Another metalcore record.
Another album full of clicky-kick drum sounds, staccato breakdowns, guitar amps with the “mid” knob turned to 11 and throaty, syncopated vocals. This is what I heard when I pressed play on Silent Planet’s Solid State Records debut, The Night God Slept. And I was ready to turn it off.
Until one minute into the album.
Silent Planet fooled me. This album starts in a way that leads you into thinking it’s just another version of the same metalcore record you’ve heard a million times. But, even from the start, I was a little surprised the first track, “The Well,” got right into it; it wasn’t an ambient, spooky intro piece like every other heavy album feels necessary these days. Instead, they quickly shift gears into angular, technical-but-not-too-technical, smart and heavy music, a welcome change to the sound too easy to find everywhere else.
These guys really know their instruments. Alex Camerana’s busy, yet full-of-groove drumming brings Underoath/Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison to mind, and the combination of Silent Planet guitarists Spencer Keene and Mitchell Stark’s liberal use of finger-tapping brings the guitars to life in a way I haven’t heard in this genre in a long while. Standout tracks like “XX (City Grave),” “Tiny Hands (Au Revoir),” and “firstwake” feel less like brutality for the sake of brutality and more like a true artistic expression of passion for heavy music and a reverence for their subject matter.
Silent Planet aren’t concerned about writing singles — songs are all over the place — but it’s not just riff after riff with a few breakdowns in between.
The sound brings to mind much of what was great about the metalcore genre in the early 2000s before it was infected by; Silent Planet’s debut gives me the feeling of the first few Norma Jean records, or even a slight tinge of early Converge. There’s also a heavy dose of late-era Underoath, specifically in their liberal use of layered ambiance and intricate the weaving of guitars and bass.
Vocally, Silent Planet doesn’t break any major new ground; vocalist Garrett Russell is a competent and strong vocalist, but he left me wanting more, unlike his live performances. His true talent is in his lyricism; he’s much more knowledgeable of history, theology and literature than many of his contemporaries. His lyrics are high-concept, tackling everything from historical subjects to challenging theological issues like theodicy to the contemporary issue of sex trafficking. Russell truly uses his lyrics as a literary instrument — a true asset in songwriting, not just as an outlet or platform. I’m not much of a fan of clean choruses, but I feel like this is one thing they did do well, using it tastefully and not as a crutch.
The Night God Slept is just aching for more sound experimentation. Yes, the drums sound huge and the guitars rip through your ear drums; yes, every layer is perfectly placed and every beat is perfectly quantized. But in choosing to do it this way, Silent Planet introduce this album as just another metalcore record.
The Night God Slept is more than that. It’s musical, challenging, heavy and truly surprising. It’s nice to hear a band wanting to move a genre like metalcore forward rather than just settle in to writing hit singles to pad their YouTube play counts. With The Night God Slept, Silent Planet have written an album not only worthy of being listed among some of the greats in the Solid State discography, but among some of the greats of the metalcore genre itself.