As Silent Planet lead vocalist Garrett Russell reflected on the season of depression the he endured while writing the hardcore band’s latest release When the End Began, he used the analogy of passing through a black hole, seemingly lost in time and space during a dark season and clinging to the possibility of hope. Russell– whose lyrical depth can be traced to Masters degrees in English and Psychology as well as his faith– spoke in detail about three major themes of the highly anticipated album in a video series on cayeminterviews’ YouTube channel.
Silent Planet is known for their storytelling and exploring subject matter in-depth throughout an album. On their debut EP, lastsleep (1944-1946), the band delved into stories of World War II victims. The Night God Slept is told from the perspective of “women who made difficult decisions under systemic oppression by forces such as government and authority figures in their culture.”
Throughout 2018’s When the End Began, harrowing moments on instrumentals “Look Outside: Dream” and “Look Inside: Awake” set the backdrop, as if listeners are transported through a series of black holes– traversing time and space as the band explores themes of cyclical eternal returns, various points in modern history that have required a reset.
“Thus Spoke” leads with a reference to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and is a continuation on themes from The Night God Slept. This new album also begins by building on the theme of the closing track on 2016’s chart-topping Everything Was Sound, “Inhabit the Wound,” which explores apocalyptic themes such as war and the final seal being broken (a biblical reference to Revelation).
Unlike prior albums which explore broad historical timelines, When the End Began is focused on crises of the modern world, such as war and social injustice, from 1933 to present day. “The New Eternity” examines the first of these by looking at various points in history when, according to Russell, “human desire for innovation dwarfs our need for connection.” The song questions these moments in history when perhaps our insatiable need for progress causes science to lose philosophical and moral boundaries. Have we gone too far?
“Crowds galvanized by vapid words and septic slurs
Utterly transfixed by the fiction of the greater good
Estranged in this age we set sail to the stars
Return to the earth still unaware of who we are
We’ve come too far.”
“Northern Fires (Guernica)” is a song about the Spanish War, while “Visible Unseen” shines a light on a modern day crisis of youth whose families rejected them for their differences, leaving them transient and homeless: “Exiled into the night, left to navigate a world that negates our needs: The Visible Unseen.”
Throughout the album, we are invited to confront and revisit themes of how humanity continues to fail, but there are also themes of hope weaved into the lyrics. “Vanity of Sleep” opens up with eerily dissonant chords reminiscent of Netflix’s Stranger Things theme music before launching full throttle into a song in which hope is found by realizing that, though we are experiencing darkness, we are still alive.
“There’s a presence here
It stirs inside the static dissonance of discontent that refused to relent
I built a home overlooking a graveyard
To remind myself I’m still alive.”
Though lyrical exploration is a major part of what sets Silent Planet apart, there are many moments throughout When the End Began in which the band reminds us of their musical prowess as well. Edgy and jarring guitar riffs provided by Mitchell Stark are layered throughout, with on-the-mark vocals sung by Thomas Freckleton adding brilliant harmonies.
Freckleton’s smooth vocals are featured notably on ballad “In Absence.” His ability to hit the upper range of the scale with powerful accuracy is evident on the chorus: “I watched you go away / I watched the colors fade / I can’t bear the pain of losing yesterday to a world of grey.”
Another modern epidemic is explored on hard and heavy “Share the Body,” which dives deeply into the opioid crisis.
“Lower Empire” is a favorite musical moment on the project, starting out with an electronic vibe before mixing in hard-hitting vocals and drums. The progressive metal sound breaks (momentarily) for an unexpectedly fun electronica moment that breaks apart an otherwise intense track.
“Interpret the subtext: S – O – S.
Euthanized with euphemistic lies, populace of blank binary minds.
Appetite for endless apathy– breathing in… in… insecurity.”
By the time “Depths III” connects the dots back to The Night God Slept and closes out the album with one final prayer of desperation, the story told has taken us on a journey through time and space to learn about the human condition while exploring the places where we can fix our hope for the future.
Discussing the project as a whole, Garrett Russell shares that some believe that physical matter never ceases to exist, even within the unknown void of a black hole. Similarly, hope exists beyond seasons of depression, which is cyclical. This reality of human existence is represented by the Ouroboros– an ancient Egyptian symbol of a serpent eating its own tail– and is intended to represent themes of repeated destruction and hope.
Remembering that everything that is old becomes new again leaves us with hope at the end of dark seasons in life. When the End Began will take us through this emotionally and spiritually gripping cycle again and again, ultimately reminding us that God is the provider of hope and that each dark season yields to something better.
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