REVIEW: Silvernite – Silvernite

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Another year, another new name in the Finnish music scene. This time around, we are introduced to SILVERNITE, a Finnish-Greek trio (or quartet, depending on if you’re asking the comic or the album credits) debuting with their self-titled first album “for ’80s retro lovers,” complete with a comic book, illustrated by Nikos Kabasele. The album is being released independently on February 26th, 2021.

To start off, I’m a huge fan of (fantasy) concept albums, and to my great delight, there have been no shortage lately, with UNLEASH THE ARCHERSAbyss or Transitusby AYREON coming out as recently as fall 2020. SILVERNITE‘s debut effort promised to be centered around a fictional future, where humans have been forced into exile to another planet by an invasive alien race. The events of this story are told through the music and lyrics but also are published in the form of the aforementioned comic book. All-in-all, this could have been exactly the right thing to start off my year.

To be upfront, this whole package is not entirely what I had in mind when thinking of a concept album. The album isn’t bad, per se… it’s just that the ’80s melodic rock genre is completely oversaturated with popular bands like GHOST, the NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, BEAST IN BLACK, and BATTLE BEAST, so a band following the same path needs their own identity to stand out from the crowd. SILVERNITE take a lot of influences from these bands but still need to explore their own style to be able to develop further as a band. Because of that, the album as a whole feels rather uninspired. This is coupled with an overall messy and imbalanced production. Then we have the comic book, which has quite nice artwork but centers around yet another alien invasion story. The whole thing feels a bit derivative of bands like the NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA who often use sci-fi comic book visuals in their music videos, or bands like WITHIN TEMPTATION, AYREON, and EVERFROST, who have released comic art to flesh out the stories of their concept albums. One note as well… if the story is meant to make up a backstory for the band, where is their drummer?

The album opens with an acceptable version of an old Greek hymn before going into the band/album/song track “Silvernite,” which is the de facto upbeat basic catchy melody song with no substance whatsoever. When you’re making an effort to pull off the synthwave sound that people like Anton Kabanen (ex-BATTLE BEAST, BEAST IN BLACK) do so expertly, you need to understand what brings these songs to life. It’s not having a basic radio-friendly melody, it’s the soul.

Take the third track, “Raise Your Hands” as another example of this too-simple, derivative sound. Inoffensive in the background, the moment you pay any degree of attention to it, you’ll discover that it has a generic programmed-sounding beat with bland keyboards and nothing to say. The lyrics feel like they were written for the sake of pleasing the crowds, not because the singer believes what she’s saying, which may be at least partly attributed to the fact that, according to the credits, vocalist Tanja Härkönen did not partake in writing the lyrics. The song uses cheesy clichés such as key-changes and the guitar solo, while skilfully executed, sounds like the warm-up intro to any guitar solo the great metal bands of the ’90s did.

Härkönen herself is kind of an okay singer, but she could really benefit from some vocal coaching to learn some stronger and better technique. Her vibrato is weak and forced and when she tries to hit the high notes, it’s pretty awkward and often a tad off-key. She has both a cleaner sound and a bit of grit, but they never quite seem optimally used in the right moments – oftentimes her grit is added to softer songs, while the soft voice is used when the song needs some punch.

“True Survivor” has a strange wobbly intro that builds up into a lackluster chorus, though the guitar and synth are fairly decent. It has a robotic spoken-word part, handily ripped off from what plenty of bands like THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA have been doing for a while and another nicely-executed short solo. Hunt-and-peck notes and a cheesy-yet-acceptable saxophone part (done by Artem Zhulyev) introduce “Angel of the City,” which is the only song that notably seems to refer to anyone from the comic (at least without having the lyrics for reference). The first single, “Danger Zone” actually starts out quite strongly with some decent guitars and synths and some playful riffing; this could have been a fun melodic rock single, but Härkönen‘s vocal performance is a bit shaky at times. It doesn’t help that “Danger Zone” and “True Survivor” are already the names of fairly well-established songs (by Kenny Loggins and David Hasselhoff respectively).

They try out some chiptunes in “Honestly,” which starts the song out decently, but then takes a somewhat sharp turn away from that sound and never returns to it. “Broken Heart” wants to be a ballad at first but can’t decide on its speed, but has some pretty decent saxophone again. “Iron Eagle” has a robotic effect on Härkönen‘s vocals and while it fits with the concept, it’s not in a way that really works to the song’s benefit. Finally, we have the outro track, “Ti Hypermaho (The Hymn),” which seems like it’s trying to do exactly what SONATA ARCTICA did with “Everything Fades to Grey” from “The Days of Greys” (2009), but it doesn’t really work because it doesn’t match the intro in production quality and the singing is awkward.

Now, the comic book, as I said, has fairly nice artwork, but that’s about where the praise ends. As someone who spends a fair amount of time absorbing (and occasionally producing) all types of fantasy and sci-fi, the story feels a little bit undeveloped and rushed. The beginning and ending pages have text font that doesn’t match or suit the rest of the comic, and the concept is pretty basic at best. It opens with an action scene, followed by about half of the comic’s length in backstory exposition about the world and a hero who has no relevance to the rest of the story. It jumps forward in time without warning to give us some short scenes that tell us nothing about the characters other than one of them has a (really brainless, idiotic, jealous) girlfriend, and then they set off to save the world. Flash-forward to the first scene, which ends in an anticlimactic way, and we have a wrap. There’s no tension, we don’t learn anything about the characters or their personalities, and the whole backstory on how mankind got into this pickle in the first place has been done a thousand times before. If you’re going to be creating something with a well-used frame, you have to do something new and unique to it. The story also feels not completely connected to the music and the lyrics, which is something I hope SILVERNITE will be exploring more in the future. Yes, the synthwave sounds do fit the sci-fi theme, but the moods and atmosphere of the songs don’t reflect the story. Granted, it’s not an easy task to blend story and music, but it can be done – I would offer most of AYREON‘s discography as a case-in-point.

It’s not impossible for a band to mimic a style or the sound of an era, but it has to be done with unique insight and style. When RECKLESS LOVE appeared on the scene dropping ’80s hard rock hits in the late 2000s, their first album was fabulous, yet half of the songs sounded like BON JOVI, DEF LEPPARD, or any other band of the era. Why was the album still great? Because you could feel the reverence and love the band has for the genre and those hits, and because the band clearly had a lot of ridiculous, campy ideas to play out in songs like “Beautiful Bomb” and “Love Machine.” “Silvernite,” by contrast, is so desperately contrived that it feels almost as though whoever did the writing didn’t ask anyone for feedback, and even the best writers in the world have editors. It’s the same issue NICKLEBACK has with their programmed-to-be-successful sound, only Chad Kroeger genuinely knows the formula of how to make a hit song.

It’s not like there’s nothing of worth here as these songs do have the base potential to develop into something and it’s not like they’re going to melt your ears by any means; however, the band needs to explore their own identity more and stay away from those cheesy ’80s cliches that we’ve all heard way too much. I’d suggest this band to go and find what they’re really passionate about, including doing some research into writing and composition, to help them develop their own original musical style (and to write stories with some substance). Find something they love and work with that, don’t just write things that they think other people will like. Maybe then, they’ll have something with some spark and life to it. Ultimately, while SILVERNITE‘s “Silvernite” may sound okay on the surface, it does not hold up under inspection.

Tracklist

  1. Ti Hypermaho
  2. Silvernite
  3. Raise Your Hands
  4. Desperate Dreams
  5. True Survivor
  6. Angel of the City
  7. Danger Zone
  8. Honestly
  9. Broken Heart
  10. Iron Eagle
  11. Ti Hypermaho (The Hymn)

Lineup

Tanja Harkonen – vocals

Strutter – synths, programming, bass, backing vocals

Nash G. – guitars

Minas Chatziminas – drums

Label

Independent

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