Label: Metropolis Records
Release date: 13 March 2020
Early on, Stockholm-based Then Comes Silence (often stylized as TCS) were highly bass-driven with a muffled and lazy guitar, focusing more on playing around with sound and attempting to create a space for themselves. Self-titled, their first album in 2012 is very experimental and uses unconventional instruments such as sleigh bells and a theremin, making good use of mechanical sounds, the voices of children, and the hum of electricity. Alex Svenson’s vocals are also used as an instrument themselves, the content of the lyrics less important than the way they come out. Flirting with doom and shoegaze while remaining firmly post-punk, Then Comes Silence’s almost uncomfortably slow beats gently lulled the listener to sleep, not through boredom but through a strange calmness.
Later albums lean more heavily into the goth rock style, with a somewhat hollow drum beat and higher-pitched, quick-paced guitar chords, sounding akin to a macabre Beach Boys. Svenson’s vocals slowly gained more clarity and much of the experimentalism fell off, Then Comes Silence finding their sound in their second album, II (2013), and steadily enriching and improving with each release. Alternating between dreamy and sinister, but always heavily preoccupied with death, Then Comes Silence has a song for every goth mood. Keen listeners might additionally find some similarities between Then Comes Silence and fellow post-punk Stockholmers A Projection, so it may come as no surprise that Mattias Ruejas Jonson (ex A Projection) started as a touring musician for Then Comes Silence before joining full-time in 2018. This year, with a rearranged lineup and some quality time in the studio, Then Comes Silence releases their newest album, Machine.
A previously released single, We Lose the Night starts the album off with a very classic post-punk rhythm, feeling like a hearty nod to pioneers like Joy Division and New Order. Svenson’s vocals are now crystal clear and melancholy while the droning melody from the guitars and light taps from the hi hats urge the track forward to its successful conclusion. Hot off the heels of the previous track, Devil rolls out with an insanely catchy riff sustained the entirety of the song behind Svenson’s plaintive lowing, the BPM just fast enough to encourage a bit of dancing. Despite bringing back the age-old sleigh bells, Dark End is somewhat monotonous and has less of an impact than the previous two tracks, but is solidly performed and would make for excellent BGM at the local goth club. I Gave You Everything has a doomy, downright evil feel to it, the guitars howling between Svenson’s breaths and Jonas Fransson on drums playing intricate beats to move the track along. A brief and menacing pause near the end before blaring back again in full seals the deal and takes this track from good to great. The next track, Ritual, was achieved with the assistance of Karolina Engdahl who has provided vocal help for Christine Owman and Swedish punk outfit Gamla Pengar. Engdahl’s breathy and emotional keening is a beautiful complement to Svenson’s low and prolonged calls, their harmonies almost completely overshadowing the quick-paced and warbling guitarwork that humbly raises the two vocalists throughout this powerful duet.
Apocalypse Flare marks the midway point of this album and feels a bit like some of Then Comes Silence’s older music with its strange noises, whispers, and peculiar beats present throughout. Nestling somewhere between awkward and unnerving, this track is notably different from others in a way that can’t quite be pinned down but is short, sweet, and softly enchanting. The next track, W.O.O.O.U., piques interest with its peculiar name and holds it with its mildly fuzzy, wandering guitars that sound like they are being played underwater. Svenson seems to channel a bit of David Bowie here, his vocals dragged out slightly but said with a conviction that leaves the listener hanging onto every word as the band slowly drowns. In Your Name begins with a single pounding drum that one may for a moment mistake for the opening to New Order’s Blue Monday until the mumbling guitars pull forward. This track, like Apocalypse Flare, is very different from other tracks on the album, Svenson’s sparse refrains and the unique chord progression making it sound like a modernized and translated version of an ancient Mesopotamian religious piece. It’s back to business with Glass, a dastardly guitar riff aided by Svenson’s bass which has had its volume turned all the way up. Svenson also sings quite coyly in this brief track, the whole song sounding like a tongue-in-cheek warning against talking to strangers ironically played by the very strangers you should be avoiding. The penultimate track, Kill It, starts slow and relaxing and slowly shifts gears to be a somewhat harder song, but by the time the listener realizes this, the calm returns again, always teasing but never giving satisfaction. At six and a half minutes, it is a sort of blissful agony, being unable to tell if one should dance, sigh, sleep, or scream until suddenly, the song is over. The final track, Cuts Inside, satisfies the urge the previous track never sated, bringing a dark and deeply sombre mood to dance out to, quiet viciousness barely recognizable through Svenson’s carefully restrained vocals that ring out as the final notes of the album.
Then Comes Silence lure the listener in with an alternative but non-repelling aesthetic and keep them transfixed with a hypnotic sound laden with catchy riffs and chilling vocals. Their classy gothic songs work just as well for applying black eyeliner in a grimy mirror as meeting the ethereal interloper on the dancefloor that you know you will never see again. Every song wears its heart on its sleeve, exposing all the blood, sadness, fascination with death, and unironic pleasure in all that the band produces. There is a soul behind their music, keeping the post-punk scene alive and perhaps even giving it its lifeblood. Machine, and in turn, Then Comes Silence’s entire discography is a must-have for any wistful goth or wandering punk out there, whether you miss the 80s or just wish you were born then.
- Alex Svenson – Vocals, bass, synthesizer
- Mattias Ruejas Jonson – Guitar
- Hugo Zombie – Guitar
- Jonas Fransson – Drums
- We Lose the Night
- Dark End
- I Gave You Everything
- Apocalypse Flare
- In Your Name
- Kill It
- Cuts Inside