What I expected to be an easy spit-fest, turned out to be much more complicated. Faced with a band often labelled Progressive Metal should be a part of my ears’ worst nightmare. Bloody hell, was I in for a surprise!?
Side Effects is a decade old brainchild of Ivan Mihaljević and “Descending Rabbit Holes” is the fourth album, coming after a 6 year long break. The experience is well felt on the record itself. Especially when it comes to creative arrangements that successfully avoid all the traps that made Progressive Metal infamous among the more traditional metalheads. What I mean is that Side Effects, first and foremost, creates songs! Not seemingly endless instrumental jerk-offs, but proper songs that have a tendency to stick with the listener. Sure, the instrumental work on the album is magnificent, but doesn’t overshadow the compositions.
Speaking of the technical side of the release, first I need to draw your attention to brilliant bass guitar performance. Just check “The Siren Song” for instance, you will hear what I mean, yet the others don’t fall too far behind (introduction to “Recoil” for example). Inventive drum patterns are having a real high-end battle for supremacy in the rhythm section department. One cannot overlook the guitars charged to the maximum with catchy (yes, believe it or not, progressive, yet catchy) riffing and solo’s that don’t drag on forever to show off countless meaningless notes, but serve the purpose of detailing the songs. Ivan’s vocals easily stand neck-to-neck with the best days of James LaBrie. He was clearly influenced by the voice of Dream Theater, and that fact just brings more connotations with the music of the famed (not deservedly these days) Americans.
The said influences should not make you think this is an attempt of copying. There are a lot more of them in these 54 minutes of music. One can certainly find Symphony X, subtle hints of Queensryche (the moments when Side Effects almost slides into pure old Hard Rock), Alter Bridge, and probably many more. The thing is that the bands who placed the foundations of the genre have long forgot how to make albums like this one. This release brings back hope into Progressive Metal as a genre. At least in my book. It has been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to hear something this good. It made me want to check the previous albums by Side Effects. I will certainly try, and I recommend you to do the same.