In October 2015, Earthside released their debut album, A Dream in Static, featuring a plethora of international guests. I’m not sure who tipped me off regarding this release but I listened, and was immediately stricken by the fabulous sounds created. However, I was only able to find a digital copy, which I downloaded straight away. I have played this many times and still love it. I didn’t – and still don’t, as a habit – download many albums as they tend to get filed on my PC and lost in the pile, but I couldn’t stop playing this, so much so that I made a CD hard copy so I could listen to it in my car as well.
It whetted my appetite for more, but as time passed I was unsure if another album would surface. A handful of singles kept hope alive, with some great videos, including the fabulous animation for All We Knew and Ever Loved, featuring Baard Kolstad of Leprous on drums and directed by Maxime Tiberghien and Sylvain Favre. The sheer immensity of the video story and stunning music combined to blow me away.
No doubt Covid and Brexit played their parts and the world is very different now than eight years ago. This all seems to have added fuel to the fire for the sophomore release, Let the Truth Speak, which once more features a number of guests to complement the sound created by these talented composers. Founded in New Haven, USA in 2015, Earthside is a New England-based creative collective of four core members, producing epic cinematic style rock, gaining almost cult status among rock and progressive music lovers whilst embraced by the press as ‘ingenious’ and ‘frequently jaw-dropping’. The waves of crushing riffs combined with orchestration, balanced by delicate passages, explode with heartfelt passion.
A gentle start as opening track But What if We are Wrong slides in gently on a wave of marimba from featured guests Sandbox Percussion, like the sun rising over the horizon. But within the first minute dark undercurrents of guitar and drums creep in, slowly building as the sun crawls higher, the intense reds streak across the sky spreading, changing hue to orange and finally escaping from the horizon. Intense white light burns through the layers as the sun ascends with the intensity of the music and the colours are replaced by a bright blue as the golden orb climbs and hangs majestically in the sky, with the the track fading into the marimba again.
Rolling drums and guitar take us into the epic We Who Lament, featuring Keturah on vocals. A yearning urgency threads through the track and lyric, Keturah’s voice imbuing just the right amount of sensitivity as a balm to the discontent and anger when questioning the futility of life. Does it all matter, we strive during our lives to make a difference but once we are gone, does anything change? The drums roll like waves of mortality as the guitars cut through with scathing riffs easing for a while to allow us to ponder on the words presented, then build to a climax, “will we be voiceless again?”
Leading us into Tyranny, vocalist Pritam Adhikary of Indian Metalcore band Aarlon projects his gravelled vocals, lending a different slant to this track that dips into heavy chugging riffs and background growls. Many tracks on this album have a cinematic feel, and this is no exception, enforcing the fact that the band members see themselves as composers first and the commitment they have all made in the making of Let the Truth Speak. There is a pleasant mid-section, led by the bass guitar as the music swirls and drifts, Pritam’s voice then encouraging the sound to rise, showing reflections of bands like Karnivool, Amplifier and Oceansize in the form as it rises to a majestic finish.
Bringing different guest vocalists in on the lyrical tracks allows the band to focus on the music, and this brings individuality to the songs, adding a variety that could not be achieved if they had used the same singer throughout. AJ Channer of Fire From The Gods lends his vocal chords for Pattern of Rebirth, bringing a warmer timbre as rapid fire riffs strafe the grooves, asking could we have done more with our lives, does mankind learn from the mistakes of past generations and if we had the chance to live again would we lead a better, wiser life?
Watching the Earth Sink segues in from the previous track, the instrumental being the only tune to not feature any guests. With an entrance akin to Downriver Dead Men Go meets Steve Hackett, the gentle guitar intro soothes as if we were in a boat floating down the river. The currents begin to quicken as stringed waves lap against the sides and we are pushed upstream, keys bubbling and drumsticks chattering into a maelstrom as the journey ventures into wilder waters. Tossed and turned by the rising current, rolling through horsetail waves, the storm builds, lifting spumes of notes into the air as rumbling clouds of drums pass over and a stillness is brought to travel, as if in the eye of a musical tornado. Then we are dragged back into the tempest, bass crashing in, guitars flashing like lightning as the drum rolls throw us from the storm to the calm beyond, weathered but exhilarated. Definitely recommended listening in surround sound and at a little less than twelve minutes, the longest track on the album, but it flies through leaving you breathless. Another giant of a track.
The Lesser Evil stirs an interesting pair of guests into the pot in Larry Braggs of American R&B and funk based band Tower of Power, with jazz musician Sam Gendel bringing saxophone to the mix. Horns whisk us in followed by keys as the soulful sound of Larry’s vocals adds further ingredients to this experimental recipe. I can’t say I have ever heard these genres blended together this way and further flavours are added as flute and saxophone appear to be sprinkled into the metallic riffs, beaten by the drums and bass with Larry’s vocal range increasing to the temperature of the recipe as it rises to fill out, ending perfectly cooked after the recommended time of just under eleven minutes. This is really a song to get your teeth into and the unusual mix has me going back for seconds to get my fill. This recipe has been crafted perfectly by the four master chefs in the band, a feast for the ears.
Denial’s Aria sees the return of the wonderful and beguiling voice of Keturah, teamed with Vikke to duet on this beautiful ballad. The lovely ladies of Duo Scorpio (Katie Andrews and Kristi Shade) add harps to the mix, giving an ethereal feel to the harmonisation. Delicate and heartbreaking.
Vikke returns for the short Vespers, along with Russian vocalist Gennady Tkachenko-Papizh. They weave an interesting sound using their voices like instruments, creating surreal and organic sounds to form a mesmerising experience over the musical accompaniment, ending on an exhalation of breath.
Daniel Tompkins (Tesseract, White Moth Black Butterfly) returns after his staunch performance as a guest on Earthside’s debut album, A Dream in Static, to deliver a masterclass vocal performance on the title track, Let the Truth Speak, as he moves seamlessly from melodic and softer vocals to lung-bursting cries. Added improvisation from Gennady in the background also helps to create the seismic atmosphere and a stirring endinging. “So this is how we end ourselves…”
And so we reach the climax to this bedazzling album with the epic instrumental All We Knew and Ever Loved, which crashes into life like a bursting star. Rivulets of guitar run through as the musical ground quakes with majestic keys and strings. Growths of delicate noted blooms swirl in the air like dust motes in sunlight, as a guitar riff runs throughout, drifting by. A grandiose organ takes up the mantle for the impending orchestrated devastation, and like some great rock formations pushing through the earth, the drums from Leprous sticksman Baard Kolstad roll, tumbling like lava falls, scorching and smouldering the earth. Tectonic plates of sound scrape against each other with mountains of guitars screaming as they fall and crumble. Skies run red and the smoke fills your nostrils as the immensely claustrophobic atmosphere hits you, and you struggle to breathe, clinging to the last fragments, attuned as you listen to the destruction reach its end and swallow itself into a swirling black hole, with one final explosion from the cathedral-like organ to climax. The silence is palpable, as is a feeling of loss at the end.
The band say it took everything and nearly broke them making this album. Each torn emotion and gut wrench is painted across these tracks like some great masterpiece created by these orchestrators of musical enormity as they created this cinematic symphony with tears, longing kisses and heartbreaking love. These magical musicians have created a work of which they can be proud, it has been worth the anguish and the wait. Bravo Maestros!
01. But What if We’re Wrong? (4:30)
02. We Who Lament (8:44)
03. Tyranny (8:39)
04. Pattern of Rebirth (4:40)
05. Watching the Earth Sink (11:46)
06. The Lesser Evil (10:59)
07. Denial’s Aria (5:26)
08. Vespers (2:41)
09. Let the Truth Speak (10:47)
10. All We Knew and Ever Loved (9:19)
Total Time – 77:31
Jamie van Dyck – Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Frank Sacramone – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Ryan Griffin – Bass
Ben Shanbrom – Drums, Backing Vocals
Sandbox Percussion – Percussion (track 1)
Keturah – Vocals (tracks 2 & 7)
Pritam Adhikary – Lead Vocals (track 3)
AJ Channer – Lead Vocals (track 4)
Larry Braggs – Lead Vocals (track 6)
Sam Gendel – Tenor Saxophone (track 6)
VikKe – Vocals (tracks 7 & 8)
Duo Scorpio – Harp (track 7)
Gennady Tkachenko-Papizh – Vocals (tracks 8 & 9)
Daniel Tompkins – Lead Vocals (track 9)
Baard Kolstad – Drums (track 10)
Record Label: Mascot Label Group
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 4th November 2023