Portrait In Silver
Until now, the trajectory of Philadelphia’s Night Sins has been relatively straightforward. Starting with their 2012 LP New Grave, Kyle Kimball and collaborators moved from a restless, murky post-punk sound towards an ever purer strain of goth rock, epitomized by 2017’s Dancing Chrome. That all changed with the release of “Annihilator” a couple of months back. The track portended an abrupt shift towards a still-moody but distinctly synth-driven sound, with comparisons to classic acts like Depeche Mode as well as contemporaries like Body Of Light right at hand. Portrait In Silver confirms that change, but the results too often fail to deliver.
While guitars and bass show up here and there (as on “Two Headed Dream” and the solid closer “Breathe”), they’re clearly meant to take a backseat to the synth programming. The issue is that said programming often feels rote both in composition and sound design. Opener “Lonely In The Mirror” actually shifts from a consciously compressed and muffled delivery to a clearer one around the one-minute mark, but even once the chorus comes in the percussion, electronics, and Kimball’s vocals still feel blurred together.
Often, the band sound out of their depth when it comes to crafting synth hooks. There’s nothing inherently wrong with nodding to an influence as omnipresent as Depeche Mode, but “Daisy Chain”‘s clear “Strangelove” jack is all the more noticeable for the flatness of the track and the lack of punch given to the synths. Whether that’s a problem with the mix or the mastering is beyond my ken, but the technical side of Portrait isn’t doing it any favours.
I should clarify that the record isn’t entirely without merit. “Annihilator” unfolds well as a single, with clangy percussion fills and barking vocals spicing things up. Closing track “Breathe” is another winner, in which the band go for an early electro feel and weave in some smooth guitar to solid effect.
Portrait In Silver isn’t an inherently bad record, but it does suffer from the sort of underwriting and production issues synth acts of this ilk are generally wrangling with in the demo stage. Night Sins were a thoroughly developed and enjoyable act as of Dancing Chrome, regardless of genre, which makes Portrait all the more disappointing. The gamble they’ve taken in changing direction is commendable, but the first results don’t measure up either to their own legacy or that of the style they’re now pursuing.