Review: Ever Eden - Illumine [EP]

Zachary Tyler Van Dyke
Zachary Tyler Van Dyke   Follow

Record-Label: Independent

Album-Length: 16 minutes, 40 seconds

Release Date: May 1, 2020

Genre: Metalcore

Tracklist:

  1. Latent World (2:27)
  2. Senescence (3:35)
  3. Delirium (3:39)
  4. Sacrosanctuary (feat. Micah Kinard and Shane Blay) (3:45)
  5. Illumine (3:14)

Ever Eden really caught my attention during ContagionFest2020. Their instrumentation and live performance were incredibly impressive – they made me think of a cross between The Devil Wears Prada (scream vocals), My Epic (clean vocals), and Silent Planet/Oh, Sleeper (instrumentally). But, they are 100% Ever Eden. Hailing from Springfield, Missouri, this 4-piece group is currently unsigned, but don’t expect that to last long (outside of their own will, mind you). They consider themselves to be a metalcore band that is “Grappling with love, loss, beauty, and hardship” (per their Facebook page). With only one EP to their name as of yet, their sample size isn’t the largest, but it definitely leaves a mark in the best possible way. Let’s explore their EP, Illumine, track-by-track.

“Latent World” starts the album off as, mostly, an intro. But it is far from your typical introductory track, which is typically instrumental/some sort of random sample. Here, they opt for a two-and-a-half-minute song that introduces the listener to the themes of the album, as well as what you can expect sonically: smooth clean vocals, thought-provoking lyrics, back-breaking guitar riffs propelled by pummeling drums, and some absolutely throat-shredding screaming vocals. Guitarist/clean vocalist, Jesse Wilson, opens with a haunting delivery of the line, “There is a beauty I can’t see… There is a melody I can’t hear. But when you speak.” The song takes a quick turn into the darkness when front-man, Josh Tenneson, rips into the track: “The eternal void is bearing down on me. What used to be just a sinking feeling. Now the silence screams that just under the surface, there’s a world unseen.” Silent Planet’s influence is pretty noticeable in some of these lyrics, particularly with the lines, “I want to see beyond the dissonance, where beauty and pain collide.” As far as opening tracks are concerned, this nailed it.

“Senescence” opens with some exemplary drum playing, courtesy of Oldfield Wasson. For the uninformed (me), the word senescence is defined as “the condition or process of deterioration with age.” Which puts this track into even greater light. Without pulling any punches, this song explores mortality and what sort of legacy a person leaves behind. Lamenting wasted opportunity, Tenneson tears his throat apart with the convicting line, “Ever searching, ever tired – just wishing for a life that feels alive.” The instrumentation behind this song is nearly ballad-like (for lack of better phrasing). It’s, in a sense, introspective, which matches the themes of the song well. While not a mosh pit inducing song, there is plenty heaviness throughout. The thing that turns this song from being a morbid look at death is the way they close the song lyrically. “I turn my eyes to see it shattered; my reflection of a life lived in vain. He laid it to rest, put it to death before he stepped out of the grave. Shattered, my reflection of a life lived in vain. He laid it to rest – the terror of death. And now I see the beauty of a life unending.” Amazing.

“Delirium” is an interesting piece. Equal parts brutality and beauty, the music is both face-melting and uplifting. It’s an interesting dichotomy. I’ll be completely honest, I’m not sure, lyrically, what the band is going for, so I’ll give my interpretation. I see this as a look inside the mind of someone who struggles to find their identity. When we don’t know who we are, “There’s an opaque haze amassing in your head.” Being lost in your own head is a horrible place to be and this song really displays the chaos that can create: “Wake up! It’s in your lungs; apathetic to the poison you’ve ingested.” As with “Senescence”, this track ends on an incredibly powerful note: “Breath deep; the air so sweet. It’s rushing beneath his feet. He’s reaching out, to take your hand, to speak the words you’d always wish you’d said… ‘Say I’m yours; Say you long to be with me forevermore.” It’s amazing the clarity that life can have when it knows it’s identity. Understanding who we are and why we’re here provides clarity to life that gives us focus in a distraction-filled world and allows us to stay standing and live a life of meaning. Lyrically, this is one of my favorites on this album.

“Sacrosanctuary (feat. Oh, Sleeper)” is a blistering critique of American churches. Taken from their lyric video, they describe this song as “Our personal experiences in the modern evangelical Christian church in the American Midwest. We believe the church should be a constructive and healing element in the lives of people and for our culture. Too often, churches fall victim to fear and defensiveness, turning inward and undermining their very fundamental purpose. This is not only antithetical to the life and teaches of Christ, but horribly destructive – turning the Christian faith upside down.” This is hard to disagree with. Too many American churches are concerned with their comfort to operate and live as authentic reflections of Christ. Fortunately, this isn’t a 100% across the board, truth. The goal behind this song wasn’t divisiveness, but to create conversation and seek ways to tear down the comfort-seeking defensiveness of churches that are focused more on those within the walls than those without. That’s a conversation that needs to happen – and they explain it well. This also serves as the heaviest song on the EP, blistering guitar riffs, stellar drumming, and Tenneson does his best to leave his vocal cords in tatters. The feature from Oh, Sleeper was petty excellent as well, even if it was a tad understated.

“Illumine” serves as a challenging look at, what I can only assume is a mind torn apart by Alzheimer’s. There are some of the most intricate guitar work throughout this song and these are incredibly thought-provoking lyrics. They ask a question I have never thought to ask: “I just remembered who you are – my Father, my Father. But will you be there when my memory is the author?” Wow. You could even take this outside of the loss of mind as a result of illness and point it to the loss of confidence wrought through tragedy and loss. “My only point of reference waxing and waning thin. Every moment before me is coming unhinged from every moment behind – I’m becoming blind to what has been.” It can be nearly impossible to remember the good God has done in the midst of pain and suffering – and so, we have to ask, will he still be there when our memory is all we have to rely on? For Ever Eden, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”. “I am the light upon your face. I warm you, illuminate the dark that’s closing in. And though you’re fading and growing dim, my warmth will guide you when you forget. Ever-present – simply eclipsed (amazing line!), there is no shadow that I haven’t lit. And though you’re fading, my glow is infinite.

All in all, I think Ever Eden is a welcome addition to the metalcore scene. Every bit as thought-provoking as My Epic, as musically engaging as Oh, Sleeper, and with a structure similar to Silent Planet, if they continue on this route, they are in for a massive future. This band is one that, with their honesty and willingness to ask difficult questions (and grapple with the criticism they likely receive because they ask), we need. The music is phenomenal, and the way the point their questions and challenges back to Christ, is something very few bands (a notable exception would be Wolves at the Gate) pull off well anymore.


High Point: “Delirium”

Low Point: There really isn’t one, but I’ll go with “Latent World”.

Favorite tracks: Tie between “Delirium” and “Illumine”

Rating: 9/10


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