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.

Advertisements

Is This Real? The Return of Saosin

saosin-new

The time has finally come. Almost. Probably. Hopefully. Maybe.

Last week, Saosin announced that they had signed to Epitaph Records and would be releasing their long-awaited third full-length album sometime this spring. For a band that has led the league in hollow promises and endless teasing for the better part of seven years, this is as close as we’ve come to jubilation and relief.

Just to be clear, we don’t have any new music just yet, unless you count a slightly intriguing 30-second YouTube clip that wisely avoids tipping the band’s hand. It’s just as well – I’d personally rather hear that first rapid fire drum fill atop a screeching guitar riff in its proper context when a full song is released. Until then, we wait patiently. Still.

For what was arguably the most buzz worthy band this scene had ever known, Saosin’s road has consistently been littered with bumps and unexpected twists and turns since their inception. Has a band with this much potential and talent ever been this mysteriously riddled with misfortune and discord? Even the lead up to this long-awaited moment has been blemished by the band’s painful divorce from founding guitarist Justin Shekoski. Another day, another strange and shocking revelation in the world of Saosin.

Nevertheless, this is truly the occasion long-time fans of the band have been pining for. The band’s original prodigal son, Anthony Green, has returned to the fold and is set to front the album we never thought we’d receive. Although the reunion has been anything but storybook, it’s played out in true Saosin fashion every step of the way – surprising, peculiar, lengthy and with very few details.

While I’m certainly interested to hear what a Saosin album fronted by Green sounds like in the year 2016, you could place any number of actual or rumored Saosin vocalists in front of the mic and still have my attention. To me, the heart of the band will always be Beau, Alex, Chris, and even in his absence, Justin. Both the Green and Cove Reber eras of the band brought unique qualities in terms of vocal style and substance, but the overwhelming significance of Saosin in the post-hardcore scene lies in the frantic, bewildering, powerful instrumentation.

Even when the band spent long stretches in radio silence, marked by constant transition and states of limbo, their influence stretched far and wide across an array of genres. Still, not a single look-alike managed to captivate and inspire quite the way Saosin did. For that reason alone, this long walk in the desert will have been worth it for a fan base that never seemed to dwindle, even as it perpetually grumbled.

It’s quite possible that the next few months will feel even longer than the years that preceded them as we anticipate the elusive album that is now within reach. Is it possible for this record to meet the ungodly expectations that will certainly be attached to it? That same question was asked before the release of the band’s self-titled debut in 2006. While opinions on the impact of that album still differ, there’s no denying its place in Saosin lore. It’s likely that the same will be true of the forthcoming record, no matter the outcome.

It won’t be long before debate commences once more. Let’s hope it was worth the wait.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2015: #6 Saosin Reboot

saosin_2014

Last year saw the return of a few of our beloved bands, but perhaps none was more surprising than that of Saosin. The band announced an appearance at Skate & Surf Festival early last year with original vocalist Anthony Green. What followed were a few scattered performances and the hint of new music on the horizon.

Of course, Saosin fans are well accustomed to these sorts of promises. After going radio silent sometime in 2010, irregular rumblings would surface, teasing the idea of a new album or a new lead singer to replace the exiled Cove Reber. For many, a reunion with Green and another album was a laughable notion. But here we are.

The band played a few new songs they had written to round out their setlist at shows throughout the year, so it’s obvious that they’ve at least penned a few new tracks together. However, Green still resides full time in experimental post rock act Circa Survive, which just released a new album, and has made clear that Circa is his first priority.

Nevertheless, the band has already announced some new dates for early 2015 and Green has made clear his desire to explore the post-hardcore sound further with the guys in Saosin. Whether time will allow such sessions remains to be seen. For now, fans of Saosin can at least dream about the possibility.

Green’s original parting with the band was not a pretty one. The fact that the group has reconciled and seems excited to share the stage together seems almost like a small miracle. With a renewed sense of vigor and friendship, who knows what possibilities lie ahead. Whatever happens, it’s certainly better than more silence.

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.

Video interview with Saosin

saosin_2014

Derek Scancarelli of Alternative Press recently had the chance to chat with Saosin about their current reunion shows, what Translating the Name has meant to their individual careers, the band’s relationship with former vocalist Cover Reber, and if the band will record any new music with Anthony Green. Check out the interview below:

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Saosin announce three more shows with Anthony Green

saosin_2014

Well, it’s official – Saosin will be playing a few more reunion shows in addition to their Skate and Surf Festival date. Check out a photo of the upcoming dates posted by Saosin guitarist Justin Shekoski below:

At the band’s Skate and Surf set, Saosin will be reunited with original vocalist Anthony Green and will be playing their first show since 2010. Green originally departed from the band in 2004.

saosin_dates

What do you think of the announcement? Do you expect more dates to be announced? A new album or EP? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Whatever happened to Saosin?

saosin

Update: On February 17, it was announced that Saosin will reunite with Anthony Green as vocalist for a performance at this year’s Skate & Surf Festival. You can read more info here and listen to our podcast discussion about the reunion here.

Saosin_Tweet

It’s that time of year again.

Fans of SoCal post-hardcore act Saosin are now well accustomed to the scattered, vague assurances such as the recent Tweet above. Instead of jubilation, the general response is more of an eye-roll. You’ll have to excuse us for our lack of enthusiasm, but we’ve heard this before.

It’s been over four years since the band released their last album, the shaky and uneven In Search of Solid Ground. Shortly thereafter, vocalist Cove Reber was dismissed, but not without promise of a new and improved Saosin on the horizon.

What followed was what appeared to be an awkward public audition for former Tides of Man vocalist Tilian Pearson. The resulting product consisted of a few shrug-worthy leaked demos before Pearson began his own solo project and officially joined the ranks of Dance Gavin Dance.

In the time since, fans have been treated to erratic and ambiguous messages and rumors that serve simply to remind us that Saosin is apparently still a thing. However, what’s far more interesting than these nuggets of non-information is observing the fan response – one that is now much akin to an oddly dark kind of classic conditioning.

Upon each ringing of the bell, we collectively choose to fight back our salivating hunger for new music in favor of the most active kind of apathy. We’ll roll our eyes, but not without an audible groan to let you know that we’re still here. Still waiting.

If Fall Out Boy’s triumphant reunion last year proved anything, it’s that the shelf life for this scene might be a little longer than everyone expected. It’s true that Saosin doesn’t hold the same mainstream appeal as Fall Out Boy, but they do hold one of the most rabid underground followings that the post-hardcore genre has seen. A following that has surely dwindled to some extent during the band’s prolonged absence, but one that appears ready to reconvene at a moment’s notice – whether they’ll openly admit it or not.

Consider the groundswell of response to each Saosin release through the years. Even at their worst, everyone had an opinion to give, and in some ways, even the negative jeers were filled with a knowing tone that the band could do better. No one seemed ready to give up. That notion is the unspoken undercurrent that drives the multiple pages of responses to each Saosin “update” – even when the voices are saying, “I don’t care.”

***

One thing that became clear during the Tilian Pearson experiment is that the third time is rarely a charm in this scene. Jon Bunch may have been a great vocalist and songwriter, but how does one go about filling the shoes of Jason Gleason and Chris Carrabba? Fortunately, Further Seems Forever fans were treated to a proper re-writing of history in 2012 when the band reunited with original vocalist Carrabba after an eight-year absence.

What resulted was Penny Black – a proper return to form that would become the band’s highest charting release. A successful reunion tour even featured a cameo from Gleason, joining the band on stage for a performance of “The Sound”. If this were to be the band’s farewell, very few would complain.

Could this serve as a model for a Saosin comeback? Whisperings of a reunion with Anthony Green have persisted since Reber’s departure. Although baseless at first, Green shockingly shared the stage with Saosin guitarists Justin Shekoski and Beau Burchell for a performance of “Seven Years” just over a year ago during a solo tour. Last summer, Green admitted to Alternative Press that he would consider working with the band again “if the timing was right.”

For many fans who have spent far too long waiting, perhaps it’s easier to assume that the timing will never be right, or at least not soon enough to get excited over.

But since we’re all just spit-balling here, what about a reunion tour with both vocalists? The first half of the set could consist of Reber-era material before a short intermission, followed by Green joining the band to perform the entirety of Translating the Name. Heck, the band could even record an EP with a few songs from both vocalists to satiate fans on both sides of the fence.

Alas, any idea presented is at best speculation and, at worst, daydreaming. Perhaps the only solace is that our time wasted pondering on impossible scenarios is time that the band has spent slowly fashioning their return.

In the end, I’m fully content with spinning Translating the Name and Saosin for as long as time will allow and I suspect most fans of the band feel the same. Yet with every reminder that there is “a pulse,” I’m reminded of what has become a twisted game of cat and mouse – one that keeps me cautiously hopeful, even as I shrug it off.

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.