Is it gas or is it solid? Made of smoke and fog or rock? Or both? The artwork for Silent Planet‘s third album When The End Began had already piqued my curiosity before its music had met my ears. The imagery seems to be literally a ‘silent planet’; a barren looking rocky sphere with a central hemisphere and an curious fog surrounding it.
I’m captivated by Silent Planet as a band, in particular their continued honouring of ideas, history, and story, and how they not only weave these things into their music, but also share details of their specific inspirations for others to pick up; like threads waiting to be followed. Vocalist Garrett Russell’s (jokingly) self-described ‘scholasticore’ genre is exceptionally apt, with the possibility of what Silent Planet songs can offer by way of learning about the world we live in and our own psyches. With this in mind, I looked forward to a deep dive into the album.
Instantly reflecting the album artwork is the first track of the album “Thus Spoke”. It FEELS cold, shivering, and dark, as our ears fill with tones that echo outward, pulsing in the distance, with rippling reverberations. For a relatively short track, it’s intense and unsettling, giving a hairs-standing-on-edge sense about something horrifying that has happened, or is about to, or both.
It fittingly feels like the introduction to a story of an apocalyptic event. In desperate tones and a palpable attempt to be heard, Garrett’s voice in conjunction with the unsettling instrumental atmosphere forms an ominous vibe. Matching sound to words (“As matter collapsed I fell inside”), we bear witness to metallic and rippling collisions, literally sonically akin to seeing a character falling into a black hole.
“..when the end began, when the end began, when the end began..”
Without so much as a pause, the story continues with “The New Eternity”, which with distorted and bending riffs and alarming melodies continues to be unsettling, as if we’re now in the fallout. As we take in the song, things are clearly not right in this world, with water and rain experienced as poison. It’s exceptionally creepy when the first smooth/clean vocal appears (“Strange fruit grows on the vine of humankind”), coupled with the previous lyrical sharings of catastrophic observations. The wavering melody behind and this metaphorical eye of the hurricane gives full blown goosebumps of the surrounding chaos.
It’s only track two of When The End Began and I’m already feeling blown away by the brilliant lyricism, with so many ‘wow’ moments. “A web of wires in our mind weaves an empire down our spine” offered an immediate and concerning image for me as a visual listener, really hitting home the concept of a horrific world where a technology fascination has led to willing entrapment, with metaphorical silicone chip fangs sinking into our skin. It’s a blissfully ignorant kind of feeling where we move forward without truly thinking about the consequences of what we’re doing.
Diving deeply into cavernous darkness with “Germinating extinction”, this unsettled feeling is amplified with every element of the song, creating an overwhelming state of ‘What have we done?’ while we stare motionless and helplessly at a tragedy that unfolds in front of us. With words so stunningly moreish and pleasurable in their interconnection that I wish they were edible, the irresponsibility/abuse of technological or industrial advances without self-awareness is blindingly obvious: “Estranged in this age we set sail to the stars; return to the earth still unaware of who we are.”
Fully aware that I can’t really write so much on each song of this album (and expect people to read it!), I’m nonetheless deeply in love with the beauty of this track, expressed like observation notes of one glancing down a microscope at a Petri dish of humanity; watching the manipulated and agitated with fear and concern for the painful inevitability of destruction.
As a music fan with a fixation upon music that captures the experience of war, third track “Northern Fires (Guernica)” is a track I’ve already had on regular rotation since its release as a single. The powerful track steers the album’s unsettled observations of humanity toward the (failed/failing) business model of war. Looming soundscapes and crushing metalcore intensity inflate a soldier’s breathless isolation in a foreign place, confronting the reality of dedicating their existence to their country – while also suspicious of behind-the-curtain orchestrations.
“Democracy’s died this death a thousand times” is the pervading message, where erratic rhythms and waves of bending riffs combine with a hovering blanket of sound. We know time is nearly up, in this situation which has played out like this countless times already; the ongoing machine of war rumbling relentlessly along without progress, with human lives are treated as replaceable/finite resources throughout history.
Emotion-inducing cries for us to ‘find our humanity’ are passionately shared in the expansive choruses, desperately desiring freedom from the fruitless pattern. In contrast, fierce and intense verses swoop us back into the ‘Big Brother’ puppet-string-pulling, where we are merely a cog in a greater machine of control and power. Cradled and encouraged by captivating guitar work, a fluid stream of syllables tumbles forward though, pulling us back toward awareness and buoyed by refusal to simply lay down and die; to question what’s behind all of this.
The reality is death, and “Nothing we fought for will set us free”. It’s heartbreaking yet necessary, and I’m moved by the courageous and honest take of what Silent Planet share here. Closing with a looped riff and repeated lyrics, you can all but see the dark clouds of exhaust from the rumbling antiquated machine of war that ‘feeds for eternity’.
Dark and uneasy, “Afterdusk” follows, already inspiring a skin-crawling reaction at its introduction. It seems to be a further chapter to the track before it, getting more specific in its focus: Oil is fuel for war. With verses that are rhythmically unsettling and erratic, it’s a fast-paced and panic-inducing look at what we’re doing to ourselves. Clean and sparking a sense of clarity of mind outside of the tangled black ball of greed and possession, the choruses ache for us to question it. To question it all.
With jaw-dropping downward slides into horror and harm, Silent Planet are dropping an exceptionally well crafted reality-bomb, directing attention to the facts that see landscapes as goldmines, irrespective of who lives atop them. With questions and observations, transmuted into plunging heaviness and oppressive immersion, we are there with the band in the face of reality that they are disturbed by. As before, they share the painful loss of perspective they’re witnessing, where greed sparks a blindness to humanity. It hits and it hits hard, emotionally and audibly.
“Pull the blood from the earth, leave a grave for your sons.
Oil is the ink, fueling missiles like pens – writing oblivion”
The demanding and gripping “Visible Unseen” follows, seeming to explore a relationship with a deity and questioning how to make sense of the realities of life combined with faith. Erratic rhythms and blazing riffs make this track really hard and severe; like fire and heat in abrasive dry winds.
With verses that vibe like anxiously making one’s way through a continual obstacle-laden world, the clean choruses are so free that they become beautifully moving. Maybe it’s just me, but even though they are lyrically reassuring (“You’ll never walk alone”), I still feel an uneasy background of darkness present. As in; trying to hold faith while also seeing damage unfold at the hand of religion.
Questioning and sharpened guitar tumultuousness leads into a breakdown which also seems to be a pivotal point of resolving inner conflict; a refusal to tow a line which is “insulated from compassion”, which is perhaps a choice to shift one’s faith. Powerfully peaking in fierceness, the landscape is cleared with nothing left but the weight of realisation. It’s wordlessly beautiful, with tender voice and a captured moment in time.
The 1:31 interlude “Look Outside: Dream” is an ambient moment, including vibrations and hums and rounded tones. While it gains strength and weight as it progresses and builds into something substantial, it peters off again; just as it began. I’m honestly unsure what to make of it, while curious to understand its purpose.
“Vanity of Sleep” pulls us back into an intense state of discontent, where our glance at the Petri dish of humanity blooms again into full-blown concern. The track shines a blast of light at our habits of consumption, our mass mental illnesses, our addictions, and the true undercurrent of longing that drives all of these things. Entrancing and tumbling with savage desperation, this rhythmic release of syllables coupled with an unsettling melody and plunging instrumental focus a call for awareness, just like its album mates.
“Vanity of Sleep” ties in to the previously touched-upon misguided agenda (such as waging war to gain freedom, or gaining wealth merely to have a beautiful funeral) when it clearly does not have that outcome, resulting in neverending and ongoing patterns of pain without resolution. It’s another dark tale of the state of humanity and another moving experience to sit with this song, while audible desperation for truths to be recognised and changes to be made continues to grow.
It hits so painfully hard, hearing Silent Planet take the roles of both curious observers as well as impacted sufferers who seek to break free into something new. Their calm message consumed, when we then lean into a cry of something real and genuine (“Give me something to hold, give me something that bleeds. I’ll scour the earth for my identity”), it carves a palpable ache. It’s tough to feel into the raw exasperation, seeing these iterations through history and wondering ‘WHY?’ and ‘WHEN IS ENOUGH?’. Dark sonic collisions and cavernous silences in the wake of this exasperation is tough to consume. As is the heaviness of the final gasp of effort; where being freed from existence (death?) is shared as the only solution.
At this halfway point, though I am stunned and awed by what I’ve heard so far on When The End Began, it’s very heavy going. These dense tracks share weighty and real concepts and they come with no obvious hope, aside from the whisper of an idea that “all things will be made new”.
Though I’ve tried to keep my thoughts/impressions uninfluenced by the Silent Planet videos – where Garrett explains the meanings behind the music – due to wanting to explore it myself, I did happen to see the “In Absence” video. Garrett shares that the track is inspired by loved ones experiencing memory disorders such as dimentia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Stunning verses sung by Thomas Freckleton seem to take the stance of the affected, seeking and searching, yet finding their self lost in the fog of not remembering voices, people, places, moments. What’s most impactful to me is the lyric “I’ll turn with your reversing clock and describe the colour when you can’t see the sunrise”. It’s tough to comprehend a love so loyal, much as Garrett shared in the video; to continue to be present and giving when one has nothing to offer you, no familiarity, no promise of knowing, yet still seeing their value.
Another single of When The End Began, “Share the Body” explores opiod addiction, “from the inside out” and was inspired by conversations that the members of Silent Planet have had with fans at shows.
With skillfully crafted tension and bombardment, “Share The Body” instrumentally captures a state of persistent overwhelm, first painted by echoing tones before escalating into strength. The listener is practically buried with layers of sound, creating a sense of suffocation and a desire to escape that we can also see presented in the music video by the character taking a pill. Cleanly roared choruses cry out for an escape, and we’re slapped in the face by the truth:
“All the hell in my veins won’t wash away your face.”
Divine rhythms in the second verse continue this story with fluid pace. As a listener, I follow and try to keep up as an identity confusion spills forth, questioning whether they are done, or if there something more for them in this life.
Punishing metalcore drives hard while impassioned vocals fittingly ooze an almost pleading sense of terror at what they’ve become, and how they need to be free of it. All of the anguish and tension funnels down into the ending of the track, featuring a beauty of a pit call: “I hit the bottom then it hit me back”, before throaty growls see us out.
Ya’aburnee (Arabic): literally “you bury me,” a term of endearment expressing the desire to die before a loved one, rather than live without them
The tenth track of the album “Firstborn (Ya’aburnee)” destroyed me. Beginning with an otherworldly, lilting and distant introduction, the anguish-heavy scream of “YOU BURY ME” opens the track with strength. With a drawing and easy looping melody, and searing scene-painting courtesy of guitar, the track was both beautiful and emotionally impactful before what is actually being shared creeps into my realisation:
“Little Light, can’t you see?
You’re supposed to be the one who buried me.”
Courageously and unwaveringly, Silent Planet spend 5:08 (the longest song of the album) giving their attention to the subject of the loss of a child. Anyone who has been anywhere even near to someone who has lost a child knows the devastation, the refusal to believe it to be true, and the ongoing relentless pain of grief. One of the most heart-destroying moments of my life was being present at a funeral where the coffin was child-sized, and decorated with balloons and beloved toys.
Lyrically seeming to describe a funeral, an illness, a promise to “follow you into forever”, this is one incredible piece of music. There’s surrendered subdued moments, with the ache of “I tried” at the choruses, along with ethereal outer space openness. Syllabic tension across the verses draw the listener into moments of comprehending the incomprehensible. Combined, it all beautifully honours the journey of a lost loved one, as well as sharing the experience of the one left behind. I sobbed hard over this.
(I noted, by way of the album title, that this experience too was one of an ending, and having to begin from a place of utter destruction.)
“Lower Empire” has guitar pull focus (for me), and uses complexity of timing and rhythm, feeling erratic and as if the drumbeats are gunfire. Fittingly, the song thematically seems to refer to terrorists, or those who devote their lives to the destruction of other humans, with religion or faith as the motivating factor, while leading to a never ending cycle of fractioning society.
As in “Share The Body” Silent Planet are pulling focus to the underlying condition, where apathy fits the vibration, referring directly to insecurity, seeing others as separate to oneself, and being “locked inside”.
The repeated lyric “I hear you through the noise” then comes across like a pulse intended to break through the isolation and barriers and get to the human behind the weapon, to get to the core of what kills, implying it’s a mission within the self. It’s an important stance; going beyond seeing one who destroys as hopeless, and instead aspiring for connection through the unity of humanity.
Musically fascinating, “Lower Empire” is a metalcore perspective of an autopilot perspective. It reflects the loss of heart at times with altered monotone voice effects, and also creates a tumultuous and chaotic ocean state, where grounding is hard to find. Angular verses, rhythmic blasts, and riff pummels feature, as does a fall into surrendering to the (vulnerable) state of compassion instead of holding a rigid defense.
The other side of the instrumental coin appears at this point of the album, with “Look Inside: Awake” pairing with its earlier twin. Softer and more still, the interlude offers a breath-taking moment, before surprising with an explosion of light and expansion with angelic tones, leaving us remaining in the wind. I loved this.
Close to the end of the album, the static and noise of “The Anatomy of Time (Babel)” sets the scene for amplification into plunging and hovering guitars, which are wavering and erratic and looping, reminding me of wild winds. This really weighty and immersive track by way of sound pulled my attention to the talents of Will Putney, for whom this is his second time producing with Silent Planet.
Featuring static throughout, the track also surrenders into a spoken word moment that spoke like manipulation for solutions and working to understand. It’s again feeling like a horrifying and unsettling take, observing what we’ve landed upon and been born into. Though I found this particular song tough to understand by way of meaning, I found myself perfectly okay with being emotionally moved by highly skilled instrumentation, while having no clue as to what they’re referring to, beyond a quest of trying to understand and determination.
“Our fractured pasts fall into one,
a dozen stars collide as a perpetual sun.”
The final track is “Depths III” which is a continuation of a series that Silent Planet have shared, inspired by a dream; the first in Come Wind, Come Weather, and the second in The Night God Slept. Orchestral and beautiful, the track is a feast of story telling in a spoken voice that veers into strangulated fear. It’s goosebump inspiring, and is curiously swaying (due to an easily enjoyed melody), given that the ‘character’ of the song is audibly struggling.
Tying into the previous ‘chapters’, a repeated lyric across the three is slightly changed, which may imply an end to the series? He’s no longer sleeping in the Garden, but awake now and asking “Lord did you see me as I was dreaming?”.
It’s at that specific moment that any restrictions or containment feel blown away as it instrumentally expands and feels like a rising blast of light and is emotionally moving beyond belief. The melody that follows is so emotionally wringing, I can barely stand it.
I can’t help but feeling like this could potentially form the inverse of what we heard in “Thus Spoke”: Instead of falling into a black hole, there’s a formation into something light and eternal (at least in spirit), where “Incandescence burst through the black, the veil was torn as the void collapsed.” A moment of creation instead of combustion. It’s beautifully beautifully done.
At the end of my experience with When The End Began, I’m left wrung out by how emotionally impactful this album is. These songs seemed to form desperate cries for awareness and responsibility; questioning decisions made by authority figures and the continuation of effort, which is more destructive and on surface level alone, than offering a resolution from the core outward. I saw many of these pieces as a realistic and honest way to look at society, while seeking progress and true change, by aiming at the cause, as uncomfortable as that may be.
I read in an interview with Garrett about The Night God Slept that he “wanted people to walk away uncomfortable”. While I’m not sure what the desire is with this album, I’m walking away from it feeling exhausted. Some of the much darker moments have stuck with me, despite stunning brightness and realisation. The density of this ride is severe, where the treasure hunt into the songs seems to unearth neverending areas of harm we’re doing to ourselves. We’re not handed dainty feelgood platitudes, but shown the harm that seems to have come directly at the hand of forgetting our humanity, forgetting the self, and forgetting to ask questions.
As a collection of songs, When The End Began is artful and meaningful, and I could see it referred back to as a beautiful and unsettling snapshot of life in our time. Atmospherically huge and creatively impressive, the album reinforces Silent Planet’s lofty position of being a respected and innovative voice in metalcore.
Silent Planet are Garrett Russell (vocals), Mitchell Stark (guitar), Thomas Freckleton (vocals & bass), Alexrene Camarena (drums).
Dense lyrical meaning may frustrate curious listeners. It'll inspire tears.
An artful and meaningful look at humanity as it exists in reality. Without painting with platitudes, Silent Planet offer questions and perspectives to spark new thought and perception. Important and courageous.