It’s been seven years since Saosin released a record. Back then, the Californian post-hardcore outfit had just put out sophomore record In Search of Solid Ground together with vocalist Cove Reber. Now, the band are back stronger than ever with the return of original founding vocalist Anthony Green. Green, who left the band after releasing their first EP in 2004, went on to form Circa Survive and has now circled back to his roots on Along the Shadow, Saosin’s hotly anticipated new album. It’s an album which first saw hints of conception back in 2010, when Green’s return to the band was first touched upon. It’s thus taken some six years for the album to see the light of day, but is it any good? We took a listen to Along the Shadow and dissected it track-by-track.
THE SILVER STRING
This was the first song anyone heard from the rejuvenated Saosin line-up, and it certainly hits hard. From the off, Green wails at the top of his lungs emotively as his band’s instrumentation collide with one another ferociously. Instrumentally, The Silver String takes Alex Rodriguez’s forceful drums and blends them in effortlessly with Chris Sorenson’s pulsating bass to form an infectious rhythm section. Rodriguez and Sorenson (who produced the record) form a strong backbone throughout the whole album, making way perfectly for guitarist (and Along the Shadow engineer) Beau Burchell to rip and shred to his heart’s content. Burchell’s guitar work on Along the Shadow is sublime, with the first song alone demonstrating his ability to hold it all in and suddenly release a cacophony of noise. As album openers go, The Silver String is a no-holds-barred statement of intent which has Green’s merciless vocals plastered all over it.
IDEOLOGY IS THEFT
Ideology is Theft borders on the intense and otherworldly, encompassing a blend of Deftones-esque guitar chugs and sharp distorted stabs. It doesn’t hit as hard as The Silver String does; rather, it slows down and occasionally speeds up for sudden bursts of heartfelt screams and sonic destruction. “From where I am there’s a different view” sings Green, his vocals soaring high over the music with effortless ease. “I remember when you couldn’t stand holding onto me” he continues later on, with Burchell’s stand-out guitar line layered and distorted so well that it sounds like a wall of sound had exploded mere minutes beforehand. Ideology is Theft comes to a sudden end, one which puts a premature ending to proceedings.
RACING TOWARD A RED LIGHT
Of the 11 tracks on Along the Shadow, Racing Toward a Red Light is probably one of the heaviest and most unforgiving tracks of them all. From the off, it utilizes urgent rhythms and chugged riffs to create a magnificent wall of noise. Green’s underpinning screams are an absolutely destructive force of nature, with the frontman singing of an unknown answer and broken wretches during the chorus. “We’ve already been that far but it’s not dropping back” he declares later on, whilst Burchell underpins him alongside a continuous and infectious bassline courtesy of Sorenson. As the track picks up in intensity everything slowly comes together, with the different instruments going from loose-hanging sonic elements to one huge final product which takes no prisoners.
Second Guesses slows down the pace slightly, making use of melodic guitar riffs and intricate percussion to reach a coherent final form. The chorus is a swooping anthemic beauty, with Green declaring that he’ll be “the only one”. His ability to flitter between soft clean vocals and harsh screams is admirable, especially considering the toll that being in a band like Saosin can have on you. In an older interview, Green once said that “the band dynamic can take a lot out of you”. This isn’t a surprise when you consider the reckless and almost schizophrenic nature of Saosin’s sonic palette. Even on slower tracks like Second Guesses, it seems as though the next thirty seconds could be anyone’s guess. If there’s one thing that Saosin definitely aren’t, then it’s predictable.
COUNT BACK FROM TEN
An opening distortion fuzz and full-on chugged riff set the scene for the following three minutes, with Count Back From Ten further implying the unpredictable nature of Saosin’s output. “All at once, I’ll never see your face again” declares Green during the anthemic chorus, one which soars through the skies at rapid pace. The percussion on Count Back to Ten is far more urgent than the rest of the record, with Rodriguez really outdoing himself and his bandmates from start to finish.
THE STUTTER SAYS A LOT
The Stutter Says a Lot is a far more thought out and slower track, slowing down proceedings once more. It bears a chorus which places Green in an extremely heartfelt and emotional position, one that’s completely juxtaposed by the caterwauling screams Green pulls off at random moments throughout the track. Not once is Green afraid to let himself go and rip up sonic airwaves with his blood curling screams, and that can only be a good thing. He sounds more comfortable than ever before in his current position, one which (according to him) mixes things that are both pretty and brutal at the same time. It’s supposedly Saosin’s goal, and one which the band ultimately manage to achieve best on The Stutter Says a Lot.
“Our faces show the timeline” claims Green early on during Sore Distress, a track which explores the same sonic boundaries which other slower cuts on Along the Shadow also attempted to discover. Sore Distress paints a grim picture, encompassing a variety of tempo changes which border on both intense and urgent delivery. “Take me in your arms” pleads Green during the chorus, his delivery filled with utmost honesty and heartfelt intention. Sorenson’s bass stands out here, pulsating alongside Rodriquez’s hard-hitting percussion. Burchell’s guitar takes an audible step back here, even if it still presents itself as an important core foundation of the track. As Sore Distress careers towards an end, it fades out quietly, almost unassumingly.
THE SECRET MEANING OF FREEDOM
The Secret Meaning of Freedom is fast and in-your-face from the word go, presenting the listener with a non-stop barrage of chaos and anthemic flourishes. “I see exactly what you wanted!” declares Green at one point, with his vocal delivery sounding almost filled with rage and fire. It’s by far the best track on the record, demonstrating Saosin’s ability to absolutely let go and throw everything they have into the ring. Burchell’s best guitar delivery is definitely on The Secret Meaning of Freedom, however it would still not sound as good as it does now without Rodriquez and Sorenson’s tight knit rhythmic combination. Together, the three are a force to be reckoned with.
An opening salvo of chugged, low-tuned guitars and menacing rhythms form the backbone on Old Friends, a track which sounds like The Secret Meaning of Freedom’s logical continuation. As soon as the previous track’s menacing fury dies down, Old Friends picks up right where it left off and attempts to change tack from the word go. “I’ll wait till you forget it” declares Green during the chorus, with his screamed vocals underpinning the clean ones without much difficulty. As the track breaks down halfway through, everything seems to come to its senses as the guitars go from chugged to lilting. The percussion presents itself as a cinematic accompaniment to proceedings, before allowing the track to slowly but surely die down and fade away.
ILLUSION & CONTROL
Penultimate track Illusion & Control is one of the few occasions on Along the Shadow where Sorenson’s bass stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the band. His low, pulsating drone is a constant fixture throughout the track as it accompanies Rodriquez’s pounding percussion and Burchell’s high-pitched guitar line. As the second verse kicks in by means of a fade-in and sudden halt, Saosin sound more urgent than before as they reach the end of a huge comeback album. It’s definitely a commendable achievement to put out a record with so much ferocity and vigour, whilst still managing to sound youthful and sticking to a small selection of core instrumental elements. The final part of the track sees Green scream at a constant rate, his fury enabling the rest of the band to build-up and prepare for a massive climax.
CONTROL AND THE URGE TO PRAY
Along the Shadow comes to an end on Control and the Urge to Pray, a track which sums up the full journey that Saosin embarked on throughout the preceding ten tracks. It’s got everything, from downtempo verses and soft vocals all the way through to chugged guitar lines, heavy rhythms and menacing screams which yet again take no prisoners. A slow mid-section precedes the track’s final closing section, one which sounds equal parts anthemic, epic and haunting.
Saosin have definitely hit home on Along the Shadow. The record, their first in seven years, is filled with hard-hitting riffs, pulsating rhythms and menacing vocals which all intertwine to create a chaotic end product that takes no prisoners whatsoever. Soasin aren’t afraid to be brave and do things which their contemporaries could never do, and it’s just part of the reason as to why the Californians are so ground-breaking in both their musical delivery as well as their message and intentions. Welcome back, Saosin.
Along the Shadow comes out on 20 May via Epitaph Records.