Review: Saosin – Along the Shadow

saosin-shadow-new

Saosin fans know a thing or two about expectations. In fact, the post-hardcore icons have existed amidst a whirlwind of expectations since their 2003 breakthrough EP Translating the Name. Whether the band has met any of them depends solely on whom you’re asking. Suffice it to say, Saosin has been a lightning rod for heated debate, but there’s no debating the band’s talent.

Even after losing vocal phenom Anthony Green shortly after their debut, the band marched on to mainstream success three years later with Cove Reber at the helm. The band’s long-awaited self-titled album remains a post-hardcore classic and one that jumpstarted an entire subgenre, even if diehard Green fans balked at the sonic shift. Whatever side of the fence you stand on, there has never been any denying of Saosin’s influence and the technical prowess of their individual members.

You can buy Along the Shadow on iTunes.

You can buy Along the Shadow on iTunes.

Where the true problem lies for most fans is in terms of output. After the lukewarmly received (and, once again, long-awaited) In Search of Solid Ground, the band parted ways with Reber, promising that a return to form was just around the corner. You know the story by now – it wasn’t.

Yet here we are, seven years and countless hollow promises later, with the unthinkable on our hands – a new Saosin album with Anthony Green. How could this album possibly live up to the ungodly expectations laid upon it? How could fans ever be satisfied after such a wait? It’s really all a matter of perspective.

Along the Shadow, the band’s self-produced third full-length album, is not an album for the fans. It’s an album made by a band that still has plenty left to say and more ground to explore. It may be arriving late, but it’s certainly not arriving devoid of significance. Along the Shadow isn’t simply a reunion album or a fun trip for nostalgia’s sake. It’s the next chapter in Saosin’s growing legacy.

By now, you’ve heard “Silver String”, the album opener and first released song, 100 times over. What begins as a peculiar Circa Survive-sounding track slowly grows closer to the Saosin you love with every listen. The band’s signature riffs, courtesy of Beau Burchell, come in small doses here, but Green’s beautifully complex melody grows more appealing with each pass. Throughout Shadow, the band playfully experiments with new tempos and structures, building outward to new territory.

On “The Stutter Says a Lot”, Saosin tries their hand at The Moon is Down-era Further Seems Forever with incredibly smooth guitar tones and cool transitions. “Sore Distress” adds the addition of ear-pleasing keyboards atop an extremely experimental track that allows Green to shine, especially on the song’s airy chorus. Not to remove themselves too far from the norm, the track’s crushing bridge is highlighted by thrilling drum patterns, courtesy of Alex Rodriguez.

While Along the Shadow lives largely within the post-hardcore realm of Saosin’s wheelhouse, the band takes time to explore both ends of the spectrum. “Second Guesses” is a surprisingly poppy track reminiscent of “Finding Home”, while “Old Friends” provides a dark and sludgy, almost industrial vibe to one of the heavier tracks on the album. Even within the dense texture of the track, you can still pull out the signature Saosin guitar tones that help the track still feel close to home.

Yet for all of the new ideas and concoctions befitting of an album seven years in the making, the conversation surrounding Along the Shadow will rest firmly on the tracks that fans most identify with the Saosin they’ve been waiting on. And there’s no shortage of moments that remind us that the band are masters of melodic hardcore.

“Count Back from Ten” is the track that old school Saosin fans have been waiting more than a decade for. If the opening riffs don’t harken the ghosts of Translating the Name for you, then nothing will. Rodriguez’s drumming is otherworldly, driving the track through multiple changes of pace, especially during the track’s aching chorus, as Green sings, “And you’ll never find an answer / When you’re waiting there alone”.

“Illusion & Control” best exemplifies the old and new Saosin in a beautiful collision of guitars and Green’s vocals. The chorus is delightfully aggressive and the final minute of the song may be some of Saosin’s best work yet. The track closes with a violent ending, marked by the incredible drumming that made the final moments of “Collapse” so breathtaking on the band’s self-titled album.

Similarly, “Control and the Urge to Pray” will take fans back to the early days with squealing guitars and jerky transitions that keep you on your toes throughout. Green’s cryptic lyrics and off-kilter vocal melodies don’t hurt matters, either, especially as the song builds towards its conclusion: “Always a race to keep you dragging on / Until the currents change / Our days it pays to keep from burning out / You used to care so much”.

Still, for every moment in which Green’s signature cry feels like a homecoming, there’s still a sense in which his desire for a heavier outlet leads to out-of-place aggression. Several tracks on the album are harmed by monotone screeching when a more melodic approach would have sufficed.

“Racing Toward a Red Light”, one of the heavier tracks on the album, relies far too much on Green’s screaming, especially when you consider how delightfully melodic the song’s bridge is. On “The Stutter Says a Lot”, Green’s screaming once again hampers his own vocal patterns with unneeded hostility. For better or for worse, the Reber era of the band was highlighted by Cove’s ability to find soaring melodies that backlit the band’s heaviest breakdowns, something that is largely absent from Along the Shadow.

To dwell on such a hang-up feels like nitpicking of the highest order. What we have on our hands with Along the Shadow is one of the finest post-hardcore albums of the year from a celebrated band that many of us assumed to be gone for good. Whether this is Saosin’s swan song or a comeback story for the ages remains to be seen. For now, the band is once again a heavyweight title contender in the world of rock.

For all of the frustration and anxiety Saosin fans have vehemently vocalized in the time since the band stormed onto the scene in 2003, the payoff has been undeniably great. The band has delivered one of the most influential EPs in scene history and has now unleashed two undisputedly classic albums. Without a doubt, quality prevails – no matter how much we clamor for more.

4.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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