While it probably goes without saying that very few groups would purposely wish to toil away at their craft in abject obscurity, such a situation, it must be said, does offer them a certain luxury not enjoyed by their more popular peers. Indeed, minus the onerous burden of outside pressure from producers, label types and the ever-finicky fan base, the average indie band is free to compose, record and perform its music exactly as its members best see fit. Such must certainly have been the case with the men of Silverline, whose largely unheralded 2010 EP, Voices in the Night, tossed prevailing pop/worship trends to the wind in favor of five song's worth of heavily compressed guitars, larger-than-life choruses and a nod to everything from emo and '70s power pop to early MTV-era pop-metal. Most tellingly, against all conceivable hope of any sort of commercial success, there was nary a ballad to be found in the lot.
Those fortunate enough to have heard the overlooked extended player will be delighted to know that the moxy that propelled Voices to its lofty (albeit largely unknown) perch is still largely alive and well on the Minnesota quintet's full-length follow up. The riff-driven, Anberlin-influenced "Hold On" charges from the starting gate, bristling with energy and grit. The looser, more swaggering "Lights Out" fans the already brightly-glowing fire lit by the imposing opening cut. "War" augments the group's hard-rocking inclinations with a welcome helping of rhythm and funk, while "Never Looking Back" - perhaps best described as Emery covering the Jonas Brothers - faultlessly navigates the ever-tenuous tight rope between the pop and rock domains. And "Something Better" is the sort of lilting pure pop confection destined to put a spring in the step of all but the most stoic of hearers.
Elsewhere, though, the results are a bit more scattershot. Despite sounding so much like Anberlin that even the moms of that band's members probably couldn't tell it wasn't the work of their sons, "Vicious" has a certain bracing quality that should endear it to the harder-rocking members of the audience. Tamer entries like "Be Still," "With the Angels" and "Too Far Gone," on the other hand, while arguably on par with the usual worship-leaning fare played on most Christian pop radio stations, will probably have members of the existing fan base wondering exactly when their favorite group decided to become the next MercyMe. And less than inspired lyrics like "There's something on the tide tonight/ A new beginning/ I will rise/ Yeah," "My heart is yours/ I'll never be the same" and "They say follow your dreams/ But it's harder than it seems" do little to lift those softer tracks from their run of the mill instrumental mire.
Of course, eliminating the more generic songs still leaves roughly two thirds of an album's worth of topnotch music - which actually surpasses the quantity found on its predecessor. In the same way, while the members of Silverline aren't quite bard material, the majority of their lyrical shortcomings are compensated for on the harder-rocking compositions, where passion and earnestness conceivably count for as much as, if not more than, any literary or poetic aspirations. Just as importantly, in the present era where any guitars that happen to appear on a given artist's work are usually buried so far back in the mix as to be nearly imperceptible, it's refreshing to know that the men of Silverline haven't forgotten the value of a dirty blues lick or perfectly-placed power chord. Indeed, even with its weaker offerings taken into account, Lights Out is still a better-than-average effort that, although it falls shy of the consistently infectious gumption of Voices, it still offers plenty to love for those in both the radio-listening and rock-loving camps.- Review date: 2/22/13, written by Bert Gangl of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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