Every once in a while I will find a band that I absolutely love and I want every album and EP they have ever released, and I discover that their "debut album" was actually not their first but actually some limited issue indie release that is now impossible to find came before. Their major label debut has some of those songs re-recorded or remixed, but other songs are gone forever. And I think, "Ah, if only I had known about them five years ago."
I had very high expectations of this self-produced debut by In the Silence. I was checking out Isis (I think it was) on iTunes and looking at the related albums and there I found two bands, Pinkroom and In the Silence, whose music impressed me enough that I had to order the CDs. Pinkroom was not easy to find and I had to order their CD from the UK. In the Silence was also not easy and their disc had to be ordered from the U.S. (I live in Japan, just so you know). Pinkroom's "Psychosolstice" lived up to my expectations and I eagerly awaited the arrival of "A Fair Dream Gone Mad". I read reviews on other music sites (yes, I went there) and almost everyone was giving this album high praise: "Debut album of the year," "Incredible that this is a first album," "Best new band out there." Come on, man! Where's my copy?
Last week the CD arrived and I couldn't wait to get it in my earbuds. However, so far it's been a bit of a chore to get through this album in one sitting. Why? It's not the music exactly. Almost every song makes for a really good listen on its own. Atmospheric clean electric guitars, moody and brooding. Heavy metal riffing full of power (great guitar sound!). Acoustic guitar and other instruments make their appearances as well, adding a bit of variety. Listen to three or four songs and the music is just fine. No complaints until you listen to the whole album. There is a theme to the compositional approach to most of the songs and it does become a little monotonous and predictable before the album is over. That the last song is the least interesting (IMO) doesn't help. But overall, musically rather good.
Is the problem that this is a self-produced album and the CD is a CD-R (seriously, it's a CD-R)? Not so much. For a debut, especially one without a major label behind it, the recording quality is pretty good. I wish the drums would stand out a little more but the guitars, particularly the heavy guitars, sound really good. Once any of the songs really kick in, you can feel that rush of metal excitement. I just love that heavy guitar sound! If the CD-R puts you off as it did at least one reviewer on Amazon then you can always buy the download from Amazon or iTunes or wherever you prefer. No, I have heard plenty of worse recordings regarding sound quality.
In the end, the number one thing that makes this a less-than-enjoyable listening experience for me is the vocals. Now Josh Burke is a decent enough singer. He can hold a note and the vocal style is clean and straightforward. There're no death growls, sludge metal shouts, or Halford-like operatic high notes. The vocals are very much. Like. A bit like. Emo.
About 10 years ago, I took a liking to the heavy punk-like sounds of bands that sang (well, forced singing really) with strong melodies about personal emotions and experiences. I didn't know what emo was but for a while I liked the sound. Jimmy Eat World, Sugar Cult and a few other bands were in my CD player a lot. Josh Burke's vocals are put to metal, atmospheric/progressive metal. But I keep hearing that emo style in them. In fact, I once had a CD by an indie band that had a very similar vocal sound and I wasn't so keen on it. Because of that, I am finding it difficult to get into this album. Throwing a couple of tunes into mixed playlist is alright. But after the first few songs I need a break from this album.
So, let's summarize here: The music is well-played, well-composed, and sounds good for a self-produced album on CD-R, though a little predictable and repetitive after the first few songs. Individually, most of the songs hold up very well. The singing is good enough but I don't like the similarities to the more mainstream and commercial sounds of emo. I suspect that once these guys hook up with a label (shouldn't be hard with all the interest their album seems to be generating) they will put out a killer major label debut that will in all likelihood include remixes of most of the songs here with a revamped sound, plus some new material. And a few years from now when this album has been deleted, new fans of the band will find out about "A Fair Dream Gone Mad" and they will wish that they had known about In the Silence back in 2012/13.
I wish the band the best of luck. I am sure the next album will totally blow us all away. Just work on those vocals, please.
Three stars from me, but as I said, there are plenty of rave reviews out there. Check these guys out and see what you think.