I have been waiting forever to talk about this band! I first saw Silence is Madness way back in September at a little show Coop Schuh put together at Dr. Jacks Drinkery. The bill featured hard rock band Molten as the openers, Blackened Death Metallers Coffinrites (then CoffinRot) as the headliners, with Silence is Madness sandwiched between the two, a perfect metaphor for the band's sound. I had seen their shirts around town but based on the design I assumed they were an industrial band from the 90s, and boy was I wrong. It’s quite hard to pinpoint the band’s sound as it seems heavily inspired by a variety of sources, ranging from thrash, glam, to aughts hard rock, largely taking cues from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands like Iron maiden. At the time I had mixed feelings about the band, I was both pleasantly surprised by the fantastic musicianship and a little weirded out by their lead singers’ wiggling, though looking back the stage was about the size of my 96 Gio tracker, which is to say, tiny. I’m not sure there was much room to do anything other than wriggle. I started their set posted up at the back of the bar with my arms crossed, and slowly made my way to the front, being drawn by the band’s charisma. By the end, I was having a great time, headbanging to the speedy rhythms and... gyrating hips.
After their set, I was talking with Coop and asked him the dumbest question I could have, “Where did you find these guys?” Turns out Silence is Madness has a long history in the Omaha metal scene. The band cropped up around mid 2016, while the majority of the band members were in highschool, with founding members meeting in Omaha’s School of Rock after school program. The band quickly became one of Omaha’s most palatable, sporting a diverse array of sounds, able to fit onto most bills. If you’ve been to a local show in the past 4 years, you’ve most likely seen their logo on the poster.
Needless to say, that was the last time I underestimated the band. Later I would encounter them at the 2019 Fright night, where they played some fantastic covers dressed like The Beatles. Unfortunately I missed the second half of their set, because it was like one in the morning, and I had already been to a halloween party the previous night. I would later get to know the band more intimately at the Wreck the Halls 2019, where I did a goofy interview with the band’s front-man, Kent. Obviously we’re like best friends now! You can find the video here. The show was a blast with the band performing a no doubt legendary set packed with both covers and original tracks. , however the night ended, and we left on a, “Slime&Grime should definitely cover you,” note. Unfortunately we wouldn’t get the chance, until now!
On June 20th, the band kicked off the release of Xero, their first full length venture, with a livestream concert. The show started off a bit messy with the guitars being so loud you couldn’t hear anything else. After a couple of minutes they noticed the chat blowing up and took down the stream while they fixed the issue. I was a little disappointed but kept an eye on their page, hoping they would restart the stream. Twenty minutes later the stream was back up, catching me completely off guard while I was on the toilet. Ain’t that just like 2020? The show was actually quite fun, and provided an intimate experience that was, lets say, quieter. Maybe I’m old, but sitting on my couch watching a live metal show at a non ear destroying volume was quite enjoyable, although it was hardly a substitute for the feel of being there in person. I did enjoy interacting with the other fans via chat ,and being separated by the screen added a level of comfort that I wouldn’t have had interacting with the other fans during a live show. The band played Xero in its entirety, and a couple of fun covers, most notably Green Jelly’s, Three Little Pigs. It had me hopping in my seat from excitement!
Onto the album. It's hard to judge this album solely on the fact that a lot of these songs are 4 years in the making. The self titled track Silence Is Madness is most likely a track that was written shortly after the bands inception in 2016, and a few long standing favorites like New World Order, Solitary Nightmare, and Welcome To My Life are re-recorded tracks from their Self titled Ep from 2018. The Ep tracks are essentially the same with a few minor adjustments, most notably in the vocals, as the original vocals were performed by then singer Kelsey, and the new recordings feature their current vocalist Kent infusing his own personality into the part. Although little was changed musically, this recording is much better. Fans of early Silence is Madness will not be disappointed, as Kent is more than a suitable vocal replacement who adds quite a bit of personality to the tracks, and while Kelsey is no longer with the band her vocal styling has left its mark on the band, and is all over this album.
There are a lot of different sounds to explore here, between the thrashy Megadeth inspired rhythm parts, the Nu Metal Avenged Sevenfold style chorus’, and mid era Zeppelin psychedelic romps, with all parts smoothed out with an Iron Maiden like polish. Xero balances all of the genres extremely well, with the placement of their application, combining the aforementioned sounds in various configurations, keeping the tracks fresh. Some of the slower Zepplin-eske tracks are even placed at intervals that prevent the album from becoming boring, or at least they do if you are listening to this on Spotify, as the Google Play version has them in a different order.
The musicianship here is top notch!, Drums are superb and never miss a beat, offering up enough variety to prevent tracks from becoming boring, the Bass is audible in a good way, having major parts that outshine the guitars in a few tracks, like New World Order, and is constructed in such a way that it drives the rest of the band into the chord changes rather than following them, and the Guitars rival that of the bands chief influence, Iron maiden, balancing superb solos, chunky rhythms, and high flying dual guitar harmonies.
That brings us to the vocals, which are my biggest issue with this album. Kent, who gives us a superb performance, is kind of muddled in with the rest of the band when it comes to the mix, and is frequently overpowered by the guitars, which often share the same frequency. To compensate for this, the album relies heavily on vocal doubling, which is a great technique to make vocals stand out, but is a darn right distracting here. I find myself on many occasions wishing they would nix the doubling altogether and just turn the vocals up a few decibels. When the doubling is dropped for effect, it’s almost a breath of fresh air. The guitars have a similar problem with the solos, although sans the part doubling, where the solos would sometimes be overpowered by the rhythm parts. Luckily the guitars are so cleanly recorded you can still make out the details. The mix here is by no means a dealbreaker, but it does negatively impact an otherwise fantastic album.
There are a few standout tracks here, including but not limited to New World Order, Burn Out/Fade Away, A Dish Best Served Cold, Solitary Nightmare - My personal favorite, and the final track Transcendent Paradise. Most of these tracks stray away from the genre a bit, and provide little tidbits that add character to the album, such as A Dish Best Served Cold’s gothic style organ outro, and New World Order’s intense anti-propaganda speech harkening back to Pink Floyd’s, In The Flesh, and the intro speech for Slipknot’s, Pulse of the Maggots. Where the previous tracks dabble in experimental sounds, Burn Out/Fade Away festers in it, providing a slower, acoustic style, mid era Zeppelin feel for the first half, building to the second half which shifts gears into an epic Maiden style warsong! The first half is a bit out of Kent’s range though, and is a bit out of key in a few spots, but the second half is godly levels of awesome, as Kent slips into his range firing at all cylinders! I would take points off the first half, but the second half of the song absolutely makes up for the minor blemishes. The final track, Transcendent Paradise, tells a quiet tale of a sailor at sea, making his journey home. It's a soothing track that caps the album superbly.
Overall Xero is an excellent album, that provides top notch musicianship and songwriting while balancing a variety of sounds. This is a fantastic first entry into Silence Is Madness’ no doubt lengthy career. I can’t wait for more from this band, and will be watching the band's career with great interest!