ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Spawn (Again): A Tribute To Silverchair’ by Various Artists

The importance of Silverchair and the effects they had on Australian rock really can’t be understated. Their 1995 debut album Frogstomp was released when each member was only sixteen years old, and served as the springboard for what would see them become one of the most successful acts that Australia has ever produced. Now, twenty years on from their sophomore album Freak Show, Spawn (Again) sees a collection of modern Australian heavyweights brought together by UNFD to pay homage to some of Silverchair’s best-loved songs, and to get the full picture, we’ve broken it down track by track…

The Amity Affliction – Tomorrow
Silverchair’s breakout debut single aptly kicks things off, so who better to give it the go-over than perhaps one of the most creatively bankrupt bands on the planet? Except, here’s the thing – compared to their own material, The Amity Affliction’s take on Tomorrow isn’t actually that bad, mostly because there’s an embrace of slightlier grungier tones that are a bit choppier than this band’s typically blemish-free pop-metalcore, and even if Ahren Stringer still isn’t anywhere close to being the greatest clean vocalist in the world (once again relegating Joel Birch’s screams to a glorified backing role), the active decision to pare down his more nasal tones to one that’s less annoying is certainly appreciated. That’s not to say this is a great cover, as it’s still fraught with problems; the production in any metal song regardless of subgenre should not be this clean, with the guitars once again crushed into paste and the drums evaporating into a fizz as soon as they hit, but for The Amity Affliction to deliver a song where positive points aren’t restricted to half-hearted minutiae, that’s enough to count as a mild win.

Void Of Vision – Israel’s Son
There’s something that’s fairly remarkable about Void Of Vision’s take on Israel’s Son, mainly how they’ve morphed it in such a way that, to the uninitiated, this could easily be an original song. Seriously, it’s uncanny how they’ve done this, taking the creeping riff and bassline of the original and doubling the pace for that nu-metalcore bounce that’s an easy sell when done right. Thankfully the band do rather well in this regard, not necessarily breaking new ground but doubling down on a sense of groove and Jack Bergin’s feral screams to amp up the intensity that feels entirely natural. Again, as far as this kind of metalcore goes, Void Of Vision aren’t pushing themselves beyond their pre-existing boundaries, but to so drastically transform a song to fit their own mould as well as they do is worth praising all the same.

In Hearts Wake – Freak
There’s every reason to be skeptical about this one – In Hearts Wake have frequently prove themselves to have very little knowledge of how to modify their sound beyond what they know, and the fact that this is arguably Silverchair’s biggest song could see some problems beginning to emerge. But quite honestly, this is among the best things that this band has ever done, keeping the original vibe of the song and dressing it with a grittier style of metalcore that would great to see them try more often. There’s a more ragged quality to Jake Taylor’s screams than is often seen, and paired with a crushing, industrial-tinged take on the original’s iconic stop-star riff, this feels more like a Cane Hill song than anything In Hearts Wake have ever done, and it’s irrefutably a great direction to take. Perhaps Kyle Erich’s cleans are still a bit too thin and whiny, especially when paired with heavier instrumentation like this, but when that’s the sole complaint from a band who’ve so often been seen as little more than disposable, there’s little to complain about.

The Brave – Cemetery 
There’s a single glaring issue surrounding The Brave’s rendition of Cemetery, namely how the pensive acoustic guitar and strings of the original have been swapped out for a sound drawing on an extremely well-worn brand of melodic post-hardcore that’s nowhere near as distinct or special. The emotional power of the original is now replaced by force, and while that does have its upsides to an extent – Nathan Toussaint is a solid vocalist when it comes to huge, belting choruses, and staying away from overt screams almost entirely keeps the focus of size and scope – but when compared to some of the other contributions here, this one just sort of slinks away into the background. Not awful, but not one of the best either.

Northlane – Anthem For The Year 2000
As much as this has been positioned the flagship cover for this album, there’s very little to say about Northlane’s version of Anthem For The Year 2000, mostly because it sounds exactly as you’d expect. It’s not the far from the original compositionally, with its chunky, slightly electronically-warped guitars backed by Northlane’s omnipresent cushion of wispy synths, and Marcus Bridge showing off his crystalline pipes in typically widescreen fashion. Other than that, this feels like a rather standard effort, never doing much to really rise up to unassailable heights, and other than the ill-fitting breakdown towards the end of the track that could’ve been left out with zero consequence, never being truly awful. It’s just fairly standard, which is fine, but it doesn’t exactly do much to really shine past a few spins.

Hands Like Houses – Ana’s Song (Open Fire)
When it comes to Hands Like Houses and covers, it’s a safe bet that they’ll always do reasonably well when given a ballad to work with. It happened with Torn on Punk Goes ’90s Vol. 2, and with Ana’s Song (Open Fire), there’s very little change in the overall results. Trenton Woodley has the sort of smooth, wonderfully emotive vocal range that’s a natural fit for a song as yearning and openly passionate as this, and even though, once again, the instrumentation seldom stretches beyond a comfortable post-hardcore template, there’s a few more flourishes here in the guitars and extremely subtle synth work that fills out any empty space in the mix without being too unwieldy. As far as some of the covers here go, this is a fairly unassuming one, but for the reputation for being among Warped Tour alt-rock’s best that Hands Like Houses have cultivated, there’s little here to dispute that.

Ocean Grove – Spawn (Again)
As much as Ocean Grove’s The Rhapsody Tapes painted them as among the brightest of hopes for contemporary metal, their rendition of Spawn (Again) can’t help but feel slightly underwhelming by comparison. The original already showed a more unhinged side of Silverchair than what they’re biggest hits hinted at, and while a band like Ocean Grove and their genre mashup approach to metalcore and nu-metal sound like a natural fit for that, it’s too messy and haphazard to feel distinctive in any major way. The brief burst of drum ‘n’ bass offers something in the way of memorability, but the majority of the track built around some fairly rudimentary nu-metalcore that, in all honesty, feels rather clumsily pieced together doesn’t even begin to show how great Ocean Grove can be when operating at full capacity.

Storm The Sky – Emotion Sickness
There’s little to expect when it comes to a weaker Silverchair song being covered, and when a band like Storm The Sky is doing the covering, an act who’ve fallen from grace spectacularly in their thuddingly disjointed transition from metalcore to featherweight indie-pop, that hardly inspires much confidence. Sure enough, Emotion Sickness is probably the weakest track here, spending its first four minutes trying to sound grand and cinematic yet ending up as more of a Muse B-side before its final two meander aimlessly through sluggish beats, guitars so airy they’re almost invisible, and the occasional gurgle of bass. Even when it reaches the natural point of a crescendo, what follows is never great enough to have any lasting impact, and even if William Jarratt’s smooth vocals are capable of holding a tune, there’s nothing that particularly sticks or leaves a lasting impression. If there was only one to pass on on this album, it’d be this one.

Tonight Alive – Without You
Considering that the final two bands on this album are decidedly the odd ones out, it’s interesting to see how their covers compare to what is an unashamedly metalcore-leaning project. Thus, Tonight Alice’s take on Without You feels the need to really go for broke, seeing their welcome return to alt-rock in full swing after the electro-pop snooze-fest of Limitless, and coming out with, again, another cover that has some fairly gaping areas for improvement, but ultimately holds its own rather well. The biggest issue comes in the production, opening out the mix for some grander swell replete with power chords and subtle acoustic guitars, but with Jenna McDougall’s vocals chiming through, it can all sound a bit twee or Disney-ish. That said, Tonight Alive seem to have realized their strengths again, opting for organic instrumentation that captures their expanded vibe excellently, and there’s actually some power and gusto here that’s been seriously lacking from their repertoire. They mightn’t have perfected the formula yet, but if nothing else, this proves that Tonight Alive are well on their way to become a real force once again.

Columbus – Straight Lines
For the heaps of promise that Columbus has displayed in their short time in the spotlight, it wouldn’t be totally unfair to see their cover of Straight Lines as something of an afterthought, at least when placed in context with what they’ve proven to be capable of. The natural propulsion that their brand of emo offers is a nice foundation to build upon and comes through here accordingly, but with a rather simplistic, one-paced guitar line that runs through the entire song, and Alex Moses having a similar lack of modulation in his vocals, the whole thing can feel a little slight without really expanding on the base idea. It’s not awful and there are far worse efforts on this album alone, but Columbus have done a lot better, and this really doesn’t reflect what they’re capable of.

Overall: While Spawn (Again) might be ultimately something of a mixed bag, its greatest appeal comes in just how surprising some of the efforts are. The fact that there’s quality from The Amity Affliction and In Hearts Wake here is a borderline miracle, and for a compilation that will undoubtedly prove to be something of a novelty in the future, there’s enough to get into here without being disappointed. Whether diehard Silverchair fans will enjoy some of the more drastic reworkings is up for debate, but to see how far their influence has travelled down the line and into wildly different genres shows just how influential of a band they were. For a celebration of that, this is definitely worth a listen.

Words by Luke Nuttall 

‘Spawn (Again): A Tribute To Silverchair’ is released on 17th November on UNFD.

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