Prog Metal is perhaps the most divisive sub-genre from the vast spectrum of what can be considered Metal music today. Whilst many marvel at the extraordinary level of musicianship and extravagance on display, there are those that turn off as the track hits 5 minutes and goes off on another tangent. Less is more, that kind of thing. Thanks to bands like Dream Theater and Opeth, as well as artists like Steven Wilson, Prog Metal is now seen as less of a bloated, rambling distant cousin to more Trad Metal. Now, from New Haven, Connecticut, the home of Yale University no less, come Earthside, with their incredible and diverse debut album ‘A Dream in Static’.
With no recognized vocalist amongst their ranks, Earthside have gone down the route of recruiting guest vocalists for the four tracks on the album that actually feature vocals, similar to what Apocalyptica used to do. Whilst this may complicate things for any plans for live shows, it works out very well in a studio setting. The first thing to mention is that like most Prog albums, be they Metal, Rock or even early Genesis, it’s recommended to approach ‘A Dream in Static’ in one sitting. You’ll get so much more out of it that way.
‘The Closest I’ve Come’ kicks the album off, and it could have come straight out of a John Carpenter movie score, atmospheric, loud (when it needs to be), driving, as well as bold. Some of the playing is mind-bending. This gives way to ‘Mob Mentality’, which features Lajon Witherspoon from Sevendust on guest vocals, as well as The Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra, who lend their talents to this ten-minute opus. This could easily be from a film soundtrack, and in some instances, would be a perfect James Bond theme song! Hey, if it’s good enough for Chris Cornell! Witherspoon delivers a hugely understated vocal performance here, holding back until the right time, then unleashing his incredible voice. This is a massively ambitious track, that on paper should not work… the vocalist from Sevendust with a Symphony Orchestra playing over some majestical riffing?… shouldn’t work at all, but somehow the bombastic nature of the track blows away any doubts.
The title track follows on, with Daniel Tompkins from Tesseract providing the impressive vocals this time around. A bit of a different approach to this track, with more of a traditional Metal sound, drums and guitar wise, interspersed with more of the background cinematic sound that Earthside thrive on. The band have spoken about their desire to get involved in scoring for both movies and video games, and ‘Entering The Light’ shows that they have enough skills to accomplish this. On occasions, it reminded me of Tuomas Holopainen’s ‘Music Inspired By The Life And Times Of Scrooge’. ‘Skyline’ is another instrumental track where the musicianship, especially from guitarist Jamie Van Dyck, is incredible, and ventures from light to dark with ease.
‘Crater’ features Bjorn “Speed” Strid from Soilwork on vocals, and it appears that this was very much a fanboy moment for Earthside drummer Ben Shanbrom, who wrote the track. Working alongside Strid certainly brought the best out of Shanbrom, as his drumming is impeccable throughout, as it is on the entire album. ‘Contemplation Of The Beautiful’ rounds off the album in fine style, beginning with an almost Middle Eastern intro. Eric Zirlinger comes in with whispering vocals, before the band come crashing in and the Face The King vocalist unleashes a guttural growl to shake the foundations. Some echoes of Zeppelin in places during the 12 minute duration… eerie, brooding Zeppelin… and Zirlinger’s tortured vocals shine.
‘A Dream in Static’ is released on October 23rd and will be available from the usual digital outlets. The video for ‘Mob Mentality’ is out now, and deserves your attention, as does this bold, brave, and ambitious debut album.
For more info on Earthside go to..
Review: David Stott]]>