ONI - The Silver Line (Cover Artwork)


The Silver Line (2023)

Self Released

Some people believe that the world of metalcore is simple: the bands who were around when the term was initially coined (Converge, Trap Them, etc) are the “real” metalcore sound, and those who came after about 1998, with a few notable exceptions, are an abomination and deserve nothing less than derision. I was born in ‘83, so this means I would have had to be into the OG metalcore bands by the time I turned 15 if I wanted to be there as it was happening. At that point I was predictably into somewhat more melodic heavy music and have only subsequently been able to see the unbridled genius of some of those earlier bands. But let’s consider the bands on the latter side of that imagined line in the sand for a second. Bullet For My Valentine. Trivium. Killswitch Engage. Avenged Sevenfold. Bands who have been important for various reasons, but have an extraordinary spectrum of success, artistic diversity, and legitimacy at this point. One of the sticks that people often like to beat them with though, is the suggestion (and it’s hard to argue this is untrue) that they have been indirectly responsible for the birth of many bands who seem to be almost entirely creatively bankrupt and set their sights primarily on streaming numbers as opposed to writing good music.

My view on the descendants of metalcore is a little more nuanced. But probably not that much more. I think there are modern bands who do it well (this year’s new Polaris record is their third in a row that I rate), but the problem is that the ones doing it well seem to be outnumbered vastly by those who are just pouring some synths, an Architects riff and then a big chorus into the ProTools sausage machine and pumping out the same stuff time and again. If it was novel, or really good then kind of fair enough (I’m not sh*tting on High on Fire for making largely similar music their whole career, I love it) but it always feels so compromised. Artistically, sonically, and in terms of integrity. I haven’t mentioned the band I’m reviewing yet, have I? So this is arguably where the nuance comes in. This record has a lot of the things I‘ve mentioned thus far in less than favourable terms and also boasts features that are in-keeping with the ADHD nature of the playlists that ONI (the working name of mastermind Jake Oni) surely aims to be included in. Howard Jones, one-time vocalist of the aforementioned Killswitch lends an air of authenticity to proceedings on “Aura”, but this is counteracted elsewhere by the appearance of YouTuber Jared Dines, for example. There’s also pop-punk bandwagon-hopper Sueco, Kellin Quinn from Sleeping with Sirens and Michael Lessard from prog-metal types The Contortionist. A mixed bag, no doubt. And dare I say it, one with somewhat less cache than Randy Blythe and Iggy Pop who appeared (somewhat bafflingly) on the last record.

I also can’t pretend I’m entirely delighted by the electronic aspects. They’re not amateurish in any way, they just feel rather like if they were removed, then it would reveal a paucity of content in the songs. But here’s the kicker. Some of this record is really good. Yes, there is a lot of trope-heavy lyrical content. And some of the songs feel relatively predictable, but when it hits, it hits really quite nicely. I don’t like Sleep Token and I can’t get on with the chart-bothering djent-inflected pop thing that some bands are trying, and the fact that some of them are succeeding is arguably even more annoying than the music. But this is clearly going to be the sort of thing that certain groups of younger people will adore. And despite the polish of the production (handled by Spiritbox bassist Josh Gilbert and Joe McQueen) the guitars, at times, hit like a juggernaut. There are even guitar solos that feel like ‘proper’ metal solos. One of which appears in album highlight “Silence In A Room Of Lies”. The track has a genuinely interesting structure, some shamelessly gnarly riffs and, unencumbered by guests, Jake has the chance to flex his not inconsiderable vocal abilities which range from menacing whispers and hoarse, ascending cleans to frenzied screams.

Maybe it’s that I know I would have liked this when I was in my BFMV/early Killswitch period. Maybe it’s that the record is unbelievably easy to consume (and I use the word consciously) at 9 tracks and sub-30 mins. In fact, the shortest track is 2:51 and the longest is 3:47. It’s kind of the Dan Brown approach. Make everything short, palatable, with multiple moments of perceived payoff, but that don’t actually bring much to the table. And unfortunately, much like after reading The Da Vinci Code, I finish this record feeling conflicted. I know I’ve kind of enjoyed passing the time with it and would probably do it again. However, I also know that it’s not been in any way spiritually enriching and I have no great love for the characters involved in it. Does that make this record without merit? No, far from it. It does a thing I’m not hugely into a lot better than a bunch of bands who I actively dislike. Will I be feverishly waiting for the next instalment in the ONI story? Absolutely not. But then do I always want to read Anna Karenina? Do I exclusively watch documentaries analysing the work of lesser renaissance artists? Also no. Sometimes I’m going to watch or read something easy to consume. And that can be worthwhile, too.