I believe Saosin’s self-titled full-length debut album to be an example of post-hardcore excellence and a record that shaped the direction of the genre for the next decade. Others disagree, citing the album as an example of Saosin’s squandered potential.
Instead of using the next 800 words to defend my position and re-hash one of the most tired debates in scene history, I’m simply going to tell you how this album has had a deeply profound impact on my life.
I’d be lying if I told you that I was invested in Saosin since the drop of Translating the Name and a member of the band’s old guard. My introduction into the screamo scene happened a year later with the release of Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety. That being said, I became keenly aware of the Saosin hype train shortly thereafter, and like most of the genre’s fan base, eagerly awaited the band’s highly billed debut.
Saosin released during a period of transition in my life, and has seen me through several more transitions since. Just out of college and making my first attempt at being a real adult, the album provided the soundtrack to late shifts at work and long car rides on weekends. During the days when we all still listened to CDs, Saosin firmly planted itself in my car’s stereo and was rarely withdrawn. I can safely say that I’ve listened to the album from front to back more than any other album I’ve ever owned.
Every instrument is played while straddling the line between rock radio perfection and reckless hardcore abandon. Cove Reber’s vocals seem to effortlessly reach ungodly notes on nearly every song without leaning on the then-mandatory crutch of screaming, setting a new precedent for scene vocalists. The production, handled by hit-maker Howard Benson, results in a nearly flawless product.
There’s something about the music that still speaks to my soul. Reber’s lyrics mean the world to me, and I’ll address those in a moment, but I’ve often said that even without vocals, Saosin would still be one of my favorite albums of all time.
The open air and smattered drumming that lead into the signature Saosin guitar squeal during the opening moments of the record on “It’s Far Better to Learn” still sends chills up my spine. Each track on the album bleeds either delicately or chaotically into the next track, creating one of the most fluid listening experiences you’ll have with an album. When the opening riffs of “Sleepers” begin spilling out near the end of the opening track, you realize there’s no need to reach for the skip button.
Saosin is littered with moments that both take my proverbial breath away and breathe fresh air into my lungs. The bridge of “Follow and Feel” remains one of the most pulse-pounding moments in the post-hardcore scene, highlighted by a rapid-fire drumming from Alex Rodriguez that pushes the track onward. The closing moments of “Collapse” find every member of the band going apeshit on their instruments as Reber wails “Open your eyes and let all the light in”. It’s a moment of pure ecstasy.
Reber’s lyrics remain cryptic and ambiguous throughout, but they have never lacked in meaning for me. During a candid moment during the end of the band’s making-of-the-record DVD, Reber begins sharing the inspiration of positivity that impacted his writing, concluding with, “For me, personally, I want to write something that can uplift somebody.” I’m forever thankful for this approach.
It’s rare for a Reber lyric to come across bluntly on Saosin, but it’s the in-between moments that continue to capture my attention. During the pre-chorus of “It’s So Simple”, he sings, “When we fall to the ground, slowly we’re safe and sound”. During the swirling chorus of “Collapse”, he belts, “We are the only ones, we will get up / And we are aware ‘cause we’ve been through it”. As the delicate opening of “Come Close” breaks through, Cove sings, “Remind yourself that they are the ones who will hold you still”.
It’s this persistent theme of intimacy and unity that courses through the album’s veins, serving as its lifeblood, that draws the listener in. By the time should-have-been-crossover-hit “You’re Not Alone” reaches its crescendo, the point is clear: “You’re not alone / There is more to this I know / You can make it out / You will live to tell”. The album’s potentially cheesiest moment is also its calling card.
I’ve written in the past about my struggles with depression and how music has walked by side throughout the difficult journey. Saosin is the album I go to when I feel desperately alone. It’s the record I play during those painful moments of transition. These are the songs that revive me when I’m at my lowest. I keep waiting for the day when it stops working, and while it’s certainly not a cure, albums like Saosin keep me afloat on the days I need it the most.
I believe this album to be one of the great rock records of our generation, and the beauty in the craft of this record is part of what makes it so important to me. But even if you disagree with my thoughts on the album’s merits, we all have those albums we go to when we need a lift. Saosin may not have lived up to everyone’s hype, but I’m eternally grateful that every note landed where it did.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel 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.