Review by Jeff Maki
When I interviewed vocalist Eddie Hermida in October 2015 (read here), the band was opening for Korn on its self-titled album’s 20th anniversary tour (read review). Produced by Ross Robinson—the producer of the new Suicide Silence album, as well—that album changed the face of metal. Even in the Mitch Lucker-era, the band showed its admiration for Korn, as the band’s 2011 album, The Black Crown had obvious influences. But this new album isn’t strictly influenced by Korn—it takes Robinson’s body of work, combined with Suicide Silence’s vision, and the band undergoes a complete metamorphosis.
When talking with Eddie, he gave a strong warning to fans regarding the next album:
“We’re looking to burn bridges, man. We’re looking for kids to either sink or swim with us. If you’re at all hesitant about our band, if you don’t get our motives and if you don’t get our position in the world and you don’t get where our music comes from, then you’re gonna be one of those fans that gets left behind. It’s one of those things where this next future, this next road for us is gonna be something that is really gonna put us to the test for ourselves more than anybody else. It’s almost one of those things where it might even completely bomb, and we don’t care. It’s one of those things where we’re literally at a point that we’re not allowed to not take chances anymore. We’re not allowed to play the safe road anymore.”
I’m surprised some of the bigger metal outlets didn’t pick these quotes up. Eddie says the album “might bomb” and they don’t give a shit! He may end up being right. Fan backlash to the first two singles, “Doris” and “Silence,” has been nothing but harsh. There’s even a petition to stop the album from being released. Yes, really. With the exception of a few retaliatory tweets from Lopez, Eddie and the band—rhythm guitarist Chris Garza, lead guitarist Mark Heylmu, drummer Alex Lopez and bassist Dan Kenny—are mostly laughing it off.
What I am trying to say is everything pointed to this coming—a dramatic shift in the band’s style, adapting the music to more of Eddie’s strengths, trying to push boundaries and bringing Robinson on board. As recently as December, the band warned the album contains 70 percent clean vocals.
Ross Robinson-produced albums have an organic, natural sound. They can sound messy and muddled at times. Highlights of his resume include Slipknot’s debut, Deftones’ Adrenaline, Limp Bizkit’s Three Dollar Bill, Y’all, Sepultura’s Roots and Machine Head’s The Burning Red. He brings out emotions in band’s vocalists and likes to keep the tape rolling, not knowing what he might capture. Whether it’s rock or metal, there are lots of tempo changes, highs and lows, weird guitar sounds and off-the-wall song structures. It can be completely unpredictable.
Suicide Silence has all these characteristics. But on the flip side, I can see why the real die-hard deathcore elitists are up in arms. The clean vocals begin in the worst way. The introduction is on the opening track, “Doris,” where they’re out of place and too similar to Korn’s “Justin.” But then on “Silence,” we get a better representation of what the rest of the cleans will sound like—think Robb Flynn of Machine Head.
Soon after, when it seems like the record should fire back, we get a murky, ballad-type song, “Dying in a Red Room,” which wouldn’t be out of place on a Deftones record. It’s a good song, but to like it, you’ve got to “get over it.” Another ballad shows up a little later, “Conformity.” I like this one and especially the killer classic rock guitar solo. It reminds me of those older metal albums that always seemed to have that interlude song.
Toward the beginning, middle and end of the record, respectively, we find “Listen,” “Hold Me Up, Hold Me Down” and “Don’t Be Careful, You Might Hurt Yourself,” all of which contain elements of—but are still far removed from—old Suicide Silence. There’s lots of cleans, plenty of maniacal screaming but limited deathcore vocals. The fuzzy guitar riffs, however, bounce like The Black Crown, and I like the Roots-like tempo changes and rawness of “Listen.” There are not many blast beats here, though.
In between, there are a couple other “Doris”-like tunes in the potential single and catchiest song of the album, “Run,” and then “The Zero,” a song that is so Deftones, I wonder if Chino Moreno penned it himself.
So yes, just as you were warned, if it’s deathcore you’re expecting, you’re going to be “left behind.” You will—and probably already do—hate this album. A bomb? It’s possible. After this succeeds in alienating a good portion of the band’s fan base, I’m not sure what’s left. I was—and still am—a Suicide Silence fan, but I am shocked by how different this is. My best advice is if you like the Ross Robinson-produced records I have mentioned, then there are good qualities about this album. I like and own all those albums. If you are one of the elitists, stay away, because for better or worse, this is now an entirely different band—the artist formerly known as Suicide Silence.
(Nuclear Blast Records, February 24, 2017)