Arts & Entertainment, Music

Artist Spotlight: Silverstein and emo rock revival

Picture the summer of 2007: Posters of Linkin Park and Green Day plaster teenagers’ rooms, hair gel is used excessively to style straightened comb-overs, and MP3 players still exist. The emo wave rocked an entire generation and defined the scalps of Skrillex, early-career Cristiano Ronaldo, and so many more. Even EDM was going through its emo phase—the Tecktonik. It was the best of times, it was the saddest of times.

In February 2000, a group of Canadian high school students decided to ride the early wave of emo rock music and officially formed the band Silverstein. By May 2003, they had released multiple EPs and a full-length album, all filled with distorted guitar parts alongside thick bass riffs and screaming vocals. Silverstein’s emotional music was tapping into the heavy hearts of millions of Canadians. Later hits from 2005 like “My Heroine” and “Smile in Your Sleep” feature memorable melodies and became anthems of emo rock. With half a million records sold following these successes, Silverstein had a global reach and peaked in popularity.

But at the turn of the decade, with the recession in full force, people were growing tired of feeling sad. Emo faced backlash, and musical acts rebranded. Although emo music fell increasingly out of the billboard charts, Silverstein remained faithful to their roots. Their sound matured throughout album releases, featuring more synthesizers and sequencers which created a more modern repertoire. Lead singer Shane Told recalls this progression with fondness.

“We were just kids, and everyone was the same,” Told said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “Then you realize that people are into different things. It’s important to try new things [….] We wanted to relinquish all that electronic music. We asked ourselves, ‘Who cares?’ Next thing you know, there’s a whole other world out there and another sound palate to the band.”

In 2020, when the band was about to tour for the release of their album A Beautiful Place to Drown, countries were shuttering their borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a cancelled tour and a lot of downtime, Silverstein was back on the writing board.

“Songs were written entirely during quarantine in 2020 and 2021,” Told said. “We weren’t getting together, we just sent files and hearts back and forth. It was a dark time.” 

Those songs became the basis for their recent album Misery Made Me, recorded in 2021 and released in time for their comeback tour in 2022. The album is an exciting blend of their emo and electronic sounds. Layered vocals and reverb permeate the record with effects, immersing listeners in a unique acoustic experience. Told remembers less “misery” and more of the joy of being back with the band when they recorded the album.

“When we got together in the studio, it felt uplifting,” Told said. “We played golf, drank wine, and recorded the album. We had a cohesive idea about the whole record.” 

Nu-metal motifs are scattered throughout the track “Slow Motion.” “Don’t Wait Up” is a tight-sounding blast from Silverstein’s past sound. “The Altar/Mary” has listeners swimming in the sonic space brought by decaying keyboards and vocals until fast-paced and distorted instrumentals suddenly take over. The album is immaculately mixed and produced, emphasizing the breadth of the various musical dimensions Silverstein explores.

I was able to watch Silverstein perform on Oct. 1 at Theatre l’Olympia alongside Amity Affliction, Unity-TX, and Holding Absence. The crowd’s average age was between 30 and 40, a generation that grew up listening to this music more than 15 years ago. The mid-2000s emo aesthetic was in full swing, and the crowd’s energy resembled that of the attendees’ raucous and angsty teenage selves. The opening acts were expressive, guitars were distorted, and everyone was chanting out familiar lyrics. When Silverstein came up, the crowd roared with acclamation. 

“It’s so fucking good to be back,” yelled an ecstatic Shane to the Olympia crowd. 

I would have never imagined myself enjoying emo music, yet there I was, dancing and jumping to their hits. After a two-year hiatus, the stage lights shone brightly on Silverstein once again, reigniting a spark in emo music extinguished long ago. Whatever fire was lit that cold Saturday night, be it on St. Laurent or at the concert, it rekindled within me a sudden desire to mosh like it’s 2007.

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