The rising success of prog-behemoths SCALE THE SUMMIT has opened the door for young contemporaries with vision, including Connecticut-based EARTHSIDE. If you've had your fill of contemporary prog metal, in particular symphonic metal, dig in and discover EARTHSIDE.EARTHSIDE structures their compositions with a cinematic mindset, and their ingenious and frequently jaw-dropping epic "A Dream in Static" is one of the best prog metal albums in recent years. So powerful is the music that they have managed to lure participation from not only the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, but also guest vocals from Lajon Witherspoon (SEVENDUST), Björn "Speed" Strid (SOILWORK), Eric Zirlinger (FACE THE KING) and Daniel Tompkins (TESSERACT), along with a dulcimer performance by Max ZT. The eight-minute opening instrumental, "The Closest I've Come", is immediately representative of how resourceful and gifted EARTHSIDE is. The engrossing experience, as any emotive prog should be, is like opening a portal that allows the audience in to tread cautiously amidst enticing paths and spirals. The guitars and keys carefully wait the first few bars before stepping in, teasing the listener, and dropping sensuously back letting EARTHSIDE take command. In some ways, the feel to this composition is ROSETTA-like. Yet, EARTHSIDE goes to an altogether different plane, pulling their listeners airborne and leaving them suspended a moment with twittering key chimes, before clubbing them back down to the ground with all-encompassing chords before reprising the original melody on its hammered-down way out. Lajon Witherspoon and The Moscow Symphony Orchestra join EARTHSIDE on the ten minute "Mob Mentality", a track at times reminiscent of THE MOODY BLUES's "Days of Future Past". Witherspoon chimes in at close to the two-minute mark, and as he proved on SEVENDUST's recent album, "Kill the Flaw", he's ready to take on something beyond the metal spectrum, even if metal parts figure greatly on "Mob Mentality". With the Moscow ensemble sparkling behind Lajon, one almost forgets to hone in on EARTHSIDE until they wedge their slow-moving electric parts into play. The composition weaves back-and-forth between heavy and soft measures, within which Lajon Witherspoon gels beautifully. "Mob Mentality" crescendos often, without ever releasing its grip. TESSERACT's Daniel Tompkins hits such gut-socking high notes on the title track (a bit more conventional compared to its predecessors) that he becomes the focal point for much of the ride until the band whumps their way in. Frank Sacramone's frolicking keys gracefully dance over the band's punchy chords as the shift moves to the 5:27 "Entering the Light". The latter is perhaps even more epic in shorter form than some of EARTHSIDE's other tracks. This says a ton, considering "Skyline" and "The Ungrounding" have so much poured into them. The Moscow Symphony Orchestra returns on "Entering the Light", along with the ticklish dulcimer by Max ZT, and drummer Ben Shanbrom gradually ushers the band in with a pounding rhythm. The orchestra and Max ZT rightfully garnish the most attention, and their unified march to the finish is grand. "Crater" leaves listeners to question how heavy it's going to be with SOILWORK's Björn Strid leading the way. The answer is, pretty danged heavy. Strid shows off his full clean regimen, flirting with a growl here and there until pushing his throat to the max later in the track as EARTHSIDE revolves between soft and hard progressions in response. Caught in the band's craftsmanship, Strid, like Daniel Tompkins, strikes gorgeous apexes. As does FACE THE KING/ex-SEER vocalist Eric Zerlinger on the eleven-minute trek through "Contemplation of the Beautiful", albeit his darker tones manifest more so than Strid or Tompkins. "A Dream in Static" is one of the most exceptional releases this year, and even SCALE THE SUMMIT themselves are likely to be overwhelmed by it. This album requires plenty of time to behold its majesties, but it's one of the rare marathons worth taking. EARTHSIDE has just about set a precedent with "A Dream in Static", and God be with them trying to follow this one up.
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