First you get the purists out there. The ones with a good tune, but absolutely no willingness or know-how to market themselves. This is sometimes borne from the need to bury themselves deep underground, idealistic purposes or straight lackadaisical laziness.
Then you often hear: ‘I entered the mainstream’. Proudly pronounced by folks happy to be with everybody else. The ones that will hit all the levers the music industry has to offer. And go with the motions to be visible and sell their fares. Which is great, but usually boring.
But there’s this tiny slice of bands, not only marketing their tune exceedingly well, but also their shows. The ones with the desire to stand outside the paved roads. Those who have understood that their band is a brand, without an inkling of doubt. This often manifests itself in new or newish music styles. And often sports a theatrical opulence that sometimes surprises, eccentric behavior and trademark garb included. Fleshgod Apocalypse, Carach Angren or Cradle of Filth come to mind.
The Swiss boys from Silver Dust definitely fall into this category. Their somewhat baroque, Steampunk-laden brand of melodically charged Heavy and Gothic Rock already got on the good side of us with The Age of Decadence last year. A rather short, yet very gnarly collection of tracks in French and English. And at the right levels of intensity with loads of interesting turns, too.
Now, after the – I daresay – usual waiting time of some 2 years after the official release, Silver Dust doubled down with their newest record House 21. And somehow lost their compass in the process, which is a pity.
After all, Silver Dust won the Greenfield Festival contest in 2016 strutting their stuff well. And later embarked on some serious touring with Lordi to a lot of often subdued, but quite positive news.
And indeed, Silver Dust lavish a decadent and sumptuous show on their fan base that will leave their brethren in music quaking in their wake. Yet, somehow, House 21 does not really connect, nor does it provide enough variation to get the RMR deck crew really glued to the boombox.
Some of that I attribute to the Deathless Legacy effect. If you just listen to the latter’s record, the connection just fails somehow. However, once you see them live, this is another story altogether. Same with Silver Dust in a way. The tune and the show kind of go together and form the product. Exactly like I mentioned above.
Yet again, House 21 fails to convincingly deliver the next generation of this snappy grit their 2016 album had in spades.
Not that them tracks are bad, but somehow the band sailed into the blue yonder and forgot to take some of their tools with them. The record starts with some sort of a psychedelic asylum-style dream circus intro called Libera Me. And you really can’t fault them for that one. I have so far not seen a band using compression to favor elements for the sake of the tune in just that way. I’ll even forgive them the cheesy voice of Thor suddenly speaking up. So, well done, even if they followed a few clichés and stereotypes.
Yet, I deplore the somewhat listless The Unknown Soldier. Meaty as hell and a decent crunch notwithstanding, the simple structure and meager riffing just left me scratching my head. You got other tracks like Once Upon a Time with an unquestionably great reach and fiber. Yet again Silver Dust suddenly navigate way too close to Moonspell territory, as in Extinct to be precise.
House 21 – the title track – gets us back on a better course and I like the starkly expressed sense of foreboding in there. Speaking of which: Once I saw Kim Karnes’ Bette Davis Eyes on the track list, concern settled in. But never fear, Silver Dust‘s rendition is pretty juicy, kinda in the vicinity of INK’s late bunch of covers. Far, far away from some sins I witnessed in the past. Like Krokus’ murder of Help! in Dirty Dynamite, between others.
The rest of the tracks varies wildly between pretty stout drama in This War Is Not Mine or Forever to a somewhat lukewarm meandering around a never-ending soundscape. The dreaded compass all over again.
So finally, House 21 gets you a mixed bag of goodies. Silver Dust ditched French completely and went full tilt for accented English. This is fine, but it takes some of the allure away.
You’ll find meaty crunch galore, gory riffs and the rare solo here and there. The record is also full of pretty tasty hooks and licks that surely look great on stage. But as a recording, all that jazz comes across as a bit pale at times. Embedded in song structures that often err on the simple side. And I somehow miss that trifle innovation that would transform a simple record into a turntable buster.
Yet – still – House 21 is not a bad record, far from it. I just hope that their compass will work better next time. Just saying.