The Silver make odd, exciting mix of blistering blazes, gothy haze on exhilarating ‘Ward of Roses’

Photo by Scott Kinkade

Doing something original in heavy metal (in any genre!) is growing increasingly tougher to do because everything has already been done before. In fact, everything has been redone before, and if you’re into music because you want to find innovation you’ve never experienced, I can imagine your record collection is quite small and sad. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to try unconventional means.

The Silver contains a group of artists who have created some of the more impactful music in heavy metal over the past decade, but here, they deliver sounds you will and won’t expect from them in a way that’s never not enthralling. Their debut offering is “Ward of Roses,” and it provides eight tracks that mix a bevy of different sounds in a manner I don’t really think I’ve heard before. No, they’re not inventing new subgenres, but they’re taking sounds that have inspired them—vocalist Matt Duchemin, guitarist Matt Knox, bassist Jamie Knox (both of death maulers Horrendous), drummer Enrique Sagarnaga (from doom rollers Crypt Sermon)—and putting them into different formulas. It’s heavy, gloomy, mournful, vulnerable, and exciting, a mix that feels like they’re on to creating something that is unique to them and very much something that makes every drop of your blood sizzle with excitement.

“…First Utterance” is a fluid, fog-creating instrumental opener that sets the stage and moves toward “Fallow” where the guitars rise, and the track splits at the middle. The vocals surge and punish while the playing takes hold and tries to move the earth, while clean singing mixes in, adding gothic warmth. The track takes an autumnal turn as moody guitars lather, and savagery blasts out at the finish. “Breathe” lets guitars drip as thick bass comes to life, and anguished cries from Duchemin wail, “I couldn’t bear to call you name.” Anguished shrieks take hold as the guitars surge, the drumming welts, and the track comes to a huge, rushing end. “Vapor” runs 9:37, the longest cut here, and the drums fade over the line with the vocals joining and glazing. Doomy hell unloads as the shrieks penetrate, and your guts are wrenched as you’re tossed back and forth. A strange vibe lands later as cleaner singing tries to soothe, and then the intensity melts steel, returning to crushing psyches as the tempo dizzies and ends in dust.

“Gatekeeper” is propulsive and surging as the shrieks peel paint from the walls, and the leads heat up and add significant pressure. Terrifying cries scramble brains, the playing pummels, and the final gust leaves facial abrasions. “Behold, Five Judges” tumbles in with drums pounding and the playing coming unglued, bringing melody and devastation. The guitar work scorches hard, and the speed increases, making things more combustible as icy speaking works its way down your spine. “Oh-oh-oh” calls reverberate, the tone is mournful, and the track ends in a pit of its own ash. The title track brings agitated guitars, detached speaking, and dreamy sequences that help ice your wounds. Hearty singing sinks into the chorus while the playing rumbles in your chest, and falsetto calls leave your hair standing on end. “Then Silence…” is the final cut, starting with jabbing guitars and then shrieks that make your spine feel crunched. “Body and soul yearns to walk with yours,” is called as the fog gets thicker, and a long numbing stretch puts you into a dream state. The playing then punches back, the bass gets more muscular, and a mix of chaos and gloom unite and burn off like jet fuel.

The Silver have come up with one of the more interesting debut records of the year with “Ward of Roses,” an album that’s not very easy to classify and is better experienced than read about. The band combines so many different elements on this collection, but they do so seamlessly and never in a way that sloppily pastes things together or forces vibes. This is a fascinating record, one that feels like it changes in attitude, mission, and tone every time I hear it, which makes for a stimulating experience.

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Kowloon Walled City reflect on death, aging, continue to pound using emotions with ‘Piecework’

Photo by Maria Louceiro

I’m getting exhausted writing this, and I’m sure you are reading it, but we’re in the midst of one of the toughest stretches most of us ever have experienced, but for some folks, it’s been a bigger level of hell than you can imagine. I understand some of that because my family essentially has been shredded, and even I have not had it as bad as some other people.

This comes up based on “Piecework,” the great new record from Kowloon Walled City, a favorite of ours who have operated under too many radars for too long. While lyrically the songs jump all over, inspired by various musicians and writers, as well as computer science and security, the fact is the album came to be when guitarist/vocalist Scott Evans was dealing with his father’s death. He took solace and lessons from the various women who have had major roles in his life, one being his maternal grandmother who worked at a shirt factory in Kentucky for 40 years as she raised five kids. The album’s title quite obviously is dedicated to her. Themes of death and loss, aging, and family come into play, and the band—Evans is joined by guitarist John Howell, bassist Ian Miller, and drummer Dan Sneddon–ease into their doomy noise rock, getting in and out in about a half hour but leaving their heavy mark on your heart and psyche for sure.

The title track opens the record with thick drubbing, the vocals yowling, which is a familiar component that makes the band feel so comfortable in the heart. The playing slices through as the guitars rinse wounds, the vocals tap at your head, and things trudge, slowly bruising before bleeding away. “Utopian,” partially inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson’s sci-fi novel Red Mars, is even heavier with the bass plodding away. There is misery in the melodies before things briefly work into calmer waters before the storm punches back. The howls pick up the intensity, the bass hammers, and the track bows out to the night. “Oxygen Tent” begins clean with the drums digging the path and then the drubbing arriving as the guitars unhinge their jaws. Dark clouds cover any hint of light as the vocals get punchier, the rumbling intensifies in your chest, and things come to a pummeling end.

“You Had a Plan” has guitars trickling over rocks as Evans’ bark explodes, and the watery ease works its way toward trouble. Leads soar into the atmosphere, harsh howls bruise, and the final notes ring out. “Splicing” is dreary and slurry as it dawns, and the bass chugs again, working toward all-star status on this album. The guitars cut through and increase the already bustling emotion, and then a brief stretch of desolation is jarred by steely guitars, splattering before pounding out. “When We Fall Through the Floor” lumbers as the playing flexes its muscles, and the thickening heat starts working its way through the cracks. “What’s hidden in the floor?” Evans calls repeatedly as the guitars lap and lather in doomy juices, and the drums stand alone as the track fades. “Lampblack” is the closer and opens in sullen mood, with the guitars beginning to churn and smoke. “You’ll never get away that way,” Evans accuses, with the heaviness weighing down, pummeling along with the bass snarling dangerously and the track turning into exhaust that fades into the air.

Kowloon Walled City has been a little underappreciated by just about everyone, but every time out, the band churns out a workmanlike mix of post-hardcore, doom, and noise rock. “Piecework” is another great building block by the band, an emotional, jabbing dagger to your ribs just to wake you from any sense of apathy. Worked into this is very human pain to which we all can relate and likely all have experienced in some form, and this record works to make that emotion a little more tangible.

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Or here:

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