The Beating Heart of Soulrise
If you have a few minutes, watch this: Images of Eden: “Shield Me”
For me, this video/track represents the beating heart of “Soulrise”, new release from veteran progressive metal outfit, Images of Eden:
-The crackling energy of the music
-The carefully phrased lyrics
-The sense of spiritual battle, with real dangers and real resources
Gordon Tittsworth: All Vocals/ Rhythm Guitar
Carlos Urquidi Perez: Lead Guitar
L. Dean Harris: Piano/ Keyboards
Eric Mulvaine- Bass Guitar
Steve Dorssom- Drums/ Percussion
The Crackling Energy of the Music
This is high-octane, high-voltage progressive metal from a veteran outfit that is comprised of members who know their instruments and know how to wield them.
It’s notable, and likely not coincidental, that according to vocalist Gordon’s bio statement, 2018 marks a twenty-year anniversary, from the time in 1998 when he found himself, “Staring down a fateful crossroads in life,… found himself headed in an unusual direction and envisioned a band completely unique in scope and sound.”
That vision has changed and evolved into today’s iteration of “Images of Eden”.
On “Soulrise”, we are treated to no-holds-barred progressive metal, with complicated arrangements, down-tuned guitars, absolutely knock-down drumming, nimble leads, a solid rhythm section (to my ears the bass guitar was mixed too low), keyboards that played a secondary role- and here was one of my few quibbles with the album.
I love keyboards in all kinds of progressive rock and metal, and keyboards while present and tasty on “Soulrise” were sparse and rarely upfront.
And of course, those vocals
Gordon is- pun fully intended- an *unsung* hero of progressive music. That he is not known on a much wider stage, with his agile, expressive, powerful pipes, is a minor travesty- one which I hope and expect “Soulrise” will begin to correct.
I found the vocal work- certainly the lead vocals, but also the harmonies and octaves, the different tonalities expressing different “characters” and moods- entrancing.
Within the video track “Shield Me”, the subject of the piece is a young woman facing genuine dangers.
Chief among these is the ready, risky presence of the tinfoil packet of drugs.
Belying her innocent appearance, there are scars and track-marks on her wrist, and she nearly dies from her injection of these drugs.
The pathos comes in the way earthly and supernatural forces work both to destroy, and to protect her. There are both menacing and also comforting entities.
The Carefully Phrased Lyrics
Read nearly any article, posting, book, or blog in which “God”, or “Salvation”, or “Jesus”, or “Spirit” are mentioned, and if you continue reading comments, it soon becomes obvious there are True Believers, and perhaps more vociferously, True Haters of anything of the genre.
So the challenge for anyone with this kind of spiritual belief and life, is to communicate with sensitivity and integrity what s/he believes and holds dear, yet without heavy-handed sermonizing or proselytizing.
“Soulrise” is lyric-dense
The lyrics thus take a central role in the appreciation of this album. (They are helpfully printed in full on the band’s website: “Soulrise” lyrics)
I read these lyrics as an unabashed, full-fledged recounting of spiritual battle, with no cringing from real-life crises and decisions, with agonizing soul-searching, and also with great optimism that we do not negotiate through these crises and decisions on our own.
It may be that others, as did I, found the length of the album and the density of the lyrics, challenging and sometimes fatiguing. For me they are relevant, poetic rather than rote, sensitive, and sometimes brutally honest.
The Sense of Spiritual Battle
Again, the video track depicts both the menacing, and the comforting presence of danger and of protection. That the main character nearly dies is certainly a present-day reality; that she survives is one of those instances we know happens in the world of drug addiction and recovery- yet also one of the mysteries of why some are spared and some are not.
No easy answers are given.
Struggle and Optimism
In conclusion, the “beating heart” of “Soulrise” is the reality of struggle, and the reality of of optimism- that within the struggle there is a deeper purpose, and a wider reality than we can easily see, yet we have hope.
All this- surrounded by fierce, precise, bristling progressive music, with few places to breathe easy.
For me this album would have received a perfect or nearly perfect rating, had there been some memorable, hummable, catchy choruses. “Shield me”, the phrase, came close to this, yet I wanted some things to “hang on to” and such phrases to sing or shout along to would have been great.
Related to that, melodies and song-lines for the lyrics were fairly complex and obscure. Timing and phrasing were difficult and technical. That’s all fine, but sometimes the listener wants to participate!
Easily 4.25 out of 5 crushing riffs.
Links for Images of Eden
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