|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: David Zaffiro|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1995/2011||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 54:53|
Melodic metal (often used synonymously with hair metal, glam metal and pop metal) is widely considered to be a big-city phenomenon, born out of such urban landscapes as Philadelphia (Cinderella), Seattle (Bloodgood), New York (Winger) and, of course, Los Angeles (Stryper, Quiet Riot, Guns N’ Roses and a host of others too numerous to mention). So when a group with the talent of Broken Silence emerges out of the Hawaiian Islands - not necessarily known for its thriving metal scene - it’s a bit unexpected.
The career of Broken Silence might have been brief and not the most prolific but it also was not without its share of acclaim either. The group debuted with a 4 song demo in 1989 prior to following up in 1995 with a 5 song EP entitled Discerning The Times. The EP was re-issued as a full length album (13 songs) in Japan later the same year.
Broken Silence rose to local fame, where it met former Stryper and Holy Soldier manager Daryn Hinton. Hinton, in turn, introduced the group to David Zaffiro (Bloodgood), who produced both the EP and full length follow up effort. Despite Discerning The Times being well received by fans and critics alike, Broken Silence never managed to get the recognition it deserves, with one of the reasons being it failed to sign with a label. Not that the band is to fault in this area, but by the time the nineties rolled around the music scene had taken a “grungy turn for the worse”.
Discerning The Times, as one might imagine, has been an out of print and hard to find collectors item for years. I lost track of the number of times I “almost” won the full length Japan version on eBay (I have seen it go as high as $75, which is way outside by realistic budget). Enter Retroactive Records, which re-mastered and re-issued Discerning The Times in the spring of 2011. The original album artwork, lyrics and a detailed band biography are included as part of a 6-panel digipak.
Musically, Broken Silence compares favorably to Holy Soldier in terms of consistency and continuity but with the heaviness of Crystavox and occasional commercial leanings not unlike Guardian. Rounding things out is talent of a Stryper-like capacity. It all adds up to one of the better melodic metal bands most people have never heard of.
My personal observation is that Broken Silence brings a bit more musical depth and substance than many bands of the time, a sentiment echoed by other reviewers that use Dio and early Queensryche, Skid Row and Dokken as points of reference. In other words, there is much more to Broken Silence than just hair metal. It all starts with songwriting, which highlights a technical flair of the kind you will be challenged to set aside with repeated listen.
Just consider the albums heavier material, consisting of “Streets Of The Empty Soul”, “Naked”, “Innocent Kill” and “Broken Crowns”, four essential songs emphasizing equal parts hooks and raw aggression. “Break The Silence”, “Follow The Leader” and “Higher” gravitate towards a more melodic hard rock direction (without sacrificing quality) while “Not Love At All”, “Ready To Go” and “Seasons” take a laid back almost ballad based approach. In between you will find an acoustic based number, “If I Love”, and groove driven piece, “Free”, along with the tempo changes characteristic to “Hard Times”.
To pull off music of this form a top of the line vocalist is required and such is what we have in Danile Ysais. Other reviewers reference Michael Sweet (Stryper), Dale Thompson (Bride), Mark Slaughter (Slaughter) and Louis St. August (Mass) when inviting comparison. None of which I disagree, although one name that has not been mentioned is Michael O’Mara, a gutsy and soulful singer that performed on the 1995 M Pire release Chapter One.
Guitarist Bryon Jacobs is right up there with contemporaries Oz Fox (Stryper), Tony Palacios (Guardian), Bobby Smith (Eternal Ryte) and David Zaffiro (Bloodgood). The rhythm section of drummer Ace McFadden and bassist Ric Rodeheaver performs competently as well.
Producer David Zaffiro lends his trademark polish while allowing the bands natural heaviness and grit to stand out in the process. The perfect balance is struck in that the project sounds neither overproduced nor like a thin and muddy sounding demo.
Those familiar with Zaffiro’s singing from his post Bloodgood solo projects will recognize his voice in the backing vocals to several tracks, most notably “Ready To Go” and “Follow The Leader”. Also, perhaps it is my ears playing tricks on me, but I swear it is also Zaffiro handling the lead work on “Break The Silence” and “Follow The Leader” (the resemblances are strikingly similar). Zaffiro also plays a role in songwriting in helping to compose 5 songs here.
Track By Track
Hard edged metal would be the best way to describe “Streets Of The Empty Soul”. A bristling piece, the song proves knife-like in capacity with its nervous energy and high strung milieu. Things diverge as a placid chorus upheld by abundant backing vocals is obtained.
“Higher” showcases some lighter touches while retaining the group’s trademark heaviness. The more up-tempo direction is taken, as can be found in the staunchly driven guitar riffs and commercial elements to the chorus. I can see fans of Shout getting into this. Lyric snippet:
I was this man who had it all
And in just one night
I watched it all disappear
I’ve got to suffer the pain I know
There’s one way to go from here- higher!
I’ll look higher
Free from the past
I will rise above
Higher, free from myself
I will live again
The pace tapers even further for the ballad “Not Love at All (It’s My Heart)”. The song establishes a heartfelt setting in joining acoustic traces and lighter guitar touches with polished backing vocals that have prime Stryper written all over them. Yes, commercial but good at the same time.
“Naked” starts to an eerie keyboard driven opening prior to abruptly kicking into high gear. The song turns into a full-bore rocker the rest of the way, haunting and emotional while allowing for an adrenaline filled chorus in which Ysais exhibits the full range to his voice. Albums best track. Lyric snippet:
The rich man sees the work of his hand
And thinks he has arrived
The old man walks the streets at night
And dies from the cold outside
Compassion torn to pieces
By simple truth not believed in
We’d like to think we’ve come so far
In our own eyes we’re covered
But to He who sees all we stand naked
“Ready To Go” represents the most laid back piece here. Defined by its relaxed guitar flavorings and bluesy proclivity, the song evenly flows its distance in creating an environs on the atmospheric side of things. This would sound right at home on any of Zaffiro’s solo albums.
“Free” delivers a big dose of low end groove. The song proves a gritty hard rocker, underscoring a pronounced bass line but sustained by a forward wall of crunchy rhythm guitar. Momentum is up-tempo and hook infectious. Lyric snippet:
Now I’m moving on with gladness
There’s a whole new world for me
Cause I’m hooked on just believing
That the truth has set me free
Cause there was a time when my life
Like the world, was spinning
They You came around
And You set my feet on the ground
“Innocent Kill” is one of the darker pieces here. Ysais sings in a lower key, helping lend to a swarthy scene that almost hints of Stay Of Execution era Deliverance (compare the guitar riffs and you will see my point). The creative drum work of McFadden stands out as well.
The mid-paced hard rock of “Break The Silence” highlights a melodic based sound. With its warm guitar overtones and flashy soloing, the song established an uplifting setting in which classic Guardian and Stryper come to mind. Lyric snippet:
Though we remember where we came from
We haven’t been there for a while
Now we don’t turn the other cheek
Let alone walk another mile
Can we pretend that we’ve escaped the eyes?
Will we deny or realize?
But if we knew exactly where to stand
It lies with those led by His hand
“Seasons” follows the ballad formula- and quite well at that! The song starts slowly to a quietly played guitar prior to gradually building momentum until the rhythm guitar cuts in. An emotionally charged chorus ensues as does a fitting blues driven guitar solo.
“Hard Times” picks up the tempo. This one switches back and forth between energetic passages upheld by a driving rhythm guitar and others in which an acoustic guitar prevails. Plenty of resounding backing vocals can also be found along with a steadfast bass line.
“Follow The Leader” hits hard with its muscular guitar driven emphasis but can make a left turn for the melodic leanings that represent its chorus. Vocal melodies are polished and stand as one of the strong points here. In the end you can call this one a victorious piece, both musically and lyrically:
Making my way through this rugged terrain
I hold tight to the promise
Though many times I’m beat to the ground
I’ll never leave you- never leave you!
So many times I don’t understand
But the answers come in time
When my hearts overwhelmed with evil
Your love can change my mind
The guys go “unplugged” on “If I Love”, an easy going piece in which acoustic based elements are interlaced with occasional bluesy guitar traces. A different side to Broken Silence but it works.
Closing things out is the driving metal of “Broken Crowns”. What we have here is a steadfast track in which staunch riff action melds with a heavy hitting mentality. But it is not all aggression in that an unmistakably catchy hook stands out equally well. Lyric snippet:
So many others around about your age
Well, they’re playing around
And they’re on the town and they’re losing the game
They play with madness and the things that kill the head
Then they’re carrying ‘round this ball and chain
And they wish they were dead and a lot succeed
You know its sad boy, so listen up!
People all together, they’re flowing downstream
You gotta fight the tide to find the truth
Do you see what I mean?
Once more, Broken Silence ads up to one of the great melodic metal bands most people have never heard of. And it is too bad because music this good should not go unnoticed. Credit Retroactive Records for making Discerning The Times available again.
Track Listing: “Streets Of The Empty Soul” (4:04), “Higher” (3:29), “Not Love At All (It’s My Heart)” (4:58), “Naked” (5:05), “Ready To Go” (4:42), “Free” (3:58), “Innocent Kill” (3:35), “Break The Silence” (4:23), “Seasons” (4:09), “Hard Times” (3:26), “Follow The Leader” (4:32), “If I Love” (4:04), “Broken Crowns” (4:22)
Daniel J. Ysais - Lead Vocals
Byron Jacobs - Guitars
Ric Rodeheaver - Bass
Ace McFadden - Drums