As emo bands stick around and their members get older, they hit a fork in the road. There are two ways their careers can evolve.
The easier path is to stick to well-worn paths. Emo is what made the band successful, after all. The problem is that rich, middle-aged rock stars don’t have a whole lot to be sad about, so the lyrics are forced and it comes across as disingenuous.
Fortunately, Silverstein took the more difficult but ultimately better path: It evolved.
The band’s 10th album, A Beautiful Place to Drown, carries the Silverstein DNA, but it minimizes the emo in favor of post-hardcore and metal, continuing to advance the trend of its recent work.
From the opening track, “Bad Habits,” the punk vibe stands front and center, initially edging on pop-punk due to the vocals and the overall tone. What brings it back into the realm of post-hardcore are the screamed lines, used as an accent more than a feature, which makes the metal guitar influences pop.
Continuing that path, “Burn It Down” has barely any emo at all, and it’s better for it. Caleb Shomo of Attack Attack! and more recently Beartooth—metalcore and hardcore bands—makes an appearance and his influence is obvious.
“Where Are You” takes the foot off the gas a bit. It’s not a slow jam by any means, but the change of pace is timely.
One of the album’s highlights is “Infinite,” which uses a guest appearance by Aaron Gillespie of Underoath to give it a more dramatic and expansive feel. The chorus has shades of Top 40 rock—think Imagine Dragons—an almost ethereal layer over punk-inspired guitar playing and an electronic undertone without any actual electronic instrumentation.
After the somewhat uninspiring “Shape Shift” comes “All On Me,” which is the closest Silverstein to its emo roots on A Beautiful Place to Drown. It’s an earnest break-up song with a self-pitying edge, sung over a melody that wouldn’t be out of place in a romantic drama.
Once you’re lulled into a sense of calm and security, the album throws you head-first into “Madness,” which opens up with the harshest, most hardcore guitar riff on the album. Emo-rap star Princess Nokia makes a guest appearance on a verse. Her growled lyrics, traded with singer Shane Told’s especially aggressive screams, are the high point of the album in terms of energy.
Following that are “Say Yes” and “Stop,” which head back into the pop-punk zone introduced in the first track. “Madness” is a tough act to follow and they seem a bit flat when listening to the album as a whole. They make for entertaining singles, though.
“September 14,” meanwhile, blends emo lyrics with punk guitar technique. Its bridge is the metal moment on the album with its screamed vocals and driving beat, inspiring listeners to head-bang along. Be careful do this while driving. The album closes out with “Coming Down,” which is notable mostly for a chorus that seems designed specifically to lodge itself in your head for a week; and “Take What You Give,” the third and final of the emo throwbacks.
Overall, the biggest thing A Beautiful Place to Drown has going against it is the stigma emo music has developed since its heyday. If this scares punk or metal fans away from giving the album a shot, it’s their loss.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.