Saosin – Along the Shadow Review
Saosin’s Along the Shadow is easily the most anticipated post-hardcore record of the year. Since Anthony Green departed the band in 2004, fans have been feverishly calling for a reunion, and the long-awaited record is finally here. Luckily it delivers on everything that was promised. It deals out just enough nostalgia to appeal to fans of the early material, and definitely pushes into some very interesting new directions as well. The album is currently exclusively streaming in full on Pandora. Unfortunately non-US listeners will likely have to use a VPN to stream it due to geo-blocking. (Update: A SoundCloud full-album stream for international users can be be heard at ToneDeaf.)
First two singles head into new territory
It’s a curious choice that the first two singles the band released were prog-punk rocker The Silver String and metalcore riff-fest Racing Toward a Red Light. Upon the release of the first, a number of fans accused Green of turning Saosin into Circa Survive, while the second song is heavier than anything the band have previously released. However when you delve deeper into the album there are a number of songs that instantly recall classic Saosin. Second Guesses sounds a great deal like early Green-era B-side Mookies’ Last Christmas. The dissonant opening breakdown and melodic verse of Count Back from Ten definitely channels ‘Translating the Name’-era tunes. Count Back from Ten does move into some fresher directions as the song progresses, and the same is true for the album as a whole. It shows a band that’s proud of where it came from yet is looking to the future. With such a talented line-up of musicians, you wouldn’t expect anything less.
Green and Burchell at the forefront
The contributions of Anthony Green and guitarist Beau Burchell are very much at the forefront. Green’s vocals are layered heavily, and he seamlessly transitions between crooning and his signature high-register scream. It’s easily his most aggressive vocal performance since ‘Translating the Name’. Will Yip, who has four Circa Survive releases under his belt, handled the vocal production for the album. The clean vocals in cuts like Sore Distress and The Stutter Says A Lot definitely bring to mind Green’s recent output with Circa. That’s not to say the record sounds like Circa Survive as a whole. Burchell and sticksman Alex Rodriguez have such unique playing styles that their output together will always sound distinctively Saosin.
Burchell’s guitar playing and song-writing is the backbone of the album. He sounds more inspired and confident here than he has in years. Maybe the collaboration with Green has lit a fire under him, or perhaps the seven-year gap in albums had him raring at the gate to release some new material. It’s the first album Saosin have made without founding lead guitarist Justin Shekoski. As much as I enjoyed Shekoski’s contributions, I have to say I don’t really miss him here. Burchell proves on ‘Along the Shadow’ that he’s just as deft a lead guitarist as a rhythm guitarist. His lead style is less flashy than Shekoski, but his melodic lines are effortlessly catchy and memorable.
‘Along the Shadow’ is a record full of contrasts. The progressive exploration of Sore Distress is followed by the punk/metal drumming attack of The Secret Meaning of Freedom. The track is the closest Saosin have ever approached to melodic hardcore, and it’s fascinating to hear the band tackle new styles. We are treated to two full verses of Green’s screamed vocals, which is another new for the band. He’s in excellent form throughout the album. The band as a whole sound energised and excited to be playing together again.
Saosin move away from first two LPs
The album leaves the impression the band have turned their back on the Cove-era material. It goes without saying that the vocals on ‘Along the Shadow’ are completely different. However the music is also in a radically different direction to the slick radio rock/alternative rock style Saosin pursued on their first two LPs. The heavier moments on ‘Along the Shadow’ are more along the lines of post-hardcore and even metalcore, while the softer moments in many cases explore progressive textures rather than radio rock. In 2006 perhaps Saosin were trying to distance themselves from the scene while it seems in 2016 they are more comfortable channelling their earliest influences, while also branching out into new areas.
Saosin triumph with Along the Shadow
I’ve had ‘Along the Shadow’ on repeat and I have no intention of taking it off any time soon. It has stronger songs than Saosin committed to either of their previous full-lengths. Thankfully it seems the band aren’t planning on hanging up their guitars any time soon. Green commented in a recent interview:
“I don’t think there’s a reason for us to ever break up. We can take huge breaks and do whatever we want to do, but then it’ll be like, ‘hey you wanna play some shows?’ And we’ll go do it.”
‘Along the Shadow’ is due for release on May 20. It’s available for pre-order from Amazon in digital, CD and vinyl formats. A deluxe pre-order with two B-sides, Drinking from the Fountain and Along the Shadow of Man, is available on iTunes.