Goth without the fun
It’s better to leave some things in the past. JNCO jeans, whatever it was we were doing with our collective hair in the 1980s (except for you Steve Harrington, keep it up) and Nu Metal. Of course, someone always comes along with the bright idea to bring these things back because the people in charge of the bad thing did a bad job at making them a good thing. Sometimes, but not often, these people are right, neon has come back in a way that was cooler than it was in the ‘80s, the mustard tones and high waisted jeans of the ‘70s look less dull and… Econoline friendly than they did in their original decade. Silence in the Snow can count themselves among the “innovators” who are trying to find a way to revive something old, in the clattering guitars and melodramatic singing of ‘80s goth guitar pop, and unfortunately, it’s as uninspiring now as it was then.
If there’s a word one could immediately land on when considering this type of music it would be contrived. If one isn’t capable of gleaning that from the album’s macabre, faux inspired titles like “Time Will Tell You Nothing,” “In the Dark,” “Cruel Ends” and “Dread the Low” then they’ve reached the point beyond help. And of course, given these titles, the album plays out in a similarly overdramatic way. The guitars are boosted to the very front of the mix, but ring through with a pale hollowness, like they’re trying to give someone a spooky scare rather than create anything that is notably interesting. The singing is much the same – breathy and overdone – like Nosferatu, Dracula, or Kate Beckinsale were performing some sort of vampiric summoning ritual for the album’s mercifully short run time. “Cruel Ends” in particular is especially overcooked. A dry, sinewy mess of a song that repeats itself over and over in both motifs and lyrics, though it threatens to come together in the final minute when the guitars lose their trademark hollowness and the drums rattle together a strong rhythm, but it blows its chance at excellence when it prematurely fades out with twenty seconds to go.
There is obviously some sort of small goth market for this music. Perhaps they’re in the black-clad throngs at the latest KMFDM show or milling about silently in their eyeliner at a Cloak & Dagger club event. But something about the bands that play there feels different. This sort of overdone music is best when it embraces its silliness. In a sense, it’s almost like pro-wrestling, by the goofy nature of the content its appeal is limited but that appeal is strong to a particular fanbase. Each element of this album is too self-serious, for god’s sake, it ends with the repeated phrase “dread the low” on the song sharing the same title. There isn’t a hint of irony here, even with the overwrought goth industrial movement of the ‘90s and early aughts there was some sense of irony like we knew that what we were doing was patently ridiculous. This album has flashes, occasionally, particularly in the guitars, that it is going to do some exciting post-rock thing or try to briefly emulate My Bloody Valentine. But it never gets there – and you’re stuck in a room with Edgar Allen Poe worshippers, wondering why you’re the only one not wearing so much black.