Don’t let the picturesque painted pasture on the album art fool you: Silverthorne is not peddling some farmhouse hoedown cow-paddies-an’-banjos folkiness. Nope, this is rock ‘n’ f’n roll, baby…
Drummer Brian Tichy should be a familiar name to any fan of hard rock these days — he’s been the man behind the kit for the likes of Billy Idol, Whitesnake, Derek Sherinian, Lynch Mob, and more, all the way back to Zakk Wylde’s pre-Black Label project Pride & Glory. But, of course, in all of those projects, he’s never been the creative focus (although he did co-write most of Idol’s last record with the spiky-blonde one himself). Silverthorne’s corrects that situation, although the journey wasn’t a direct one.
Given the history of all involved, the result isn’t a surprise: Tear The Sky Wide Open attempts to do what its title says with Loud Big Rock guitars and Louder Bigger Rocker drums. It’s a decidedly modern take on classic rock, a blues-y, blustery brand of hard rock riffery (in the good way, of course); it’s five songs propelled by powerful rhythms and classic-style guitar-rock riffs, catching hold of that thread that connects through decades, from Cream to Zeppelin to Soundgarden and beyond. Most immediately and impressively, it’s a showcase for Shoulder’s rock-king vocal abilities. Put simply: The man can wail, his voice rough-edged and gritty in that whiskey-tinged Southern-rock manner, but also straight to the point, soaring, staggeringly strong, with a very noticeable nod to Chris Cornell’s tone and power.
Of course, those bands linked by the thread above are huge names to throw around, so does Silverthorne have the skill and the songs to live up to their influences? Well, yes, and certainly no. There’s much goodness within these five songs, but none of it is likely to knock “Sunshine Of Your Love” or “Black Dog” or “Rusty Cage” off your favorites list. The bluesy bent of “Black River Rising” evokes Trower and Temple Of The Dog in equal measure, and it’s a strong track, especially considering that it’s built almost entirely around one chord pattern. The titular song soars atop a simple series of cyclical riffs, another winner, while the funky slink of “Movin’” is both bolstered and hampered by the most modern-sounding aspect of the EP: that sawtooth distortion on the guitar that points as much towards Black Keys-esque modern radio rock as the classics that inform the remainder of Tear The Sky Wide Open. Still, even with that one concession to the active-rock airwaves, it’s undeniable that these five tunes hit hard, from the start through to the killer closer “Haunted By The Dawn,” with its Zeppelin-via-Soundgarden groove and another of Shoulder’s kingly Cornell-y performances
So in the end, Silverthorne’s greatest strength — their ability to evoke the sounds of rock gods gone by — is also their only slight weakness: They suffer from a little lack of original identity, given the inevitable comparisons to the giants of FM / MTV lore. But I mean, jeez, if you’re going to be compared to any rock bands, wouldn’t those be the ones you want to aim for, right? (Except for the Black Keys. That band is terrible.) In an age where it’s all too easy to say that rock is dead, it’s refreshing any time a new band — even one made up of veterans — is waving high the flag of Big Loud Rock, and proudly, and even more exciting when they get it all this right. Grab a flag, turn up some Silverthorne, and wave along, damn you.