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How often do a guitar band burst on to the scene with a great debut album, and then by their third they're all but forgotten about? The same can happen with any genre of course, but with pop for example, because it's often the work of production teams, stylists and so on, if things start to fail then reinvention is easily done and more time can be spent at the top. For guitar bands, at least the non-manufactured variety, returning with a totally new image and sound can lose you credibility very quickly and have you accused of being yet another lot of industry puppets. People rarely buy the same thing again and again (there are always exceptions to the rules, like AC/DC who essentially make the same record over and over) but the best bands progress, improve and revitalize. A prime example being The Beatles, a band who not only got better as albums went on, but refreshed their sound too, and without the use of stylists or production teams. They spent a decade naturally morphing from clean-cut, suited mop-tops to bearded peace and love fanatics.
Swedish band Then Comes Silence are not going to repeat the success and the progression of those musical deities, nor are they likely to top charts. These facts make it even more important that standards aren't allowed to slip and the music isn't allowed to become stuck in a repetitive rut. With a smaller fanbase, not only do you need to keep them furnished with music of quality, you need to attract new followers too. For their second album the quartet couldn't just send in a Xerox of the debut, or pretty soon after would come nothing but silence. They need the songs to be as good or better, they need the music to change but without removing what made the debut work so well; they needed to progress to show they were no flash-in-the-pan. In part the natural progression was forced by a line-up change as two members departed, although their singer/bassist Alex Svenson (also of the band Sad Day For Puppets) remained and has always been the group's main composer.
'II' is a better record than last year's debut (writing and recording barely paused after that album's release), and here's why. Firstly, what attracted people to the band is still here: those gritty, shoegaze/post-punk/fuzz-rock songs. Songs like the bristling single 'Spirits Flow', new single 'Can't Hide', the blistering 'Fingers', 'Whispering About You' which (if I had my way) should be a single; these are like the first album taken to that next level and they sound dark, menacing and very big. As well as better songs, there's more diversity, something which could prove crucial to their future. 'Ghost Child' brings in a slow-burning mystery and then adds short blasts of more modern production to keep the song fresh and experiment with what their genre can do and where it can go. The expansive (yet paradoxically claustrophobic) 'New Life' also breaks from their format and heads deeper into the abyss, before pausing to chime out some guitar like a brief beacon of light in the fog. More electronic effects are used here. Already they seem to be looking to the future.
We could mention plenty of bands who've wandered into similar musical terrain in the past, but one more modern noticeable influence on certain tracks is A Place To Bury Strangers. 'She Lies In Wait' is a clear nod to that band, and it features a guest appearance from Sad Day For Puppets vocalist Anna Eklund. This is especially fitting as both Then Comes Silence and SDFP have played with APTBS in the past, with the second SDFP album even bearing a dedication to the US group. Another track with a similar sound is the stand-out 'Falling Into The Void', more single material and more blackness but with a wonderful surging quality. The shadowy, underworld, almost occult vibe of some of 'II' is one of its defining qualities, perhaps never more so than on the instrumental 'Mothman' (if you don't know the story of Mothman then you'll find a few documentaries on YouTube), the penultimate track before we're taken away into the unknown with the medieval stomp that accompanies the bleak, pedestrian post-punk of 'In Between'. Then Comes Silence have done on this record exactly what we described to begin with: they've improved, they've experimented, they've progressed. Their walls may not be coated with platinum discs, but it doesn't sound as though they'll be disappearing any time soon.
Then Comes Silence's website
Pre-order the album
Catch them live:
FRI 04 OCT Godsmagasinet, Ljungby, Sweden
SAT 05 OCT The Liffey, Stockholm, Sweden
FRI 01 NOV BETA, Copenhagen, Denmark
FRI 01 NOV Sörveiv 2013, Kristiansand, Norway
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