EP review: Slyde – Back Again

Genre: Progressive rock

Release date: 17th February 2017

Record label: (Self-released)

Despite being an act that is still heavily planted in the vast rock n’ roll underground, Canadian prog suppliers Slyde are a band with an already extensive history. With releases dating all the way back to 2009, this four-piece from the north has spent upwards of eight years honing their craft of blending experimental compositions with accessible, sing-along melodies.

Before embarking on a hiatus that started in 2015, they had shared the road with the likes of math metal mavens Protest the Hero and released two demos and three EPs. On 17th February, the comeback will be mounted as the motley crew of singer/guitarist Nathan Da Silva, keyboardist Sarah Westbrook, bassist Alberto Campuzano and drummer Brendan Soares return from their time away with the aptly-titled four-track collection, Back Again.

The EP opens with its lead single “Fading” which, despite being easily the fastest track on the record thanks to its blend of exhilarating pace and a plethora of technical solos from the virtuoso Da Silva, brilliantly sets up the rest of the experience to follow. Da Silva’s incessantly melodic vocals almost instantly conjure forth throwbacks to Geddy Lee, Claudio Sanchez and a younger James LaBrie while the rhythms of Campuzano and Soares are much simpler than those of most progressive acts. This is by no means a criticism, as the perfectly integrated drums and bass of Back Again add a simplistic anchor that lets the EP draw in those that are uninitiated from the world of prog, or even rock in general. Combine this with short, radio-friendly song structures and even the most die-hard and immovable pop elitist could find something to love about Slyde.

“Join the Parade” draws more emphasis to Slyde’s use of electronics and Westbrook’s keyboards to create a more industrial rock-inclined tone than its predecessor, while keeping the guitarwork hard-hitting and the melodies massive. Musically, the track sounds like a freakish hybrid of radio rock, Rush and Nothing More.

“Divide” soars to life with the best individual riff of the entire EP, with deep guitar chords channelling the harmony, vitality and heaviness of old-school metal. The energy refuses to cease throughout the entire five-minute track. All the elements of the Slyde sound that have been established up to this point work together in perfect harmony in what is the strongest track of Back Again: the guitars, the harmonies, the lovable rhythms, the electronic backing, and even the seemingly out-of-place piano outro, which perfectly segues into the downbeat and emotive title track.

The closer “Back Again” sees Slyde take a step back from the energised approach of the rest of the release that comes before it, sticking out like a sore thumb but doing so in the best possible way, causing listeners to question the abrupt change in style but, ultimately, applaud the sudden diversion and display of versatility. The vocals of Da Silva and the keyboards of Westbrook assume centre stage in this six-minute song, which goes on to continue to build upon itself, leading up to big backing vocals and, yes, even another proficient guitar solo.

As Back Again draws on a close and it comes time to look back upon and evaluate this comparatively short record, it must be said that, for those who are less initiated when it comes to the realm of progressive rock, this EP is perfect. The combination of mainstream rock elements (the big vocal leads, the occasionally heavy riffs and the radio-friendly structuring) and progressive moments (the impressive soloing and integration of electronics and keyboards) certainly makes Back Again an ideal entry drug for the realm of the experimental. Show this to a fan of mainstream rock bands such as Biffy Clyro or AFI and they will more than likely be lulled into the adventurous world of Slyde quite easily.

But, with that said, for veterans of the progressive world, this EP will not reinvent the wheel. It won’t tread into territory that has never been explored before; instead, it chooses to follow in the melodic footsteps of pioneers like Rush, albeit adding a more radio rock edge.

Take this EP for what it is: a short, fun call-back that mixes classic prog with modern rock, succeeding fully in the process.

Final rating: Back Again gets 7 floating astronaut skeletons out of 10.

Back Again will be available physically and digitally on 17th February 2017.