It’s amazing how much a single year can throw a wrench into our plans. 2020 has made all of us re-focus our thoughts and priorities as we deal with a global pandemic that has forced us to make sacrifices along the way. Silverstein were poised and ready to tour on their recently released 10th studio album, A Beautiful Place to Drown when the world had other plans for the post-hardcore veterans. Having recently celebrated 20 years since their formation as band, Silverstein turned the unique situation into an opportunity to revisit some of their classic songs and deep cuts from past records for an album now known as REDUX II. The new recordings that made the cut for this record range from simple re-polishing of beloved songs that feel fresh for a new audience, to major enhancements to the song arrangement.
Lead vocalist Shane Told had this to say about the REDUX II project, “I will admit a couple of the songs on this album weren’t my favorites when they were originally released. Maybe it was the mix, the performance, or the song itself, but for some reason they never quite spoke to me. We took on the challenge to find out exactly why they fell flat, and what we could do to find that original magic that existed when they were first written. These songs were reworked, rethought and perfected and now have become some of my favorites we have ever recorded. It’s refreshing and rewarding to be able to bring the knowledge and skills you’ve developed for so many years and go back and breathe new life into something from a different era of the band.” By revisiting these tracks, Silverstein have breathed new life into these songs by making a collection that represents the best parts of this band to date.
The first track to hit listeners’ ears was the updated “My Disaster (2.0)” from 2007’s Arrivals & Departures. Under the tutelage of producer Sam Guaiana, Silverstein do a nice job of honing in on the strengths of the song and have incorporated new elements such as heavier riffs towards the end of the track to bring out the full intended emotions. It made sense for Silverstein to release this track first since it is one of the stronger songs in the set, and has drastically improved the original.
”You’re All I Have” (A Shipwreck in the Sand) follows the great opener with some additional harmonies that weren’t in the original version, but it pretty much leads down the same basic blueprint of the first song structure. This track ends up being more of a re-polished version of the original rather than drastically changing the song. “Ides of March” (Discovering the Waterfront) comes next and lead guitarist Paul Marc Rousseau puts his stamp on the song with some unique and interesting riffs in between Shane’s vocals. Since Rousseau didn’t join the band until 2012, he takes full advantage of his opportunity to bring something new to the classic deep cut.
”November” (When Broken Is Easily Fixed) just sounds better, in almost all ways, from the original recording. Told’s trademark vocals sound stronger and more confident than the debut record’s version, and Guaiana recognizes the band’s strengths by layering the vocals to bring more emphasis and emotion to certain parts of the song. It ends up being one of my favorite re-imagined parts of the new album as I thought the original was a good song, but needed a more polished sheen to make it sound more complete.
The band has plenty of time to revisit one of their “growing pains” albums in Arrivals & Departures with “Worlds Apart.” Much like other songs on this collection, Silverstein made a conscious effort to layer vocals for a full-sounding approach. The harmonies that Told shares with his bandmates on the chorus are especially powerful, and make for a great listening experience. The pace picks up significantly on the blazing “World on Fire (Extended)” (Short Songs) that allows for the band to add some additional vocals to the back half of the song that were not in the original track that was initially clocked in just over minute. Told’s improved screams bring out more depth to the song that will likely find its way back into Silverstein’s set list.
The catchy “On Major Mountains We Conquer” (This Is How The Wind Shifts) updates the track title from their seventh studio album, but doesn’t cover too much new ground in the re-imagined version. In some ways, it doesn’t seem to fit with the quality of the updated versions and makes for a rare misstep in Silverstein’s quest for breathing new life into their old discography. Luckily, the band regains their ground quickly on the next song, “Hear Me Out” (When Broken is Easily Fixed) that vastly improves upon the debut record’s recording. The song feels fuller and more fleshed out, and allows for Told to rally around the backing instruments for a better vocal performance across the board.
”Already Dead” (Discovering the Waterfront) was already one of my favorite Silverstein songs of all time, but I actually preferred this version of the classic deep cut. What the band does better in this version is not only improve the vocal takes, but also add some new guitar and bass elements to further accentuate the intended emotions from listening to the song.
The only acoustic song in the set, “California (Acoustic)” (This is How the Wind Shifts) hits its intended target as it provides some variety to the heavier material on REDUX II. The introduction of some piano and backing strings make for a beautiful arrangement, and made for a perfect choice of a second single to the album.
A rare song from their debut EP Summer’s Stellar Gaze (and also the 18 Candles collection) makes an appearance on this set, and finally gets its due attention as Silverstein give a more fully thought out working of “Waiting Four Years.” The improved guitar work from Josh Bradford and Rousseau pay major dividends as the song really takes off.
Album closer, “Arrivals / Departures” (This is How the Wind Shifts) brilliantly combines the two songs from their 2013 Hopeless Records record that closed out each side of the original LP. In the beginning of the track, the song is largely structured around a piano and Paul Marc Rousseau’s vulnerable vocals as you start to hear the rest of the band shuffling into the room to get ready for the big crescendo in the middle of the track to make for a powerful closing statement to the collection.
Silverstein have never been ones to sit still and be complacent with their earlier work as shown on the re-imagining of songs on both REDUX records. By taking this opportunity to fine-tune their earlier work showcases the work ethic of a band that has steadily and consistently released over 10 albums in two decades’ time. There are some albums that the band has yet to touch (looking at you, Rescue) on their quest for perfection of their back catalog, and will be interesting to see what Silverstein continues to do in their career as they revisit album anniversaries and milestones. For now, we can appreciate this collection as a symbol of one of the most hard-working group of musicians in our scene today.