What if K.E. Tsiolkovsky instead of Robert Goddard was revered worldwide as the grand wizard architect of the great space race from the 1950s and '60s? The cosmonauts land Vostok 3 and 4 on the moon ahead of Apollo 11. It's an alternate parallel universe perhaps only DC Comics and film producers Timur Bekmambetov and Michele Wolkoff could've gotten away with. Or, as it turns, a classic metal revival band out of Colorado.
SILENCER has been officially together since 1998, however their 2012 concept album "The Great Bear" is gaining them some attention, and deservedly so. One of the sharpest surprises of the year, SILENCER engineers this fantasy album from the Soviet regime's vantage at the dawn of the cold war. No doubt there are many from the old Lenin and Stalin era still alive to testify to it all who believes Mother Russia did indeed reach the moon first. Perestroika has allied two superpowers in the modern world, yet SILENCER can't help but open an old wound with intelligent, thundering metal and play out a hypothesis for kicks. "The Great Bear" might offend NASA, but for metalheads (patriotic or non), "The Great Bear" is great stuff indeed.
What's so kickass about "The Great Bear" is that it could've run an hour long, given its expansive proposal and yet it only trails barely past a half hour. What MASTODON did for Moby Dick with "Leviathan" SILENCER nips the prog prospectus in half. Granted, SILENCER are nowhere in the same league as MASTODON, however, what they serve up with "The Great Bear" is a clever blend of "Ride the Lightning"-era METALLICA (and even shades of "?And Justice For All") and SAXON-esque power metal clouts. There's even trippy PINK FLOYD aeronautics where appropriate, most notably on "Star City, Pt. II", which audibly personifies the cosmonauts' breach through the stratosphere. Prior to the first "Star City" segment represents the actual launch with dizzying grind and thrash lines and a gorgeous solo section from Dan Lynn and Keith Spargo.
While much of "The Great Bear" largely taps into the richer effects of METALLICA's halcyon years (there's no denying guitarist/vocalist Keith Spargo pulls off a pretty dandy James Hetfield on the mic) there's a small hint of MASTODON's prog-crunk and even VENOM's greasy slavering on "Orders/Noble Sacrifice". SILENCER's hypothetical cosmonauts have staked their red glory but at the expense of their own lives. The funereal, acoustic-filled outro to "Orders/Noble Sacrifice" may remind some of METALLICA, but it comes off more like Mike Oldfield with its solemn repentance.
Swirling some genuine anticipation with the escalating primary bars of "The Roar", the rest of the song rages forth with a rad moon mosh before whispering echoes of satellite circuitry as prelude to the banging crush of "Light". "Light" is the raging climax tied to the opening march of "Sacred War" and the blitzing thrash of "I Am Thunder!" Played in succession with the rest of "The Great Bear", SILENCER has achieved a macrocosmic concept album under the thrust of a micro-managed steel chariot into the stars.
Call 'em commies if you feel like dating yourself, but SILENCER has balls of steel and "The Great Bear" is one of the most astute, far-flung albums of the year.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.