Silent Planet’s When the End Began covers US Opioid epidemic, Guernica, homelessness and LGBT identity
There’s so much to dig into with this album that ironically, given the title, I will begin at the end. The closing track, ‘Depths III’, encapsulates everything that Silent Planet have been working towards in their previous two records. It’s a moody, atmospheric track that lends itself to Garrett Russell’s unique delivery and his songwriting (which is denser than many essays I’ve turned in).
Garrett’s songwriting is genius, covering topics ranging from the US Opioid epidemic and Guernica to homelessness and LGBT identity. And unlike many who try to cover these topics, he does so with weight and gravitas that never feels like pandering or glibness. With more multisyllabic words than I’ve heard in any other album this year by a long shot, his half-screamed delivery takes on a rapper-esque flow at some points as he fits his thesis to the rhythm in mind-bending ways, giving every line and metaphor its due attention.
In ‘The New Eternity’, for example, are these lyrics: “Mother, tell me, why do the waters make us sick?/Who bleeds the heavens making the clouds rain pestilence?/Dropping fever, like manna from the morning sky/Gather your children and hold them as they die”. He references Revelation 8:11 while talking about the use of agent orange by the US in the Vietnam War, portraying the thoughts of an addict in ‘Share The Body’: “Do I dare shake the need from our skin?/Do I dare rattle the rust, corroding me from within?/The lechery, the treachery, oh come, Love, sit next to me/This anatomy is built like tragedy/Don’t you know me by these scars? These marks where I are?/I mean I am, I mean I was, I was supposed to be someone”.
When The End Began is a flawless execution of a brilliant idea and deserves to be in album of the decade discussions, let alone album of the year discussions
These are just two examples, but I could have picked almost any line from this album; the writing is consistently above and beyond excellent and delivered in a unique way. Paramount to this are the much more evocative drum patterns from Alex Camarena, a big improvement on the previous two records – Everything Was Sound and The Night God Slept – and there are some technical riffs from Mitchell Stark on lead guitar, most notably in ‘Visible Unseen’, ‘Firstborn’ and ‘Lower Empire’. Even the keyboard pieces add an ominous touch, used sparingly as they are. This is in part because the mixing is much improved from previous records, and every aspect of what the band try to do is shown in its best light by that.
I should admit, I like The Night God Slept and Everything Was Sound – they were ambitious and intriguing – yet they were flawed in several ways, always paired with the feeling that the band could grow into something more. When The End Began is the total realisation of a conceptually and stylistically ground-breaking band at the peak of their powers. It is a flawless execution of a brilliant idea and deserves to be an album of the decade discussions, let alone album of the year discussions. In a year packed with amazing releases, this stands out as something bold – reflective yet arresting – melodic and atmospheric yet heavy where it needs to be and written with an actuarial precision that would make a watchmaker blush. Flawless.