Due to a pending lawsuit I’m not allowed to speak for everyone here at Angry Metal Guy, but I can tell you this: every time I grab a promo from an unknown band, I’m hoping it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. Nobody who knows me in real life would call me an optimist, but in this regard I am. I don’t want to review dreck, I want to be the lucky guy like Kronos who stumbles into reviewing what turns out to be the Record o’ the Month. It’s what I live for, and if I was allowed to speak for others, I’d say it’s what we all live for. So I have high hopes for everything that is passed through the bars of my cage, and those hopes existed for Echotime’s new album, Side – right up until 1:02 of the opening track.
First, a bit about these theatrical Italian progsters. who dare compare themselves to the likes of Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation. Side is the quintet’s second album, a concept album featuring a number of songs tied together via a series of narratives. The concept itself is a bit difficult to understand, but seems to be a series of stories about characters that some woman named Lily knows. Oh, and the band likes to wear costumes, so there’s that as well. And sticking with this theatrical theme, each song is sung in the voices of the characters. Now if this was an Ayreon album, with Arjen Lucassen and his 412 guest vocalists, that would be cool. Sadly, when Echotime tries it Alex Kage does all the vocals, which ends up leaving the listener rolling with laughter at the unintentionally comedic voices he uses.
As mentioned above, Side goes off the rails almost immediately. The 1:02 mark is where the first narrative occurs, a stilted, awkward piece featuring the main character, Lily, and someone who seems to be a bartender. There’s our concept: Lily talks to a bartender about a number of people, each one of whom becomes a song. And these narratives are cringe-inducing, with horrible writing and bad acting. Some fantastic quotes can be found in these interludes, though, my favorite of which is when Lily proclaims “Everyone’s addicted to something. People just have to pay attention not to become addicted to the wrong thing.” Um, okay. And then there’s the crowning glory of hilarity, the song “The Bend of Love.” It’s a vaudevillian train wreck of a song with Kage’s vocals at their most mind-blowingly inept. It also happens to be the longest song on Side, lurching along like a circus freak for nearly six minutes. Honestly, how does stuff like this make it past Quality Control at the record label?
That’s not to say the entire record is awful. On the contrary, the production is very good, especially considering the theatrical impact Echotime seeks. The production is in fact the standout aspect of Side: I kept hoping for a song to meet those standards. And a few of the songs come close to ringing the joy bell for me: “Mr. Valentine” (aside from the singing) is a groovy, energetic piece of metal, “Hymn of Glory” is a decent, if long, power metal number, and “Stream of Life” has a definite epicness about it. But Side is 17 songs long (granted, eight of those are narratives, but still), and three decent cuts can’t hold up an entire record – in fact, they can’t even wipe the smile off my face from laughing at all the other material present.
At the time this review was written, there were no tracks available to link to for you, our Faithful Disciples, to listen to. A couple of 17-second trailers on Echotime’s Facebook page was the gist of it. But if you want to know what Side sounds like, I recommend Googling “Dracula’s Lament” and checking out the video of Jason Segal’s classic opera from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Just make it a bit more metal and you’ve got this one. The year is still young, but Echotime have dropped the most unintentionally hilarious record of 2017 so far.