Album: This is how the Wind Shifts
Label: Hopeless Records
Tricky things, concept albums. When done right, they can be seminal, testaments to creativity and vision and the sheer bravado of the band who undertakes them. When done wrong, there are few things more baffling and unrewarding. This Is How the Wind Shifts, Silverstein’s sixth album, is caught in the middle. Its concept is very interesting – the band explore duality, partnering songs on the record so as to consider two different outcomes to a certain event or experience – but its execution doesn’t feel as bold or momentous as it should. I’m not convinced the band have completely transcribed their vision or found an effective way to bring it to life musically, as there are a great number of tracks on this record that feel standard or even sub-par and do little to ingrain their stories in the listener’s ears. It does have its moments – the slower, meditative tracks work better than many of the faster ones, due largely to their more intensive sound. These help to pad the album out with more memorable shining moments. But it is notable that for an album exploring two ends of a story, the band only seem to succeed in capturing one.
The main issue with This Is How the Wind Shifts is that, for something as bold and visionary as it seems to be, its sound never quite lives up to that. Its opening tracks feel familiar and standard, offering nothing particularly unique from many other gruff rock bands. “Stand Amid the Roar” is enlivened by some neat, if not spectacular guitar work and harmonies that let it sound more sophisticated than it actually is. Shane Told’s vocals are gritty but lack gravitas. “On Brave Mountains We Conquer” doesn’t quite live up to its ambitious title. It’s enjoyable enough, with its gnarly guitars and raspy vocals giving it some sense of depth and life, but it’s not exactly arresting. On these tracks, the band almost feel like they’re on the fence – straddling highs and lows but not fully serving either. They fare much better when they embrace a darker, grimmer sound or something more refined. “Massachusetts”, which follows, is far more impressive. Rugged and driven, it feels decidedly more dramatic and has much more to hold interest than the others. Further along, “In a Place of Solace” is angsty and intense, peppered with raging emotion as echoed in the rabid vocals and put-upon howl of guitars. The atmosphere is very effectively rendered and though it is slightly inconsistent, it makes for stirring listening. It seems, in this sense, the band’s ‘mirror image’ tracks in which they explore the alternative outcome may be faring better than the originals, though this has the effect of making the album feel a bit fractured.
The slower numbers can be hit and miss also, but overall leave a more enduring impact. “This Is How” and “The Wind Shifts”, spelling out the album title, are excellently etched opposites. The former interrupts the throaty exertions of the opening songs to indulge in some escapist, loose, dreamlike rock. Its simplicity is striking and airy. “The Wind Shifts” echoes the album’s latter-half trends towards darkness and despair, playing out broodingly and sombrely and raising much intrigue with its heightened, poignant sound. “Hide Your Secrets” is more exalted than many of the others and seems a lot more comfortable in itself. It wears its heart on its sleeve and explores same through reflective guitar notes, rhythmic drums, and pristine vocals.
The hit-and-miss nature of the songs means that This is How the Wind Shifts, for all its shining moments, lacks resolution. “Departures”, the album’s swansong, mixes intense soliloquy with grinding, emphatic percussion. It’s a pretty take on depth and meaning but as with much of the album, never fully conveys what’s at its heart. The band’s ideas are noble, but there’s a certain consistency missing from their realisation of the songs and this in turn robs them of their full appeal.
While this certainly works far better than most concept albums, it seems a little incomplete for my tastes. What does work works marvellously, but there’s too much that doesn’t quite seem to gel. It’s well worth a listen and will undoubtedly find an appreciative audience but the chutzpah needed to push it that one extra mile is too glaring by its absence.
Review written by Grace Duffy