Artist: My Epic
Label: Facedown Records
Release Date: 12.10.13
Reviewer: Lee Brown
My Epic is very near and dear to this site’s heart. Before signing to Facedown Records, it was a little label knows as IndieVisionMusic that first signed the band back in 2007, and was set to release their first full length album. However, due to time and financial constraints (and IVM ceasing as a “label”) our site owner, Brandon Jones, lovingly pitched My Epic to Facedown. The rest, as he has told me, is history.
That being said, I must begin by noting that Behold is this reviewer’s first experience of the band. Having reviewed much of Facedown’s catalogue for this year, I found My Epic to be much more eclectic and etherial than the often grungy sounds the great label is oft to produce. In some ways, this album seems to fit more with Come & Live than with Facedown, though its inclusion is a testament to a great label willing to stretch its wings and let its artists stay true to themselves. With a sound that (as Brandon has said) falls somewhere between Circa Survive, Saosin, Thrice, Alive in Wild Paint, and Coheed & Cambria with just a hint of MuteMath mixed in, My Epic brings something that is exceptionally unique on the one hand and deeply spiritual on the other.
With Behold, My Epic has transitioned into a four piece band, bringing back original members Jeremiah Austin and Jesse Stone. The album was produced by Matt Goldman (Underoath, Anberlin, The Chariot) and follows I Am Undone, Yet, and Broken Voice EP. Having not had personal experience with their past work, I found Behold to most characterize the concept of “thin places.” The term “thin places” refers to a worshipful environment where God is more easily met; hence, the “thinness” of a smaller divide between God and man. In terms of tone, musicianship, and the overall atmosphere created by Behold, as I listened to the album I felt as though a “thin place” was formed. Not only was I listening to music, but the veil between heaven and earth was smaller in that place than before I hit play.
I was caught off-guard in many places, in fact. Sometimes by a word or line that brought beautiful theology before my human ears and other times by a soundscape or pattern on the drums that somehow seemed to beckon me into a state of worship. More than anything, for my first go-round with My Epic, I found that this was less an “album” as it was an “experience.” And though, at times, that experience seemed out of sync with my own expectations, it was one that largely drew me back in for more. Having spent a fair amount of time with the album, I must say I’m still not sure exactly where I land on many of the songs. I think, in some ways, this is exactly what the band is going for. Nothing on Behold is trite, predictable, or meeting the lowest common denominator. In every way, My Epic presents a cohesive experience that is bound together by a bold faith, but is also wildly different from genre expectations.
The album begins with “Arise,” which immediately shows the diverse and well thought out instrumentation Behold brings to the table. Lyrically and musically, the album begins by exalting God, which continues in a very worshipful way throughout the album. “Arise” is the first echo of those “thin places” I mentioned as it creates an etherial and altogether devoted atmosphere that somehow sinks into your soul in a positively infectious manner. With this, My Epic has mastered a diverse sound that one can’t help but be drawn in by.
“Hail” follows fittingly after “Arise.” Complete with a sample of the worship song “Majesty,” “Hail” deeply engages the Spirit of God in an intensely intimate way. In this regard, “Hail” is as much poetry as it is melody. Though it begins with a more rock-focused sound that undergirds the structure of the song, with a heavy focus on the drumming and guitars mostly playing in the peripheral, it is the more somber side of the track that truly beckons the listener in. By the time ME has begun to sample “Majesty,” the listener has joined the band in this “thin place” as if they have lead us by the hand.
“Curse” continues to bring a more etherial sound undergirded by the first strong rock moments of the album. In this regard, the track is a bit discordant with its predecessor. Though tonally it fits perfectly, the musical aspect seems to jump a bit. Lyrically, however, “Curse” picks up the theological underpinnings of “Hail” and begins to take a magnifying glass to them. At times on this album, certain musical choices seem to fit with the stylings of MuteMath. “Confession” seems to fit this mold. While lyrically, the band talks of confessing their need for God, and joy in His presence, the musical soundscape seems to fit to some degree with a MuteMath meets Phil Wickham or Crowder style.
“Royal” once again brings a harder rocking sound to the table. Though this is a bit divergent from surrounding tracks, the band makes everything blend so powerfully together. Musically and vocally, “Royal” is a highlight track. Once again I heard some MuteMath stylings in the mix, but also once again My Epic thoroughly makes each beat and each riff their own. “I remember who You are. Shield my eyes… Your grace reigns… I come alive again here in Your light. I remember who I am.”
“Approach” includes some more heavily synthesized moments to once again slowly progress the feel and sound of the album. Though it is the second shortest song on the album, it powerfully creates a mental image of God approaching near, and also creates a feeling of joy in the listener’s heart at the same time. Again, this is one of those tracks that so powerfully creates that “thin places” feeling that moves the listener beyond music and before the throne.
“Liturgy” builds on this somehow increasingly worshipful atmosphere as the band seeks to find “a melody worthy, or perfect enough.” The proclamation, “I want to sing that for You,” really speaks the intent of not just this song, but the entire album. My Epic has sought to find just the right tones, the right words, the right… heart… to come before the throne as the angels in Revelation 4:8 and magnify the Lord. “I’ve barely begun to tell of Your beauty. To fathom Your love.”
“Lament” takes sort of a left turn in many ways. On the one hand, the song follows one of the more etherial and worshipful tracks on the album and presents a tale of suicide and the repercussions that event has on the singer. In this, the track doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the album, nor the preceding track. On the other hand, the themes presented (dealing with death and our ultimate destination) are handled in a way that does make the song fit in the same way that Lamentations is found in the same book as Philippians (which is primarily filled with exultations of joy). Not to keep going to this well, but this is another song where MuteMath is a fair comparison. When the band belts out “Who we are” near the middle of the song, even the tone seems to match up to MM.
In terms of album progression, it makes perfect and fitting sense that “Lament,” a song about death and end of life issues, would precede “Zion,” “Selah,” and “Arrive,” which shift the focus from the “now” to the “not yet” of heaven’s presence. On the whole this final progression is the strongest set on the album. This is not to say that other phases of the album are lesser in any way, but with “Zion,” “Selah,” and “Arrive” My Epic shows that they have found their groove and are bringing the very best they have to offer to lay at the feet of the King.
“Zion” is a lyrical treasure hunt with new nuggets of truth, worship, and joy around each and every corner. Though there are several massively powerful tracks on Behold, it is “Zion” that best encompasses the heart of what this album is about. “I stay restless for You. All I am is made for You…”
“Selah,” the shortest track on the album, begins with some fittingly haunting picking and slow percussion that sets the tone for the ultimate proclamation, “I want to be a dead man. Just a body You can live in. I want to be Your prized possession. That and nothing more.” Moving from the shortest track on the album, Behold closes with the longest track. “Arrive” immediately begins by painting the hope and expectation of heaven in powerful ways, proving that this is a song that belongs in my Anthems to Overcome the Grave soundtrack I presented recently.
As the closing song, it is fitting that “Arrive” was chosen. Not only does the song beautifully wind through a musical/lyrical progression that echoes the album as a whole, but it also brings a fitting conclusion to the themes and worshipful atmosphere that reverberates through the rest of the album. Lyrically, “Arrive” presents some truly deep waters with some pretty heady theology presented in an entirely accessible way. In that, this is one of those tracks I wished I had been able to spend more time with. As a pastor with a heart for accessible yet focused theology (it is what my Master’s is in), I really wanted to spend hours dissecting this song prior to the review. Alas, multiple jobs all presenting “busy” seasons did not allow for this. So, know simply that “Arrive” has a depth to it that can be appreciated in a moment, but not truly experienced to its fullest after multiple listens.
To that end, that fairly well sums up this album. It is strikingly accessible in the immediate, yet has depth that can and must be plumbed again and again to truly uncover the power that lies underneath.
Musicianship: My Epic has created an album that does not fit into one categorical box. It is a worship album, a rock album, an etherial experience, and so much more all at once. From start to finish, My Epic brings a massive amount of talent and a noticeable amount of heart and passion. Behold would be a great album even if the vocal track were removed entirely, yet the lyrics and passionate vocals add even more.
Lyrics/Spiritual Content: Behold brings a depth to its lyrical and spiritual content that few other albums can match. Though the concepts are immediately grasped on the first listen, you will find new and sparkling treasures each time you play this album before your ears. As one who cares more about sound theological messages as slick riffs, My Epic delivers. After multiple listens, I’m still wanting to come back for more.
Lasting Value: As much as it is a musical album, Behold is an experience. Though it is skillfully done in both musicianship and lyrical content, it is the experience that will continue to bring listeners back. This cuts both ways. On the one hand, “deep calls to deep” and beckons you to come back again and again to experience this “thin place.” On the other, some listeners may be overwhelmed by this and only return to the album in earnest when they have time to invest more into it. Really, the album works on both levels. Though it is best experienced as a whole, several tracks could be dissected out of the experience and certainly hold their own.
Overall: There are no words to describe My Epic, nor their passion project in Behold. Though I have attempted to find some to give readers something of a heads up on this album, my words fall terribly short. And that, in actuality, is what Behold is really all about. It isn’t about a genre or a sound… it is an experience of falling reverently before the Creator of us all and offering what little we have when compared to His matchless glory.
RIYL: Circa Survive, Saosin, Thrice, Alive in Wild Paint, Coheed & Cambria, MuteMath