THE OTHER SIDE
Released on March 31, 2020 (Melodic Revolution Records)
Like a fine wine, rock and roll sometimes takes time to develop into just the right mix of flavour and aroma before being right for consumption. For Adelaide, Australia rock and roll sextet Sonic Divide, it meant a seven year gap between their highly successful 2013 self-titled debut and new album The Other Side, released this past March by Melodic Revolution Records. But for a band that initially got together a decade ago for the purpose of “infrequently jamming together for pure enjoyment”, that debut and its success was an unexpected surprise that took three years so it should be little surprise that once again, Sonic Divide took the slow, patient route in creating the follow up.
Since returning to the stage in 2018 including supporting Stryper across parts of Australia, Sonic Divide took to the studio last year and released the aptly titled return single “Come Back Again” last January. The promotional push continued with singles “Alive” and “When It Bleeds” in February and March leading up to the official launch of The Other Side, the band’s second full on album of melodic meets modern rock. Fans of Sonic Divide‘s AOR drenched debut that tied in somewhere between ’80s bands like Survivor and Journey, later modern radio rock ala Nickelback and Shinedown, and European melodic hard rock, stand to be even more blown away this time around. Sonic Divide took an already top notch production injecting more guitar and well rounded sound to create the stellar modern rock quality that is The Other Side even further distancing themselves in style from other Aussie hard rock acts. Admittedly, while I can eat up ’80s AOR all day long, Nickelback have never been my glass of vino but I can’t deny that Sonic Divide‘s latest has caught my ear with a sweet mix of infectious melodies, heavy grooves, and deeply personal lyrics that won’t let go.
On first listen, I wondered if, like movie trailers that are filled with the only good parts of a film, Sonic Divide had already laid all their cool sounds out on the table by releasing three great singles leading up to album’s official release, but it turns out that those seven years between albums did not go wasted. The Other Side is a solid 12-track collection of consistently well written, well-produced melodic rock songs that run the line from full on rockers to beautiful ballads. Since the advent of CDs, the big discussion as far as tracks are concerned has been the measure of too little or too many and once again Sonic Divide get it right, this time with a decided dozen.
Kicking off with the modern rock of “Vicinity”, Sonic Divide get The Other Side rolling with a triple team of heavy hitters that delve into varied hard rock styles and themes. Lyrically intense across the board, the blast starts off more modern, then jumps into full on classic metal (which may be what prompted Stryper to tote them across Australia) on “Hero.” Singer Wayne Holden obviously has the pipes to walk both sides of the melodic rock fence and fans of live chant anthems will absolutely love this one if and when packed live shows return. Rounding off the opening trio is first single “Come Back Again”, an infectious track filled with uplifting tempos and is one of the best blends of the past and present rock influences on The Other Side mixing infectious chorus hooks with an incredible blend of guitars courtesy of Glenn Johnson and Steve Pirie. Oh yeah, and the bottom end of bassist Ian Slade and drummer Evan Johnson doesn’t disappoint either and of course, what else can be said about Holden‘s exceptional vocals?
Andy Young introduces Sonic Divide‘s softer side with piano driven ballad “When It Bleeds” and while a showcase of Young‘s keyboard work including wonderful strings and melody, his contributions to The Other Side are far more enhancing than overbearing. As beautiful a track as it is, the keyboards do not distract from the power and darkness of the the deepest song on the album coming off as what Metallica would have sounded like had they recorded “Nothing Else Matters” AOR style. But if the more moody and dark guitar picked side is more your flavor, Sonic Divide‘s other “soft” side “I Still Believe” is all that and a slowly waving Bic lighter in the air. Yeah “I’ll Run” has a similar quality with a bit more emphasis on the hook with slightly more power and tempo to automatically drop it into the soft category and for fans of melodic guitar contains one of the best guitar solos on the album. But for those with any aversion to softies, there is more rock and roll to be found on The Other Side than anything else despite Sonic Divide obviously having a knack for penning great ballads.
It turns out that Sonic Divide find their stride best somewhere in the middle of the rock road mixing passion and power like on the introspective swapping tempos of “Final Stage”, the skirting on the edge of nineties vibe “Alive”, and grinding “When No One’s Watching”, a cool part hard rock/part prog tune complete with great chorus melody. Fans of multi-style bands like Styx would dig “Roll The Dice” packed with great guitar and the keyboard and operatic vocal driven sounds of “Shot In The Dark,” the latter with early Dennis DeYoung written all over it.
On The Other Side, Sonic Divide have created something rare — a cohesive collection of tunes that belong together while simultaneously reaching out in many directions. While at the core an AOR album, it explores the lighter and darker sides of pop, rock, metal, and even at times prog all the while plugging in catchy melodies, infectious hooks, and in some cases, uplifting moments that border on being humanly spiritual. The lyrical themes are deep and seemingly personal so while you won’t find any Aussie pub pint raisers, what Sonic Divide have offered is another batch of tunes that in concert will be irresistibly arm raising. While this should be a must buy for fans of melodic rock, in my opinion most fans of just good rock and roll should find something pleasing to the ear on The Other Side.
03. Come Back Again
04. When It Bleeds
05. Roll The Dice
07. Final Stage
08. Shot In the Dark
09. I’ll Run
10. When No One’s Watching
11. I Still Believe
Wayne Holden – lead vocals
Glenn Johnson – lead guitar, backing vocals
Andy Young – keyboards, backing vocals
Ian Slade – bass, backing vocals
Evan Johnson – drums, backing vocals
Steve Pirie – guitars, backing vocals
Engineered and produced by Sean Timms
Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, August 2020
Sonic Divide‘s “Come Back Again” video:
Sonic Divide‘s “Alive” lyric video:
Sonic Divide‘s “When It Bleeds” video: