A Dream In Static
23rd October 2015 – Self-released
01. The Closest I’ve Come
02. Mob Mentality (Feat. Lajon Witherspoon and The Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra)
03. A Dream In Static (Feat. Daniel Tompkins)
04. Entering The Light (Feat. Max ZT and The Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra)
06. Crater (Feat. Björn Strid)
07. The Ungrounding
08. Contemplation Of The Beautiful (Feat. Eric Zirlinger)
To sing or not to sing? That is the question faced by a multitude of bands inhabiting the borderlands between progressive and post-metal. On one hand, the purity of an entirely instrumental proposition is alluring – but on the other, maintaining listener attention – especially across a full-length release – becomes more of an uphill struggle. With their debut album, A Dream In Static, Connecticut quartet Earthside have attempted to capture the best of both worlds.
Earthside’s permanent line-up features four instrumentalists, but have invited a surprisingly varied clutch of guest vocalists to embellish half of the eight expansive tracks that comprise A Dream In Static. Not only that, but two tracks also feature accompaniments performed by the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra. Bold. It is a model broadly similar to that employed to great success by Nordic Giants, albeit one deployed by Earthside with a more straightforwardly metallic sonic recipe.
The obvious centrepiece to A Dream In Static is “Mob Mentality“, a grandiose and sprawling track featuring both the flourishes of the orchestra and a slightly unexpected appearance from the smoothest voice of nu-metal, Sevendust‘s Lajon Witherspoon. There’s no denying that the track showcases a rich and lavish sound, cinematic in scope and practically dripping with ambition, however the song reaches its dynamic peak just a few minutes into its extended runtime, and then effectively treads water for the remainder. Unfortunately, “Mob Mentality” feels like a four minute song being played for ten minutes, rather than a genuine epic. Perhaps we can chalk this up to the band wanting to get the most out of the remarkable combination of guests on the track, but perhaps a radio edit is in order.
The real stand-out guest appearance comes from the ever-dependable Dan Tompkins of TesseracT/ex-Skyharbor, lending his emotive vocal acrobatics to the title track, complete with a couple of vertigo-inducing high notes that lift the track, in every sense. Elsewhere, Soilwork‘s Bjorn Strid and Face The King‘s Eric Zirlinger both turn in strong, melodic performances, with the latter sounding, at times, like Muse‘s Matt Bellamy.
It’s hard to avoid treating A Dream In Static as a game of two halves, dividing the tracks between those with guest vocalists and those without. It’s also hard not to wonder whether it was really prudent to bring in a quartet of guests on a debut release, especially of such renown, before the band has really established a distinct identity of their own – but when they do allow the tracks to be left to their own instrumental devices, the results are largely promising.
Earthside have generally struck upon a well balanced dynamism, with equal parts restrained atmospherics and palm-muted crunch. “The Ungrounding” lumbers along with a satisfyingly meaty mid-paced groove. Opening track “The Closest I’ve Come” pleasingly erupts in its final quarter, and “Entering The Light” carries a brooding, Faith No More-esque vibe.
Unfortunately, for the admittedly large collection of promising signs and cleverly executed moments, A Dream In Static doesn’t quite add up to become a truly essential listen. Especially when the guest vocalists are absent, the tracks don’t quite lodge themselves lastingly in the memory. There’s much to be encouraged by for the future in A Dream In Static, and it is far from an unpleasant listen – but at the same time, it may not hold the listener’s attention for long. If A Dream In Static was an experiment in whether Earthside should proceed as an instrumental band, then there’s a strong possibility they should be looking for a permanent vocalist.
Nevertheless, A Dream In Static proves Earthside to be both ambitious and capable. Certainly, there’s much for real aficionados of post and prog to enjoy, and – with a few refinements to their sound – there’s every chance they will produce something truly remarkable in the not too distant future.