Earthside’s ambitious 2015 debut album, A Dream In Static, was impressive in its expansive and undeniably cinematic approach to prog metal, stretching what might be expected of the genre in a similar way to the likes of Riverside or Haken.
However, as the eight-year gap between it and this follow-up suggests, Let The Truth Speak hasn’t had a straightforward gestation. A plan to work with guest contributors from around the world was ambitious on paper, but teasing out intent, impact and meaning from the guts of every track has resulted in a fairly tortuous journey to reach accord on the album’s songs, sound and direction. On this evidence, however, the struggle has been worth it.
Although the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra – which featured on the debut – are absent, the quest to draw in sounds and textures from far and wide is still evident on instrumental opener But What If We’re Wrong. Enlisting both the Sandbox Percussion ensemble as well as harpists Duo Scorpio, it builds from an understated tuned percussion ostinato adding layers from the rest of the band, rising and falling in intensity, both hypnotising and tantalising.
Elsewhere, We Who Lament and the lengthy title cut – with terrific, searing vocals from TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins and haunting, ethereal voice improvisations from Russian artist Gennady Tkachenko-Papizh – serve up the big, sweeping, occasionally dark contemporary metal flavours tempered with reflective synths and strings.
Earthside style themselves as composers first and foremost rather than simply musicians, and almost every track is given a unique edge by their guest contributors. Tyranny’s heavy-hitting guitar riffs and ultra-smooth, almost sultry verses frame vocals from Indian metal singer Pritam Adhikary (some in his native Bengali). Pattern Of Rebirth features Fire From The Gods’ frontman AJ Channer, who was given free rein to create all the lyrics and vocal melodies, resulting in a collision of alt-metal, gritty electronica influenced pop and rap/spoken word.
Some of the more counter-intuitive collaborations bear exhilarating fruit, not least The Lesser Evil, where the band work with a serious horn section and sometime Tower Of Power and Temptations singer Larry Bragg to create an unlikely, and superb hybrid of prog metal, West Coast funk and R&B.
Let The Truth Speak is an album of multiple layers. Its rich and diverse music and thought-provoking themes venture way beyond simplistic labels. It can be intense and, in this plethora of musical textures and lyrical ideas, sometimes a little overwhelming; but never less than exciting.
Let The Truth Speak is available now via Music Theories Recordings.