-baked ideas put to literal tape.
I'm just so spoiled for choice on where to even begin with this album's flaws. There's the severely hit and miss clean vocals throughout, like the weird falsetto moans in the chorus of ‘Doris’ (and that cringy "Fuck yeah!" at the start), or the distorted, hard rock vocals in the chorus of 'Run' that ruin one of the album's better tracks and dilute it down to being simply anti-climactic. 'Silence', which save for the verses and the final minute, should have just been that, silence. The irritating, wailing screams and phoned-in Slipknot vibes on 'Hold Me Up Hold Me Down' don't help much either. There's the drawn out nature of 'Listen' and 'Conformity', the longest songs on the album respectively, both of which just idle along until their final gasps eventually exhale, leaving the listener utterly cold. And then you have the random whistling and eerie sample loops that close out the album's last song, 'Don't Be Careful You Might Hurt Yourself', not unlike something Korn would have done 15 years ago... when it was actually cool to do!
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So much of how these songs are written and structured just feel oddly placed at best, and at worst, unfinished. Each track leaves you either laughing, shaking your head in anger, or scratching your head in confusion, wondering why the fucking fuck the band and producer Ross Robinson thought much of this album was deemed worthy of keeping and being released. That, or you’ll just be plain bored.
Now, Ross Robinson has produced and worked on some damn fine records in his time. From The Blood Brothers' '...Burn, Piano Island, Burn', At The Drive-In's seminal 'Relationship Of Command', Slipknot and Korn's self-titled releases, to Glassjaw's explosive debut album; the list of stellar records he's worked on is massive! But this record is not one of those career highlights, and at some point, he as the producer should have said "no" to Suicide Silence or should have stopped meddling with their sound - whatever the case may have been.
(Be sure to read what Robinson said of this album's backlash here and how full of shit the statement is too.)
[caption id="attachment_1090074" align="alignnone" width="760"] The album cover for when you can't think of a good album cover.[/caption]
Now, you know how whenever Northlane release a new song in this post ‘Singularity’ era of theirs, the mix is always a BIG point of discussion and contention for many listeners? Well, those people are going to have a fucking field day with this record’s less than tight and polished production, even if I'd like to think that mixer Joe Barresi did his best with what he was given.
For album #5, Suicide Silence recorded to analogue tape, which is not an inherently bad thing I should remind you - it can yield quite the opposite results, as Ceres previous album proved. Tape or not, it also wasn’t recorded to a metronome (AKA click track) and that really shows in parts, both subtly in Alex Lopez’s drumming and more noticeably when the guitars first come in out of time at various sections. The band members nuanced “human errors” have indeed been left in here, along with random moments of in-studio chatter, feedback, the occasional bit of live room noise, and so on. Thus, it all feels like a live demo release that you're witnessing on the ground-level, but it's a poor one at that.
Yes, this definitely isn't the worst sounding album of all time - not by a fucking long shot - but considering their pedigree, this sonic approach is a step backwards, one that only further adds to the already diminishing returns of these nine songs.
Now, Eddie Hermida recorded full vocal takes for this record and wasn't just simply punched in at various points to record his parts (and yes, it's more or less 70% cleans across the board). And man, Hermida has never sounded this emotional, this raw... nor this fucking bad! Considering his strong vocal output with All Shall Perish's work and on ‘You Can’t Stop Me’, his vocal delivery here really surprised me. His singing range, while not awful, is just not what it once was, and his melodies don't often gel with the rest of songs instrumentation, either. His screams, both his highs and lows, while frantic and pushed to their pitchy breaking point, just do not land anywhere near as hard or as impactful as they should, and the "crazed", seemingly mentally fractured lyrics here aren't anything to write home about either.
Is this how far Hermida’s vocals have deteriorated over the years? Is this just due to the different style that he was focusing on for this record and tracking full takes? Or is this what he’s always sounded like, but now it's without all the added EQ, compression and double tracking and what not? Some food for thought.
Anyway, all of these factors position the band’s fifth record into a very organic sounding environment; a very real environment where they can't hide behind editing and "studio magic". It’s also a terrible environment for them, as this approach just doesn’t suit Suicide Silence; not as a deathcore band nor as the nu-metal, hard-rock influenced band they currently exist as. However, I do believe that this "old-school", stripped back approach to making an album is a commendable, noble goal to strive for nowadays. I really do appreciate the fact that they tried something different here and went against what the fans want, despite utterly failing at it in my eyes. I also did enjoy the almost unstable nature of the instrumentals and the dark ambience found throughout this record. But - and this is absolutely crucial - this kind of approach needs to have good songs to back it up, and this self-titled release missed that mark by light years.
Also, another point I'd like to bring up – people will be paying for this thing.
That's not a genuine criticism that people bring up often in music reviews unless they’re being utterly dickish and telling readers not to buy certain releases that the writer deems utterly shite (which I’ve done in the past, admittedly). But fans will be forking out cash for a record that is basically, by the standards set by their own previous work, peers and predecessors, a glorified demo release featuring nine scratch tracks that consistently underwhelm.
Fuck me, this is how some parents must feel about their children; sheer disappointment.
[caption id="attachment_1090304" align="alignnone" width="760"] Suicide Silence live in Australia, 2016. PC: Digital Beard (shot for Killyourstereo.com)[/caption]
We now arrive at one of the central complaints voiced by the close-minded deathcore purists out there, that this album's change in genre and the inclusion of singing is a sellout move by the band in order to wrangle in greater commercial and mainstream success. Which I feel is simply disgruntled fans misdirecting their critiques, as this isn't selling out so much as it is just being straight up bad.
Much like the recording and mixing of the record, the inclusion of singing is not the problem; it's how it's actually implemented. Hermida's singing doesn't really cut it nor does it do this sound full justice.
See Fit For An Autopsy's new single, 'Heads Will Hang' and Whitechapel's last record to see how singing can be brought into this style of metal tastefully. Better yet, see Veil Of Maya's terrific 'Matriarch' album for how to successfully bolster one's own sound with solid clean vocals, creating a whole new dynamic. Clean singing, in general, is totally fine. The singing on this record ain't.
As for the genre change supposedly occurring so the band could rake in more dosh, I'd like to point out that Mitch Lucker was a huge Deftones, Korn and Slipknot fan (see their 'Engine No. 9' cover and the entirety of 'The Black Crown'), and was also a fan of clean singing. As such, the band COULD have potentially ended up producing a record like this with Lucker if he hadn't of passed away in 2012, albeit with a potentially higher level of sonic polish. But for all my hate towards this record, it is also worth mentioning that Suicide Silence also didn't wish to continue their straightforward deathcore style as it had led Lucker into a dark mental place. I do really respect that sentiment, but only to a certain point. As the new stuff that follows needs to be just as good or better than the previous sound to warrant it, and so that the band and Lucker's legacy is fully honoured.
So I'm doubtful that even the “mainstream” crowd will want this damned record, (even if the band does score a few new ears out of this release.) But bloody hell, gathering from the widespread online backlash this album has received prior to its actual fucking release, it seems that a lot of fans don't want this thing either.
Sure, this may be a “real” metal record, an “honest” record for Suicide Silence, one that they themselves truly love and enjoy. And that's fine - they don't owe me or anyone else anything and they are free to musically express themselves as they see fit. But sweet blast beats of Christ, this album is bad. It is the worst Suicide Silence album to date, and will easily be one of 2017's biggest disappointments.
Well, that is unless Ocean Sleeper releases something else this year. Let us all hope not.
I've little doubt that the many reviews published over the coming weeks will praise Suicide Silence and this release to the high heavens for their approach to writing and recording, and how this is a 'bold' or 'non-conforming' move in spite of their peers and genre. (Update April 3rd - turns out, I was half-right.) And I can't help but feel that such praise is anything but misguided. For Suicide Silence's self-titled record is nothing more than nine half-baked ideas that make up a glorified demo that people will pay anywhere between $12-$18 for. Well, that's here in Australia, anyway.
It is different, it is ambitious, it's even unique for them and the genre that they've come from, but that doesn't mean that its good. Because it's not. This album, despite the band's own well-documented love for it, feels like such a misstep, and one that doesn’t bode well for their future. Especially if Suicide Silence sheepishly backpedal after this and return to their polished deathcore sound next time around, claiming that the next album will be "for the fans" or some such cop-out spill.
Oh, and fuck that nonsense about people trying to use an online petition to keep this album from being released. After all, we need the really bad albums so we can appreciate and support the really good albums!
4. Dying In A Red Room
5. Hold Me Up Hold Me Down
7. The Zero
9. Don’t Be Careful You Might Hurt Yourself
Suicide Silence's self-titled album is out February 24th via Nuclear Blast Records. Also, fuck the bands comment about Thy Art Is Murder - at least those guys still write good songs! Seriously, what is going on with this band lately? Ego? Drugs? Both? Who knows. Anyway, let us all go back to a better, simpler time now.