Simply put, 2015 was a shitty year for Sparrows.
It didn’t start out that way; quite the opposite, in fact. Having steadily amassed industry attention and accolades for their unique brand of beautifully punishing post hardcore in prior years, the band signed with Toronto’s New Damage Records and dropped the heralded Dragging Hell EP shortly after. Despite soaring high and poised to capitalize on their major milestones, things skewed sideways.
“It seemed like every time we tried to make something happen or take a step forward, something weird would happen,” says guitarist and vocalist Dan Thomson. A broken finger, torn tricep, and transport woes ultimately meant cancelled tours and unwelcome downtime during what should have been the busiest span of their burgeoning career. But every cloud has a silver lining, and in Sparrows’ case, every setback bred a spark of inspiration.
Now, Thomson and bandmates Jon Busby, Justin Sears, and Kevin Dennison are back and hell-bent on blazing forward with Let the Silence Stay Where It Was, their sophomore LP following 2013’s Cold Ground and first on New Damage, dropping in the fall of 2016. Fuelled by the frustration of their misfortunes, the LP boasts a palpable catharsis and unprecedented level of intensity.
The album stays true to Sparrows’ signature and celebrated sound, showcasing their arsenal of crushing riffs coupled with intricate and ethereal melodic passages, a sharp sense of dynamics, and vocals that sway effortlessly from delicate to devastating. But while these may seem like familiar staples of the genre, what’s particularly notable about Sparrows is their execution – urgent but organic, stylish but substantial. They borrow more from the likes of Quicksand and Cave In than the contemporary cohort of underdeveloped and overproduced post-hardcore bands.
It’s a sound they’ve refined over the years with engineer/producer Kenny Bridges, the frontman of seminal Canadian melodic punk outfit Moneen and a longtime collaborator with Sparrows, dating back to their debut 2011 EP Goliath. “One thing I’ve learned over the years with Sparrows is we never take the simple route,” Bridges says. “We are always searching for a new sound or new way to approach a song. It’s that creativity that keeps us coming back to work together. They are taking chances that other bands just aren’t taking anymore.”
Perhaps what most sets Let the Silence Stay Where It Was apart from their back catalogue is that, whereas Sparrows had previously been a more solitary musical outlet for Thomson, their latest is a collective creative effort from a finally cemented lineup. “We just all seemed to be on the same wavelength,” Thomson says. “It was a bit tough for me at times, but in the end, the music is stronger than ever, and so is our bond as a band.”
That’s immediately evident in the music, with an undeniable power and emotive impact that pairs well with the band’s lyrical themes. Much like the soundtrack it anchors, Thomson’s poetry is aggressive and abrasive on the surface but with a remarkable depth and underlying beauty. “There was a ton of outward anxiety and just pure anger that we had to channel,” the singer says – “this overwhelming sense of letting people down and just not being in control.”
But once again, silver linings…
Dead set on making up for lost time, Sparrows will be tearing up highways for the foreseeable future, bringing their fiercely riotous live show to as many stages as possible. “That’s always the plan,” Thomson says emphatically. “We’re a live band first and foremost,” and that’s apparent even through the stereo, with Let the Silence Stay Where It Was capturing the raw energy born of these four guys pouring themselves into their performances and elevating the experience to something that defies the sum of its individual parts.
“There’s a beauty in that simplicity that seems to be lost these days,” Thomson muses – but it’s not lost on Sparrows, who like post-whatever pioneers before them are proving that substance and strong songwriting will always trump the charlatans – setbacks and all.