After another revolution around the sun, March 14th is here again—Pi Day. In an effort to keep today’s review on the mathematical side, I invite you to listen to Nova Collective’s new album, The Further Side. After taking the last four days to process the complexities of this record, my brain has finally caught its breath. The album is 48 minutes of mental exertion that starts in the right brain with the affective reactions, ‘holy shit’ and ‘wow.’ It then moves to the left brain’s analyses of ‘How is this possible?’ and ‘What the hell time signature is that?’ Only to eventually return to the right brain with the exclamation, ‘Eureka! Let there be prog!’ I guess you can say that this is the perfect album to take you full circle on Pi Day.
The Further Side is a prog fusion journey to an alternative future, a future where human beings have returned to the dust they came from and the Earth is now home to a new ruling species—the machine. Sound like the plot from The Terminator? Well, not quite. The world that The Further Side creates for the listener is not dystopic. Human beings are just a long-extinguished afterthought and the machines are free to live in their own mechanized utopia.
Dan Briggs (bass), Richard Henshall (guitar), Matt Lynch (drums), and Pete Jones (keys), make up the foursome that create this whirlwind of a debut record. With each piece of the band being members of already beloved prog-metal groups like Haken, Cynic, and Between the Buried and Me, The Further Side is a sum that lives up to its incredible parts. The four prog virtuosos create a sound as complex as the “Dancing Machines” they imagine in the first track. Nova Collective builds these machines while each instrument acts as a complex and intricate piece of machinery on an assembly line to end all assembly lines.
The technical chops required to create, splice, divide, and subdivide the polyrhythmic soundscapes they create are one thing, but the critical ear necessary to keep them from crossing into the obscene is another type of genius entirely. Seemingly taking influence from the likes of Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Nova Collective takes jazz-metal fusion into the metallic 25th century.
For the listener, The Further Side will stimulate your senses from start to finish and leave you with a classic chicken and egg dilemma. Did the complex stylings that are massaging your eardrums come before or after the pages full of mathematics required to assemble each song? Unfortunately, that is one problem we can’t use pi to solve.