It wasn’t until a few weeks ago did I find and begin listening to Canadian melodic/symphonic death metal band Silent Line. Approached by Asher Media Relations, it took a few weeks before I had the chance to sit down with the album, along with completing my ritual of basic research. Having recently released their third album titled “Shattered Shores,” I was surprised to see the numerous mixed to negative reviews of their album. Citing a lack of direction and a poor vocal performance, I spent more time on “Shattered Shores” than typical. Why did I feel differently towards this album than most reviewers? What makes the album an enjoyable listening experience? Here lies my problem that I am still having difficulty solving even now.
To start off, I must admit that although “Shattered Shores” is an enjoyable album, it isn’t a memorable one. Even with the extra love I’ve given it over the weeks, I still have difficulty recalling sections of songs or vocal performances. The album is probably one of the most approachable death metal albums one can find, especially with its commercially influenced sound from bands like In Flames, Trivium, and in some cases Disturbed (listen to the ending of “Summersong” and let me know if you agree). Consisting of mainly guitar-driven rhythms, blast drum beats, and fluffy symphonic keyboards, the instrumentation behind the album leads on as lighter than the vocals suggest. Those who like their metal heavier than to my liking will not necessarily enjoy this aspect of the album, but it suits me just fine. The ratio of Mark Burton’s clean vocals to death growls easily favors the latter, reminding me of Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. The same can’t be said about his clean vocals, though, as they are mixed very softly in each song. To sum up, this album is in no way perfect.
So what stands out in “Shattered Shores”? First of all, the lead and guitar rhythms are fascinating, chunky and heavy to the ears when needed. In fact, much of their performance reminds me of the passionate power metal fingering of bands like Kamelot, Waken Eyes, and Signum Regis. The three minute romper “Black And White” features upbeat guitar arrangements, taking place above deep power chords. It’s the mingling of palm muted chugs with higher power chords, along with its lead-focused moments, that makes this album truly melodic. I especially love the juxtaposition of the higher and lower guitars in “Shattered Shores I: Timeless Night,” including the incorporation of keyboards in the cleaner chorus section. Which leads to another reason I particularly enjoyed this album; the presence of the keyboards is necessary and enough. Without sounding entirely tacky, the keyboards generate a more synthetic orchestral sound that clouds over the general aura set by the guitars. This is evidenced in “Into The Chasm,” which features the keyboards more than any other song. Its symphonic introduction reminds the listener of the start of the album, but still drives the album forward. Many other songs include touches of classy key arrangements, but are definitely placed deep in the background.
The big dividing characteristic between us reviewers is easily Burton’s vocals. He takes care of things with his nasty, guttural death growls throughout the album. There’s no denying his massive vocals, especially in songs like “Starfall” and “Shattered Shores II: A New Beginning.” For being a concept album about a man stranded on a deserted island, Burton successfully delivers a performance filled with the anger and pain of a trapped man. But his clean vocals have received the opposite response, criticized for not only his quality, but also his delivery. After so many listens, I can understand why others feel Burton seems bored when reciting his clean lyrics. Whether it’s because of his lack of range or the lower volume of his clean vocals, I agree that Burton has homework to do before their next release. Considering this album is a self-released album, I can understand and accept some of the production mishaps. I do feel that there are moments where his clean vocals actually work well within the song, though, particularly the summery “Summersong.” The acoustic introduction is perfectly fitting for a clean vocal section, which is adequately performed in the song’s chorus. Again, I wish they had just increased the volume of his microphone for his clean vocals on this song, because I feel that is the reason for his uninspiring delivery. Other songs allow for backing death growls behind his clean vocals, which honestly sounds better than his clean vocals alone. Perhaps there could be more moments like this in a future album?
So, where does Silent Line’s “Shattered Shores” fall on this site? While it may not be the best metal album I’ve heard all year, it is still an enjoyable one. With the added positives and negatives of the album, listeners should still appreciate the sparks of emotion and headbang-worthy moments throughout. For fans of bands like In Flames, Trivium, Soilwork, and Wintersun, I definitely recommend you should check out this album. You can support Silent Line by checking out their Facebook page for band updates.
Preview and purchase “Shattered Shores” by clicking the album cover above!