The semantic shift of emo is one that’s been easy to track over the years, especially since it’s doubled back on itself nowadays to refer to its more organic punk / indie fare. Even with that in mind, there’s no point ignoring its mid-2000s incarnation, the tabloid-baiting child of pop-punk and post-hardcore that was the biggest thing in music for a time. Even if some of those bands haven’t lasted, their influence at least remains standing (see the exasperating level of coverage that My Chemical Romance still receive), but for a band distinctly of their time, one of the first that comes to mind is Silverstein. It’s not as if the band themselves don’t know this, either; they may have pivoted towards more direct post-hardcore and even metalcore on later releases, but they still cause little to nothing of a stir in the wider world, mainly serving as an excuse to get them back on Warped Tour for another summer.
That might seem like an unfair assumption, but it’s not as if Silverstein are doing anything to combat it. They don’t have the most colourful repertoire, and nine albums in, Dead Reflection feels like the ninth Silverstein album, ultimately workable without doing all that much to stand out. That’s not an exaggeration either, with a hefty chunk of this album drawing on so much of what Silverstein have done numerous times in the past, even with a couple of poppier emo cuts in Aquamarine and The Afterglow serving as relics of 2005 if there ever were some.
That’s not to say Dead Reflection is necessarily bad. The fact that Silverstein have been doing this sort of thing for as long as they have means there’s some degree of proficiency here, particularly when they grab the post-hardcore bull by its horns and take themselves in a heavier, more fierce direction. Of course, ferocity for Silverstein is fairly relative, given the touches of AutoTune and Shane Told’s baffling decision to continue with a sugary sweet, heavily accented pop-punk vocal technique, but dipping into melodic hardcore on Last Looks or alt-rock with a bit more roughness on Ghost and Cut And Run aren’t bad directions to go in. Even with it teetering on the edge of (and sometimes stumbling into) emo whinging on a track like Secret’s Safe, there are examples like Lost Positives and Mirror Box which have their foundations in emotions that feel genuine, mainly down to Told staying in a more natural, comfortable register.
Other than that, there isn’t much else to say about Dead Reflection; it’s just that ingrained in the typical Silverstein formula, and that’s both its biggest asset and its most damning fault. At least it’s a near dead cert to please their existing fanbase and giving credence to the band continuing with this sort of thing, but there’s nothing that really stands out or that will entice newcomers not already familiar with the band. And while Dead Reflection isn’t a bad album, it’s not a crucial one, playing fairly safe in the lane that Silverstein have occupied for a long time now. That’s fine overall, but expecting at least a bit more wouldn’t be out of the question.
For fans of: The Used, Senses Fail, Hawthorne Heights
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Dead Reflection’ by Silverstein is released on 14th July on Rise Records.