What did I know about Silent Era coming into this review?
So I’m speaking based on first impressions and a lot of repeated listens instead of preconceived ideas from a previous release or live show. My general description of Rotate the Mirror is that the band plays driving DIY punk. It has influences from the genre’s origins in the ‘70s-early ‘80s and really focuses on primal energy, live-style production and heart. It’s visceral; it’s meant to be felt instead of consumed.
While it’s high energy, there’s a subtle darkness to the record. While Silent Era is the first time Michelle has sang in a band, her vocals lend to the cause, flowing with the melody and switching tone at the emotive moments -- a trait nicely on display in “Unserving Lie,” where she effortlessly keeps up with the frequent shifting musical gears. Similarly, “The Hook” shows off vocal range -- not necessarily in pitch, but delivery. In this style of caffeinated punk, it’s important to subtly mix things up and her vocals are a big part of why Rotate The Mirror doesn’t get too samey over the full eight songs. The guitar has a similar approach: it’s often cloudy and dark, with sunny moments peaking through but never fully breaking out into sunshine, as in “Future Dreams.” The metal-influenced guitars are tastefully subtle but add a lot of variety on pretty much every song as well.
The record is live-or-die by its production. The drumming really pushes the sound, the guitars wind and burn, while a potent bass that gives extra kick. With that energetic foundation, the vocals are mixed at a consistent level throughout, which is why the emotive changeups are so effective. For the most part, the production gives all the instruments equal attention. It works most of the time, but it has its flaws too, notably at the closer “Future Dreams” which is the moment of empowerment the record has been building to. With a soaring melody, the mix somewhat stifles the song’s punch -- and it’s a strong punch the way it is, so mostly this just leaves me wondering what could have been. But, you know, I think one of the points of this record is that essential question: Stop, look around, and then ask, “What could have been?” Or, you know: rotate the damn mirror.