The title's self-explanatory, really, but In Search of Solid Ground represents Saosin's next logical step towards a big, angsty rock sound leveled by moderate creativity and shadowed melodies, and it's a quest that has as many bright spots as it does lows. We'll forgo jokes about the title that might seem tasteless given recent world events.
By this point, Saosin has more or less developed their own identity. The band's self-titled major label debut was a pretty large step away from from the hardcore-influenced, caterwauling metallic rage of their breakout effort, 2003's Translating the Name EP, which garnered instant thoughts of Claudio Sanchez replacing Daryl Palumbo for Worship and Tribute. But Ground distances itself even more so from that school of thought; frankly, even the aggressive, post-Deftones brood that helped spark the styles of Finch or Glassjaw (Name's common RIYLs) bears no mark here whatsoever. For better or worse, Ground represents Saosin channeling Saosin.
But if there's a "between" possible when thinking "for better or worse," Ground's level of quality unfortunately slips to its level. The good moments are there, granted: Opener "I Keep My Secrets Safe" and, later, "On My Own" are anchored by the type of strong, unique riffs from guitarists Justin Shekoski and Beau Burchell that characterized the songs on Name; "On My Own," in particular, has maybe Ground's most effective and alluring chorus while the guitars get interestingly frantic by the time the song ends. "What Were We Made For?" utilizes some of the band's poppiest, most radio-friendly hooks to date, but this track's one of the few times on Ground they're welcomed; this is begging to soundtrack the end credits to teen rom-coms everywhere, and I say that with the utmost flattery.
The band lose their footing elsewhere, though. Despite frontman Cove Reber's more tricky vocal mannerisms, "Changing" is the type of over-compressed, dynamism-void fatigue that recalls some sort of AFI B-side circa Decemberunderground; it offers no real reward besides the charged snippet of gang vocals in the bridge. They force more mileage out of the chorus in "The Alarming Sound of a Still Small Voice" than it deserves, taking undue focus off the more lush, layered verses. A rather banal third-quarter ("Say Goodbye" through the fairly dull power ballad "It's All Over Now") doesn't help matters, and the slower, equally balladic pacing that makes up the rest of the record just drags things out worse, as much as the 8:30-long, moody closer "Fireflies (Light Messengers)" finds a smoother procession that makes it at least mildly interesting.
Still, it's disappointing to hear how much of Saosin's sophomore LP falls flat. For a band with as much talent as they have, the thought and care they put into their songs seems almost exorbitant when hearing the actual results. Four different producers helm various recordings here and the lack of linear motives reflect that, as does the needless number of tracks that fill a wall of sound whose paint you're merely hearing dry. Three-year waits have been the norm for fans, so if Saosin's next full-length is any worthwhile, it'll seemingly have to be released well before our president is up for re-election.
In Search of Solid Ground