Song: "Israel's Son"
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It has been said time and time again that rock and roll music lives within the youth. While the current musical landscape may beg to differ, it is nearly always the younger bands who refuse to conform that aid most in moving music forward. Furthermore, when one considers artists who “made it” as musicians before the age of twenty, they are rarely elsewhere than within the genre of “bubblegum pop” or worse. However, as was the case in many aspects of music during the mid-1990’s, there were a number of bands featuring rather young performers that sprung up in a number of different genres. Without question, one of the most surprisingly powerful and original bands of that era was a group of Australian barely-teenagers called Silverchair. Taking the formula set forth by Nirvana and Pearl Jam, yet never sounding like copycats, the band’s 1995 debut, Frogstomp, remains one of the most brilliantly aggressive records of the decade. Written while the band members were still in high school, Frogstomp overflows with distorted guitars and mesmerizing vocals, as the band in many ways refocused the spotlight on the amazing music that has come from Australia over the years. Though the album yielded the hit single, “Tomorrow,” it does not do justice to Silverchair’s overall sound, and the fantastic rock fury and emotion that makes the band so intriguing is better found in the albums’ lead track, “Israel’s Son.”
As an opening to an album, few songs bring the mood and energy that one will find within the fuzzed-out bassline than kicks off “Israel’s Son.” The bass from Chris Joannou seems to loom over the track in a rather unsettling, almost intimidating fashion, which brilliantly builds to the crashing guitar drop in from Daniel Johns. At the same time, drummer Ben Gillies begins his assault on the listener, and the resulting sound is so heavy that the band could well have been a decade older and had trouble achieving a similar sound. The fact that the trio are able to so perfectly capture the essence of the grunge-metal hybrid at such a young age is in many ways inexplicable, unless one considers their efforts as a band that simply “didn’t know any better.” Regardless of the reasoning, there is no denying the awesome power that is found within the track, and Silverhchair is able to create an superb tension that runs throughout the entire song. At times, “Israel’s Son” seems to evoke the sludge-sound of Alice In Chains, and again, the fact that they are by no means copying these established acts, instead taking their own spin on the sound, serves as a testament to both their musicianship as well as their musical vision. As the song progresses, it gains a great sense of movement, as the song appears to lurch back and forth, and the overall impact is unlike anything else recorded at the time.
Along with playing a masterfully toned guitar, Daniel Johns proves to be a fantastic vocalist and throughout the entire song, he brings a power and honesty with his voice that is clearly well beyond his years. The distortion over his vocals perfectly matches that on the guitars, and while in most cases, this would seem like “too much of a good thing,” somehow, the consistent distortion only makes the song more powerful. Much like the music and vocals, the lyrics on “Israel’s Son” are far beyond the combined years of the band members, and it is amazing to consider just how far beyond the normal angst-ridden songs of youth that one finds in this song. With lines like, "...this time I'm for real, my pain can not heal..." it becomes clear that Johns is a writer with far more to say than many people twice his age, and the dark feeling that is present within the remainder of the lyrics almost instantly makes him one of the finest writers of his generation. “Israel’s Son” culminates in one of the most stunning musical exorcisms ever committed to tape, as the band seems bent on blowing the doors off the studio in the final moments of the song. The tail end of “Israel’s Son” is a truly awe-inspiring displays of controlled chaos, and the final scream form Daniel Johns brings the song to a close that fits the overall tone of the song perfectly.
In most cases, when a young artist finds musical success, they are usually performing some sort of lighter, rather artificial style of music. Thankfully, throughout history, there have been a handful of young bands that were able to defy this trend and in most cases, push music forward. Yet there has rarely been a band as young as Silverchair that was able to deliver as heavy, musically sound, and unquestionably original an album as one finds in the bands’ 1995 debut Frogstomp. While they became internationally known for their single, “Tomorrow,” this song, while great, does not accurately represent all that there is to the music of Silverchair, yet one need look no further than the albums’ opening song to find their defining moment. The fact that the band chose to lead their album with such an aggressive song speaks to their true nature as a band, and the trio were able to masterfully blend the popular grunge style with a more melodic, yet equally hostile sound. Laying a thick distortion over every element of the song, the energy and angst of youth, along with the bands’ darker wording and approach come together in fantastic fashion and make Silverchair’s 1995 song, “Israel’s Son,” and absolutely hard-rock classic.