Review Summary: Tides of Man draws on many influences and manages to create a crossover feel that works, if not without some low points.
There are several fields of music out there in our day and age. If you skim along the surface, you are bound to find only the same cookie-cutter, same beat, conformist, "keep up with the Joneses" type of stuff. On the sides of this there are other acts, ones that are more acclaimed and appreciated, while still maintaining high levels of popularity. Beneath the surface are many bands which you probably only hear about via word of mouth or on the web. They may have large fanbases, but probably don't see much widespread exposure. Tides of Man would fall just under this final level, in an area of bands working their way up with the hopes and premise of someday having that loyal fanbase.
Tides of Man is a very young act, still slowly maturing, taking its first shaky steps into the musical scene like a toddler balancing on the side of its playpen. The first full release by a band is their very first foray into the tidal oceans of music. It will be a test to see how they can survive out there. Metaphors aside, the first release by Tides of Man, "Empire Theory", shows youthful exuberance and drive. The styles found under the dark and stormy cover range generally from a fusion of alternative rock, progressive, and post-hardcore. You can feel senses of emulation of acts like Opeth and Thrice, but with a spacious atmosphere and youthful vibe.
No time is wasted in the opening moments of Empire Theory, as the album begins immediately with a delicate guitar line, over which vocalist Tilian Pearson, breathing-like, sings sings the lines "This one doesn't cry like the others" before the song smashes into a guitar attack. The high moments of this album are captured in many moments, from the driving and overt chorus of Knowing (That You've Already Arrived), to the epic buildup and riff in Create (Couldn't Keep Up), and the serene guitar lines in the title track. Tides of Man utilizes many progressive elements throughout the album, such as tempo changes and harmonic effects, like in the opening of Create. They should not, however, be pigeonholed as "one of those new, kinda proggy bands". What Tides of Man goes about on Empire Theory is a progressive crossover, trying to appeal to a different crowd then the listeners of prominent prog bands such as Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, and The Mars Volta. The sound is more condensed and cross-bred with timbres and tastes of much more accessible styles.
However, it is this forward appeal that leaves loose ends on Empire Theory. While they style given is genuine and fresh, despite drawing on many influences; and though it does in fact work, in their favor, the album suffers like many crossover releases. First off, Empire Theory is very front-loaded, the first half being stuffed with the best in an attempt to cover up the anorexic second half behind. It seems like the band took their most solid composition and placed them right at the beginning, in an attempt to captivate the audience before they lost interest. The memorable riffs and lines from Knowing, Create, and Empire theory are completely absent from the tail end of the album. While the songs found at the end are very good they just don't hold water against the overbearing first half. If the songs were more evenly spread, this could be fixed, but I find myself stopping the album halfway through.
One problem I have found noted by some was lack of bass. It is not lack of, per se, but lack of prominence. The bass is there - with good headphones you can easily hear its deep pops. The problem is that the bass player generally does the same thing as everyone else, and as a consequence, the bass is not heard; it really just fills out the sound. The mixing is surely on the treble side though. The vocalist's voice is quite high pitched, and I can't really say he has a very original style, but he does do a solid job without sounding shrill. There is something about his voice that demands more but I can't say why.
Empire Theory sets a strong foothold for young band Tides of Man. It has a wide array of influences, and manages to (mostly) successfully instill a crossover feeling, while still being fresh and genuine. Though front-loaded and lacking in layout, it is a solid first step. There are really only two possibilities I see with this style in the future. The band may either stagnate and slip, resorting to hooks and lures to make their music, or they could perhaps evolve their sound and return in a few years with a more mature and rounded sound.