If you’re feeling a combination of bored, Aristotelian, churlish, and are unwilling to leave your house, Form and Matter: Metal Edition is fun for the whole family. It’s a simple game where you make the “form” (the “definition”/record title) match the “matter” (the music) of a record. Some examples: Your Weird Drunken Uncle Makes an Edgy Hard Rock Record; Alestorm but Not as Good; Eight Strings, Zero Riffs; Your Weird Drunken Uncle Got Into the Studio Again, Please Make Him Stop; and Screamin’ to the Indies. If I were to improve its title for accuracy, Canadian melo-death band Silent Line‘s new record could reasonably be rechristened What In Flames Would be Doing if They Wanted to Make Their Old Fans Pretty Mad Instead of Fucking Furious.
Okay, it’s not that simple, but it’s pretty close. Silent Line play hook-oriented melodic death metal in the vein of commercial era In Flames with nods to Dark Tranquility and Soilwork, the amount of blast beats rivaling the latter. They also veer into Wintersun territory now and again, but you won’t be mistaking anything here for Time II because the orchestration isn’t as complex or overpowering and Shattered Shores is actually being released within this decade [The man has no spa yet, so how can he record? – Steel “Gofundme” Druhm]. Big guitar-based hooks pop up like a Clayman-themed version of Whack-a-Mole, and vocals alternate between an Akerfeldt influenced death growl and some clean vocals that we’ll discuss later.
High fructose melo-death played a sizeable role in my listening queue of yore, so I still have a soft spot for these kinds of tunes. “Shattered Shores I: Timeless Night” speeds up modern Dark Tranquility and infuses it with pre-awful In Flames‘ knack for writing hugely catchy but still largely metal hooks, and Mark Burton’s deep growls work wonders over the top. Although it makes what comes after it seem like a musical non-sequitur, the Wintersun-isms of opener “Frost of the Night” are catchy and bombastic with nods to power metal via Wind Rose, making for an entertaining romp through mystical snowy forests. Taking clear influence from “The Mirror’s Truth” seems unorthodox, but it works for “Starfall” due to a bass-led verse and a prechorus that brings We Are the Void to mind, synthesizing the two in the chorus effectively. Like putting spinach and a fried egg on a hamburger, it probably shouldn’t be as good as it is, but I enjoy it.
What I don’t enjoy so much are Burton’s clean vocals. They’re normally fine in pitch, but they have Matt Heafy Syndrome: there’s just something off about them regardless. “Starfall” sees them working because they’re behind the growling, but when they take center stage in “Summersong,” they’re not powerful or authoritative in tone, and come across as overly polished and undistinguished. The prevailing flatness saps any energy built up prior, making them a big part of the boulder in Shattered Shores‘ Sisyphean climb to greatness. If you liked The Living Infinite‘s sultry hit single “This Momentary Bliss” then you may fancy its less attractive cousin “Erosion,” or simply not care. It’s not a bad song, but it spends the vast majority of its time reminding you of how much better its older counterpart is, like watching The Matrix Reloaded minus the urge to throw the DVD out of the nearest window.
While individual songs fare generally well, Silent Line seems to be unsure exactly what direction they’d like to head in and it really shows. The last four songs are the best example, with Wintersun rudely interrupting the overextended Surströmming dinner of “Shattered Shores II: A New Beginning” to play two songs and abruptly leave, letting Silent Line finish their traditional Swedish meal on “Embrace the End” with a side of damaging clean vocals that sound like a powerless Mikael Stanne.
That said, there’s good material throughout Shattered Shores and Silent Line definitely know their way around some sharp hooks. The production is similar to Construct but sounds more squashed and less warm, but equally shiny, which isn’t detrimental as far as this style goes. Shattered Shores is entertaining but largely unfocused, making for an overall bumpy ride through melo-death’s sugary Swedish district with some confusing detours through Wintersun‘s personal sauna [We covered this. – Steel]. In total, we’ve got a very good half hour’s worth of fun and catchy melo-death liberally peppered with underdeveloped ideas and weaker material that works out to a fifty-five minute record. Slick guitar hooks only go so far, and nearly an hour is past that point. In giving us more material, Silent Line have given us less replay value.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Releases Worldwide: October 30th, 2015