It’s been a long wait for My Epic fans since the release of Ultraviolet over a year ago (our review can be found here). As a quick recap, Violence is meant as the second, heavier half of a project that seems to expound on the premise of Viscera‘s “Open Letter”, seeing the band tackle tough questions of faith, pain, doubt, forgiveness, and grace. Both EPs were initially expected last year, but as is standard for the creative process, release was delayed for Violence. Add in the promise that this would be the group’s heaviest material to date and fans were excited.
Arguably, it’s these expectations that leave the most tension for listeners; the expected initial release date rolled around and the band hadn’t even finished writing. The singles caught many listeners off guard, too; apart from Cory Brandan’s feature on “White Noises”, the songs certainly weren’t as heavy as classics like “Lower Still” or even “Royal”. The song structures felt more straightforward, and the choruses lacked much of the dynamic lift listeners have come to expect from My Epic.
All this said, it’s hard to approach Violence objectively; it’s easy to view in relation to these precedents, the band’s early work, or its thematic counterpart, Ultraviolet. My Epic’s discography is vast at this point, and the level of variation over the past few releases doesn’t feel that far conceptually from Thrice’s Alchemy Index in some ways. In other ways, it leaves listeners with a band that seems far from what My Epic “should” sound like.
Oddly enough, Violence seems to play into lyrically as well – how there are sides of God we tend to avoid or misunderstand. Given Aaron Stone’s penchant for pouring hours into lyrics, it feels remiss to suggest that Violence isn’t an intentional work. The brevity of verses on “Spit It Out”. The frantic, hookless nature of “Bloody Angles”. The vocal distortions on “Spit and Blood” and “Tsuneni”. These may not be the ideal musical choices, but they work effectively as storytelling devices. Traditionally, this responsibility has rested largely on the lyrics and, while there are still some lyrical treasure to be found on Violence, there are a lot of subtleties at play that help frame the concept at hand. Ultimately, there are indeed heavier moments at play. The one-two punch combo of “Black Light” and “Spit It Out” are likely the high point of the EP, including some incredible riffs, big hooks, and even a bit of gang vocals listeners haven’t seen since Yet.
Violence may not feature the “heaviest” songs My Epic has written, but it certainly has a heavier concentration of it. “Spit and Blood” and “Tsuneni” are the two dissenters here; the former is a somber piano ballad with autotuned vocals, while the later an industrial-type track its own share of vocal processing. Both tracks are over three minutes long, but it still feels appropriate to think of them as interludes. These two tracks probably seem to least My Epic-ish in nature. It’s for this reason some listeners may be prone to skip these tracks – interludes can get a bad rap, and when they’re long and exceptionally experimental, they may be perceived as filler. It’s cool to see My Epic venture in these directions but, as on Ultraviolet, they still seem to be working through some kinks on using electronic elements in their songs.
Lyrically, Violence is a mixed bag. “Black Light” is probably the highlight traffic in this respect, with this moving segment that seems to pair up with “So Be It” off Ultraviolet:
No good G-d would cause a thing so ugly
It leaves you cursing while you’re trying to pray
This time I think they’re one in the same
Conceptually, it wrestles with how God permits evils but doesn’t cause it – and also questions the notion that every bad thing is meant as a character lesson in the moment. Other tracks wrestle with forgiveness, empathy, leaning on others, and confessing theological uncertainty. Once again, My Epic acknowledges the reality of mystery around God – but they tread the line carefully. It wouldn’t be a stretch to claim that My Epic doesn’t see their work as the end-all-be-all of theology and that their work here is part of inviting a deeper conversation. No, the Gospel is not proclaimed directly on Violence – but we see ripples of its influence throughout. It would be wildly inaccurate to say that Violence feels agnostic in any manner.
Violence ultimately is going to be divisive in the same way its subject manner is. Grief and weakness are raw emotions and don’t need to be dressed in exorbitant poetry. My Epic lets these ideas live and breathe authentically. Violence may not say what you want to hear or speak in a tone you like, but My Epic invites the audience to come and hear nonetheless.