My Epic


Written by: TL on 03/01/2014 20:46:51

When I first stumbled upon Charlotte, North Carolina-based My Epic - on their 2010 album "Yet" - they struck me as a band that was grossly underrated for the simple reason that their lyrics were really Christian, yet since lyrics didn't necessarily make or break records for me personally at the time, songs like "Lower Still" and "Sound And Fury" ingrained themselves in my memory, and I've been keeping an eye open waiting for their recently released follow-up "Behold" to see if the band would further realise its considerable potential. I'm not sure whether it's me or My Epic that has changed though, but the fact is that this time around, the religious discourse is so strong from the very beginning that even I can't ignore it, with every "You" of the lyrics clearly capitalized in direct addressing of a certain savior.

The curious thing however, is that My Epic are anything but your typical Christian rock band, most of whom tend to strike me as either Underoath clones or radio rock bands you could mistake for Staind or Three Doors Down if you weren't listening attentively. Instead this band makes a cinematic, post-rock-ish music that is in fact stunningly beautiful to "Behold". Patient as the latest Moving Mountains album and intricate and threateningly powerful like a Tides Of Man record, My Epic has actually made an album that sounds both massive and elegant from both compositional and production perspectives.

Simply feast your ears on opening duo "Arise" and "Hail", both of which should convince you why I find My Epic so enticing. The keys and glockenspiel of the former immerses the listener from the second singer Aaron Stone's hazy vocals come in and prepare you to be transported off to a separate realm - a kingdom come of musical discovery where rumbling drums and echoing guitars trace a deity's footsteps across a windswept landscape. If the first track trails God himself against the distant horizon however, "Hail" catches up to him, as the quivering roar of the well-timed bass notes bids the listener tremble and kneel before an awe-inspiring power beyond comprehension. This single track captures excellently a relationship to a God you adore yet whose wrath you know to fear, and it sounds as sweet as only production nerds can fully appreciate.

As good as My Epic are in a moment like this when they realize their potential, as much I feel the album lets me down however, in the seemingly narrowed spectrum of variation. While technically better and smoother sounding, "Behold" all but abandons the prior album's call/response arrangements between the band's gang vocals and Stone's leading voice, opting instead for occasional harmonies of such subtlety that you could easily - perhaps too easily - miss them. The rhythm section seems entirely tempered as well, rarely veering from a stately low-to-mid paced speed meaning there's mostly only a slight distinction between the two types of songs on "Behold": The ones where eletric guitar and bass are brought fully and noisily to bear and the ones that remain floating on acoustic and piano.

This wouldn't be as much of a problem if it weren't for the lyrics, which are bound to be a point of contention. Aaron Stone's singing is otherwise exquisite and very engagingly melodic, and his clear pronounciation would make you want to really sing along if it weren't for the lyrics. For me though, it's not that the motifs are consistently religious, it's more that they feel almost completely resolved and like there's nothing at risk. "I wanna be a dead man, just a body You can live in, I wanna be Your prized possession, that and nothing more" Stone sings in "Selah" and such humility before God, whether it strikes you as relateable or fascinatingly alien thinking, gets a bit tired across the length of almost a whole album. And the singer even seems vaguely aware of this as well, in "Liturgy" where he confesses "For years I've tried to speak, but words always fail and my voice never seems, to say what I mean about You /As hard as I've tried to write, to shuffle the notes and to structure the lines, they're never as lovely as they should be".

The same song goes on to explain how the praise for God is like an anthem rising within the singer until he must spill it out somehow, yet if he feels unsatisfied with the results, my advice would be to at least reflect his relationship to religion in more worldly matters, lest we think that worship is in fact his entire life and that only people whose lives are like that have a chance to relate. Instead of songs about how Jesus is alive or about how Stone is more absorbed with dreaming about the next life than with his presence in this one, how about more songs like "Lament", which at least hints at some turmoil at its offset? "Today he died, he stared in the void then took his own life, You watched me cry, alone in the parking lot as I felt the now and forever collide".

"Lament", which coincidentally features some of the few moments on "Behold" which could nearly be considered 'fast', has eventually ended up being one of my prime takeaways from the record along with "Hail". Those are the ones I see myself coming back to, yet the whole of the record is too doubly flawed. With all the uniqueness and delicacy of the album's sound, I feel like either the lyrics could make up for the lack of variety or vice versa, but when neither is consistent I feel like my attention eventually starts bouncing back and forth instead off just settling down to truly soak up the album's stronger sides. It's a pity but it means that for all its improvements over its predecessor, "Behold" might still end up being more of a passing pleasure than "Yet" was.

Download: Hail, Lament,
For The Fans Of: Moving Mountains, Tides Of Man, Akissforjersey, Thrice

Release Date 10.12.2013
Facedown Records

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