In a genre as oversaturated as metalcore is, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. And it takes even more to do so with not only creative and engaging music, but with a meaningful message behind it. A few years ago, one such band caught my eye – Silent Planet.
Over the crushing, wailing guitars, and pounding drums, vocalist/lyricist Garrett Russell screams/shrieks/growls/speaks about topics that normally wouldn’t be associated with the genre. Their debut album, The Night God Slept, wove several storylines throughout the songs – from modern-day sex trafficking in America, Native Americans’ loss of land, a mother and her child suffering through the aftermath of Hiroshima and the real-life story of Marguerite Rouffanche, the only survivor of a village massacre in World War II. It’s a personal and emotional album, and the music carrying the messages always fits the tone – dark, deep, heavy. It’s a great album, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the genre who hasn’t heard it yet, but here I want to talk about their latest album, Everything Was Sound – specifically the concept and message behind it.
Released two years after The Night God Slept, the band’s musicianship has obviously progressed. But even more so has their lyrics – and their ambition. The entirety of Everything Was Sound deals with mental illness, each song addressing a specific issue. Further, the album itself is presented as a story, following thirteen individuals (one for each song) in a panopticon – an institutional building designed for its inmates to be observed at all times without knowing when they were being watched. Garrett leads us through these rooms and introduces us to each person and the mental illness they’re struggling with.
“I waited on the tracks of reason, but my train of thought it never came, it never came”. –Psychescape
Before joining the band, Garrett studied psychology and has himself been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which adds even more meaning to these songs. When he yells lines like, “I split my mind ten thousand times, but in every world there’s no exit” or, “There’s a war inside my head,” the listener is dragged deep into the story and forced to empathize with the character – and even face their own struggles. The band doesn’t shy away from any topic either, whether it’s dealing with a loved one’s death, schizophrenia, the effects of war or even the hypocrisy and abuse of power in organized religion (one of the songs was also written as a palindrome poem, which inspired me to write my own). I could go on and on about each individual song, but to save time I’ll focus on just two that I found the most impacting.
Understanding Love as Loss
The mental illness addressed in Understanding Love as Loss is depression and suicide, and its associated character/archetype is “The Creator”. In this track, Garrett references several famous writers who have committed suicide (which the book nerd in me really appreciated), then ties their own struggles into both his own and to that of the “you” in the song. In the first verse he writes, “Sinking through subtle waves that disguise the current down below. You’re pulled in the undertow.” And at the song’s climax, “We’re bound to each other in the undertow,” letting us know that depression is something everyone has experienced at some point in their lives, and something that can, and will, get better. In fact, if there was an overarching message to the album (at least that I found), it’s that you are never alone, and that healing is always possible.
Nervosa is another heavy song – in both its message and its music. Following the archetype of “The Lover”, it tells the story of someone struggling with anorexia. Though it’s clearly about eating disorders, the lyrics can be interpreted to address deprivation of anything integral to your life, or anything that makes you feel at a loss of yourself. The lyrics in the chorus, “I am not my own reflection. I am not myself, I am not myself,” sum this up well. And even if you haven’t faced similar issues, Garrett’s half-yelled, half-spoken words in the first verse speak to how we can watch the people around us hurt without doing anything: “Crowds like crows, we furiously flock to tragedy; observe the hurt then hasten back to our peaceful, quiet nests of blasphemy.” We may all be victims of mental illness to some degree or another, but we’re not innocent by any means.
“If love’s a sin, I’ll become a heretic”. –Orphan
Again, I could go on but I think it’s best that you listen to the music and read the lyrics yourself. No other band right now is doing what Silent Planet is doing, at least not as creatively. They’re spreading messages this world desperately needs to hear, and though the music may not be for everyone, I hope you can give it a listen. Below is their video for Panic Room, the lead single off of Everything Was Sound, which deals with PTSD: