Saosin - Translating the Name
Record Label: Death Do Us Part
Release Date: June 17, 2003
You may be wondering why I’m reviewing this, especially now. The truth is that I have two reasons. One is because I can’t fathom why this hasn’t been covered yet. It may have been previously covered but lost due to a server switch, but the fact remains that there’s nothing here. The second is due to recent events in the Saosin camp, chiefly among them newly made Facebook promises and the departure of Cove Reber, allowing the entry of Tilian Pearson of Tides of Man fame. We all know the history, including the recently made. But I think now is the best time of any to revisit.
The phenomenon that is the Anthony Green obsession can be observed amongst a large faction of Saosin fans. It’s certainly a bit irrational, but at the same time not completely unjustified. Green’s contribution on Translating the Name is a third of what makes it so iconic. His typified cryptic lyrical style is taken to its most extreme extent compared to all his other work, thereby causing fans to ponder, debate, and theorize their meaning for years to come. We may never know the true significance that these songs hold in Green’s past. But what is clear is that based on the circumstances surrounding his fateful departure from Saosin, we see Green at likely his most personal, reflecting some of his hardest times and deepest emotions. His vocals make this easily apparent. Translating the Name is filled with haunting, despair-tinged highs and stirringly passionate screams. If you ask me, learning anything beyond what I’ve just outlined above doesn’t matter. He almost certainly won’t be going back to Saosin in light of that. As Anthony said in a very old interview, “You get what you want out of it." Let’s stop being invasive and give the man some respect by leaving his time in Saosin and the writing created during that time alone.
We must also remember that despite the somewhat misleading term, Green wasn’t the only thing that made the Anthony-era so beloved. I would argue that Green’s vocals on the EP aren’t his best work, and I have always been of the opinion that Saosin’s instrumentation is clearly more important than whom the vocalist is, or even how they perform, assuming the vocalist is talented and can handle the job of their predecessors. Translating the Name’s instrumentation lays all the groundwork in giving this opinion credentials. Therefore, the middle third of the EP’s success is brought forth in its guitar work. Until their most recent release, Saosin have been known to carve a distinctly unique sound amongst their peers, to the point where the genre of “saocore” was coined because that sound was so uncommon. Translating the Name captures that distinction more fully than the self-titled. Justin Shekoski’s lead guitar carves unforgettable melodies into the frenzied soundscape. Beau Burchell’s prowess with the rhythm guitar should not be under-appreciated, singlehandedly creating the full-bodied punch in each track, most notably in the chorus of smash-hit “Seven Years”. Chris Sorenson’s bass guitar forges the foundation of the overall intensity. It’s marvelous.
The final third of Translating the Name’s greatness is manifest in Pat McGrath, the enigmatic former Slayer drum-tech. It should be common knowledge that he was hired to emulate then-Open Hand drummer Alex Rodriguez’s style, and it has long been debated that McGrath captures that style even better than Rodriguez himself. One only needs to watch a drum cover to see why. With flurries of strikes across the kit and some of the quickest double-bass pedaling I’ve seen, his technical prowess and songwriting are to be admired. The most important point of note regarding McGrath’s percussion is that it maintains the momentum that the guitars create initially for each of the songs, even when they become more laid back and ambient with the opening of “Seven Years” and the duration of the title track.
Overall, in terms of individual song quality, Translating the Name is by far Saosin’s magnum opus. I still contend that Saosin beats it by a nose in terms of overall quality, simply because of the quantity of great songs and also because I believe both releases would have a somewhat more similar sound if their levels of production were equivalent (“Come Close” was originally partially written with Green still in the band, and traces of Translating the Name’s traits can be heard on the Black EP). However, if Translating the Name was a full album, it would undeniably have been their best in every sense. Despite that, I think it’s held that place for far too long now. Let’s hope Saosin will make good on that Facebook promise.