Album: Silhouette – EP
While mildly polarizing, there’s no doubting that 2020 was an enormous year for Reflections—even while the world at large was in a state of frenzied disarray. Returning from a lengthy hiatus with a stunning full length release that was perhaps mildly polarizing, the band took metalcore and pushed it to arguably its heaviest and most relentless extreme, bombarding the listener with nearly an hour of hyperdissonant, prog-dusted, frenzied and emotional brutality. Then, just over a year later, comes Silhouette, and the listener thinks maybe, just maybe Reflections’ pendulum will swing back towards their more atmospheric side made abundant on their critically acclaimed The Color Clear.
…Well, not so much. With Silhouette, Reflections—partnering with Calle Thomer (Humanity’s Last Breath, Vildhjarta) and Buster Odeholm (Impact Studios, Humanity’s Last Breath, Vildhjarta)—have created three songs that take the spastic aggression abundant on Willow and turn it up several notches, infusing both atmosphere and daunting technicality into a backbone of boundless heaviness. Silhouette sees the elements that made Willow a stand-out release refined and amplified, crafting sprawling, stunning soundscapes that surround the listener with a tangible, palpable dissonance dense enough to suffocate them.
Silhouette is, to put it bluntly, a fucking trip. Throughout three tracks and three instrumentals, Reflections attack the listener with, arguably, their most gloriously disorienting work to date. Where “Cicada” is a frantic display of bizarre breakdowns, “Coda” smothers the listener in dense atmosphere, and “Noir” walks the fine line hybridizing them. Just as Willow saw Reflections incorporating technicality and instrumental skill into bizarre patterns played in unusual signatures, Silhouette continues the trend, as the drumming on “Cicada” feels almost too disjointed to work—except it does, somehow, and the listener is left all the more bludgeoned for it. Whether it’s the grisly bass, the unpredictable percussion or the dense, depth-defying guitar tones (and the equally uncanny and unpredictable fretwork that comes with), Silhouette just keeps the listener’s jaw at a constant slack—especially when one considers that for as frankly weird as some of the songs are, there manages to be a smooth and natural vocal component that comes with. Considering how unusual the timing and cadence of much of Silhouette is, I don’t envy frontman Jake Wolf for having to put words to these songs—and many lesser songwriters and vocalists would have been decimated by the task. However, Wolf is a spectacle, with the same gutwrenching bellows and piercing shrieks that defined Willow shining through once again on Silhouette. “Coda” sees his low register get a fierce workout in keeping up with the groovy, pummeling nature of the song, whereas “Cicada” stands as a more balanced display of his vocal range, incorporating mid-range yells and high screams into the mix in heaping handfuls. Wolf had his work cut out for him in keeping up with the songs on Silhouette, but he did that and then some, truly using each unusual segue and transition to his advantage in demonstrating his keen lyrical precision and nigh immeasurable vocal range.
Too often, when a record comes with an “instrumental version,” it ends up getting outright ignored (at least by me). However, after hearing the dizzying nature in which Reflections collectively bombard the listener with everything from straightforward grooves to sinister, what-the-hell-was-that inducing riffs and breakdowns, I took it upon myself to dive more deeply into the record’s instrumental cut—and I’m glad I did. The instrumental versions of “Cicada,” “Noir” and “Coda” feel almost like different songs altogether. Without Wolf’s vocals, the nuances in the bass and guitar shine through without competition, making the closing stuttering portion of both “Noir” and “Coda” even more appealing than they were previously. Likewise, the frantic nature of “Cicada” becomes a little more easily digestible, as the track opens up more and doesn’t feel quite as overbearing (although make no mistake, the dense nature of the song is one of my personal favorites about it, and Wolf’s vocal work is mesmerizing). The result of creating the instrumental component to Silhouette isn’t “wow, this is much better without that pesky vocalist” or “wow, this was a waste of my time,” but rather more along the lines of “dang, I didn’t notice that before” and “wow, these feel like all new tracks.”
If there was to be a downfall to Silhouette, it’s that three (or six) songs feels like too brief a runtime for this immense effort and equally noteworthy collaboration put forth by Reflections (and Odeholm). With two of the songs released well in advance of the formal EP release date, the final product might feel a little underwhelming—especially for those who will still decide the instrumental half isn’t “their thing”—but rest assured, as it seems safe to say that Reflections have plenty more on the way once Silhouette is available to the public in all of its glory.
For Fans Of: Soulkeeper, Humanity’s Last Breath, Dal Av, Black Tongue
By: Connor Welsh