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SILENT CIVILIAN
'Rebirth of the Temple' (Mediaskare)

Review by Greg Maki
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Two years ago, when frontman Jonny Santos left Spineshank, the remaining band members cited their desire to play heavier music as one of the reasons for the split. They should be eating those words now that Santos has returned in Silent Civilian, whose debut album is nothing short of a modern metal masterpiece. Rebirth of the Temple is a powerful musical statement combining the best elements of today’s heavy music and the thrash bands that inspired Santos in his younger days.

After the atmospheric “Intro – Call to Arms,” Silent Civilian turns up the volume for the next 11 songs. It’s not until the album closer, the reflective “Live Again,” that the listener gets a chance to relax – but don’t get too comfortable, as even that song has time to rock.

Santos stands front and center, handling both vocals and guitars. As is common today, he alternates between screaming and singing. But the simple fact is he does both better than most. He puts as much emotion into his screaming as he does into his singing and comes up with some of the most memorable melodies I’ve heard in a long time. He also varies the song structure, avoiding the easy trap of screaming through the verses and singing in the choruses of every song. As a guitarist, Santos is not at all rusty, even though he did not play during his eight years in Spineshank. He busts out ferocious riff after ferocious riff and shreds his way through solos on all of the tracks, some of which top the six-minute mark (the album as a whole clocks in at just under 65 minutes). The highlights for guitar buffs are “The Song Remains Un-Named,” “Divided” and “Wrath.” Credit also must be given to Tim Mankowski, who also played guitar on the album but left the band about 10 days into its first tour. And we can’t forget the rhythm section. Drummer Chris Mora is a rising star, with his thunderous beats combining with Henno’s rumbling bass to give the band a rock-solid backbone.

Lyrically, Santos covers a wide range of topics, from the political leanings behind the band’s name to the uncertainty he experienced after leaving Spineshank to pure rage. For the heaviest song on the disc, “Falling Down,” he drew his inspiration from the 1993 Michael Douglas movie of the same name. The title track, meanwhile, is a passionate, fist-pumping anthem with a powerful message of hope. (The chorus: “Pushing on each day/Keep our individuality/Elevate your mind/Strength within is what you need to find.”) “Live Again,” too, directly relates to Santos’ efforts to find himself before forming Silent Civilian. But there’s a refreshing lack of self-pity on this song and throughout the entire album. Santos clearly has emerged with great confidence, as a person, musician and songwriter.

Though this is Silent Civilian’s debut and the sound is unlike anything released by Santos’ previous band, he isn’t exactly new at this. This is not a matter of someone hopping on a bandwagon with the hopes of making a quick buck. Rebirth of the Temple is a remarkably mature album, more like something a band would release in the middle of their career at the height of their powers. It is easily the best album I have heard so far in 2006, and it holds its own with the best any recent years have to offer.