It's been nearly a decade since American orchestral/progressive metal quartet Earthside blew genre fans away with their debut LP, A Dream in Static. With help from top-tier guests such as Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust) and Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT), its versatile and singular blend of hard-hitting instrumentation/vocals and breathtaking symphonic elements made it both an impeccable introduction and one of 2015's best albums.
Fortunately, long-awaited follow-up Let the Truth Speak is finally here, and it's sure to be seen in a similar light. Beyond being well worth the delay, it's an exceptional testament to the group's hunger for growth and innovation, upholding a lot of what made its predecessor remarkable while also offering listeners a refreshingly different collection. The result is an album that surpasses its predecessor and further cements Earthside as one of today's greatest up-and-coming acts.
"This album almost destroyed our lives and friendships. It's insanity, but it is beautiful," keyboardist/co-orchestrator Frank Sacramone reflects in the official press release. Likewise, guitarist/orchestrator Jamie van Dyck specifies that while A Dream in Static was "more of an 'I' album," Let the Truth Speak "turns its focus on the 'We.'" He continues: "Within months of releasing ADIS, the global landscape had changed to where issues of far more consequence than our own individual dreams coming true were tugging at us. We became far more consumed with the trajectory of humanity as a whole than our own legacies therein."
That sense of communal concern is present in both the title and content of opener "But What If We're Wrong." Featuring Sandbox Percussion, it's a dazzlingly transcendental yet panic-stricken instrumental whose moods and timbres ebb and flow with gorgeous persistence. It's nearly impossible not to be amazed by its cinematic fluidity and sophistication, and it sets the stage perfectly for the rest of the LP's stunning hysteria and helplessness.
There are many similarly awe-inspiring passages scattered throughout the remaining tracks. For instance, the mostly vocal-less "Watching the Earth Sink" evolves gracefully from a somberly sparse and rustic jam to a meticulously crafted torrent of agitation and regret. It, too, demonstrates Earthside's knack for effortlessly juxtaposing beauty and brutality whenever possible (and as only they could). Elsewhere, "Vespers" is a relatively brief breather full of angelic atmospheres, regale chants, crestfallen bellows, ominous soundscapes, and the like (courtesy of Gennady Tkachenko-Papizh and VikKe).
On that note, the true stars of the project are its myriad singers, as they cumulatively provide a robust palate of styles and emotions. (As the band puts it, Let the Truth Speak "is truly an international affair" due to its array of "storytellers from all walks of life and corners of the globe.")
In particular, the djent-infused "We Who Lament" is decorated by heartfelt outcries from Keturah that etch themselves into your soul (especially the downright heavenly "Time / Gone" segment). Later, "Tyranny" capitalizes on Aarlon frontman Pritam Adhikary's faintly scratchy delicateness and ferociousness, whereas Fire from the Gods' AJ Channer adds a bit of nü-metal edge to "Pattern of Rebirth" (in a good way).
Arguably the best synthesis of singing and arrangements comes with "The Lesser Evil," a thoroughly melodic and engrossing piece that mixes Larry Braggs' soulful passion with Sam Gendel's nonstop saxophone theatrics. In a way, it conjures the great Leprous (which is kind of ironic since apocalyptic closer "All We Knew and Ever Loved" includes drummer Baard Kolstad). Unsurprisingly, Tompkins returns for the penultimate title track, bringing his trademark volatile vulnerability to an already stellar experience.
Far more than just a collection of songs, Let the Truth Speak is a magnificent journey ripe with philosophical weight and creative wonderment. There's not a single moment that isn't meaningful and extraordinary, with bursts of radiant catharsis and intricate devastation cascading seamlessly into each other from beginning to end. Perhaps most importantly, it highlights Earthside's brilliance at providing outstanding foundations on which numerous other talents can unite to yield richly artistic and inspirational statements.