Album Review: Silent Descent return with epic new album Turn To Grey

Dartford-based trance-metal six-piece Silent Descent are back from a four-year hiatus with a new album oozing in heaviness. Fusing metal and synth, with hugely catchy riffs, big guitar solos and booming drums, the band has lovingly been monikered ‘Enter Shikari for sweaty goths.’

This tag is apt now given the Hertfordshire band’s disgusting new pop front, which makes Silent Descent’s hard-hitting return all the sweeter. The true sound of the South London clan is best left to the words of frontman Tom Watling, who explained: “The sound of SD is unlike anything that has been described before. It is a colourful mirage of sounds on a wearisome day. It is the buzzing of bees and the blossoming of flowers in the dead of winter. It is the drizzle of lemon on your fishcake. That’s how I would describe it.” And a fine job he does too.

Silent Descent aren’t our usual featured band given they’ve been around for about a decade, but at the end of this month they will release their first new material in some four years. This follows a pretty awful fallout with former record company Rising Records, which serves as a timely reminder to all bands out there.

Tom told us: “We went in with a watertight contract that we thought would leave us commercially protected, as we’d heard rumours of Rising’s behaviour prior to signing. Turns out we underestimated how low Rising would go. A LOT of contractual obligations on their side went unfulfilled, and a significant chunk of proceeds was stolen from us when the owner fled the country. Record companies should act like business partners, if they don’t they are probably not worth working with.”

The good news is that Silent Descent have come out on the other side of the experience a hell of a lot stronger, and with astounding new album Turn To Grey to boot. And it’s safe to say, they’re pretty pumped about it. As Tom tells us: “On a scale of 1 to excited, we’d break the scale! To mis-quote the contemporary French poets Homem-Christo and T.Bangalter (aka Daft Punk), this release is harder, better, faster and stronger, than anything before. But for everyone else, expect nothing… And you won’t be disappointed.”

Disappointed, let me assure you, you will not be. The album begins with the interestingly titled X (51.362820, 0.213735), which begins with ominously doomy synth noises, strings and flickering piano, that are soon joined by clean vocals and smashed into smitherines by a big hit of screams and huge atmospheric noise.

More synth leads into Turn To Grey, soon joined by drawn-out guitars that lead into clean vocals “Am I alive or am I expired, Between sleep and consciousness I’m sick of being tired” then a burst of screams and big guitars through a quick chorus. It drops back into the singalong vocals then another heavy chorus with high-pitched clean vocals and screams. There’s a quick burst of djenty guitars and synthiness, then building vocals and a big atmospheric ending.

Next up, Vortex , which features Soilwork’s Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid, opens up with an almost Pendulum-like melodic intro with high-piched synth noises soon joined by big guitars that you can’t help but rock out to. Big screamed vocals follow as we go into metal overload then swiftly drop into a more singalong chorus with vocals supported by the high-pitched synth. A really cool high-pitched synth noise then leads into another fast-paced chorus before another synth-infused rockout led by screamed vocals. Check it out in the pretty nutty video below:

Just to mix up the musical genres even further, huge trancey bursts open up Rob Rodda during which I expect an announcement of ‘J’adore hardcore.’ Luckily that doesn’t occur and instead we’re treated to huge bursts of metal guitar. Massive screams lead into a chorus of fun singalong vocals “Yeah I’m in hiding ‘cos I’m a sinner not a lover” that ends on a cry of “Goddamn I’m a bad motherfucker.” Really cool combinations of synth and metal follow then a chorus that leads into repeats of “nah nah nah” over synth and huge guitars – evoking images of Scooter going all metal on us, and I bloody love it.

The brilliantly titled Sticky Fingers brings the pace down with a light synthy intro, then a keyboard riff that leads into laid-back vocals soon joined by big guitar chords. Big high-pitched synth noises come in alongside driving guitar chords and smashing cymbals then drop into an atmospheric verse with cool clean vocals. More atmospheric noise is soon joined by repeats of “She said what are you rebelling against” that leads into a high-pitched synth and low-tuned guitar chords battle.

A big building synth noise leads us into Voices, then a scream brings in big guitars in a huge instrumental intro. The instruments drop down for an energetic screamed vocal-led verse, then a chorus of frenetic screams countered by big clean vocals. Another building synth leads into screamed vocals and more of that cool synth vs guitar smash up.

There’s a big bold to Gravesend, with huge high-pitched synth over pounding drums and guitar chords. A screamed verse is followed by big hanging vocals over screams in a huge atmospheric chorus that gives the ‘sweaty goths’ reference kudos. The lyrics “We’re at the graves end, Gravesend take a bow” give way to an almighty scream that drops into spoken/rap vocals followed by a huge fusion of synth and metal with massive bass drum support. There’s so many different parts and styles going on in this one song alone, but they somehow all come together and work brilliantly.

There’s another synthy intro to Under The Eagle before shouty vocals ahead of a singalong chorus with the cool clean cry of “‘Cos I’ve got nothing left to lose” breaking in between big screamed vocals. The synth continues into an awesome combo with chugging guitar riffs, then a huge scream sees bigger guitars, a massive drum roll and spooky synth noise lead into repeated shouts of “I am addicted” that leads back into the chorus.

The pace drops down again with a clean repeated guitar riff in the intro to Paths Winding followed by a relaxed opening verse that gradually ebbs and flows with supporting female vocals lingering in the background. A prolonged building drum beat drops out, then a huge wall of vocals supported by big drums and guitar chords takes us to the end.

A synthy noise opening to Hurt Like You’ve Never Been Loved is replaced by guitars and big drums lead up to a smash of big chunky low-tuned guitar chords supporting screamed vocals. They drop into spoken vocals “She sucks the life out of me, The Devil’s on her knee, she’ll make you hurt like you’ve never been loved” followed by screams of the same lyrics. A crazily cool gothic breakdown then follows, starting with (I think) a cool cor anglais solo, then high sweeping violins drop into a huge minor key change of big vocals and screams supported by all manner of instrumental backdrop in a pretty epic ending.

An acoustic guitar intro helps us briefly recover somewhat in the intro to Back To Where I Belong, but soon jumps into a bigger chorus with hanging synth and ends in big screams. Huge screamed vocals with piercing synth noises emanate from the end of the second verse, while the screamed chorus ends in a huge guitar solo, which then drops down into the acoustic guitar and singalong vocals. Then, just to mix things up, there’s another Pendulum-esque synth in the outro.

The EP ends brilliantly with Break The Skies, which opens with synth and string noises then flies into big fast-paced metal chords and a screamed verse. A really cool combo of djenty chords and staccatoed screams give way to a contrasting singalong chorus of “Come tomorrow we’ll learn to fly, Break a space in the skies” then a cry of “Break the skies” leads into huge metal smashes with lingering synth noises. The song goes out in epic fashion, dropping into building repeats of the chorus vocals then big female vocals repeating them over a big guitar solo, then huge vocals by Watling, followed by big synth noise over the top of all of that in a huge crescending outro.

The band feel this album summarises their identity better than anything else they’ve previously released. Tom said: “We’d like to continue making music when we’re deaf. Our teenage years were arguably one of the most interesting periods for the alternative scene. A huge variety of bands with completely different sounds were lumped into one genre, ‘Nu Metal.’

“For example, when you hear KoRn, you know it’s KoRn from their bass and signature scat. When you hear other greats like System of A Down, Slipknot, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and Deftones – like it, love it or despise it, you knew exactly who they were from their own signature sound that they had created. Silent Descent is by no means a ‘Nu Metal’ band, but we wanted to capture that vibe of a signature sound, a vibe that listeners get instantly when listening to one of our tracks.”

With this album they may well have achieved exactly that aim. There’s so much diversity that it’s hard to know where to start let alone summarise succinctly – big synth and trance melodies fused with huge metalcore pretty much sums it up – but for me, the successful fusion of these wild and wonderful styles has delivered that sought after signature sound.

Turn To Grey is out on 30 November and you can pre-order it now here. You can follow Silent Descent on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and check out their music on Spotify and YouTube.

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