2013 was an exceptionally fantastic year for Facedown Records. After releasing a string of powerhouse albums throughout the year, it would have been easy for the label to let the holiday season take care of itself. Instead, it saved the best for last with the one-two punch that was Everything in Slow Motion’s absolute masterpiece Phoenix and My Epic’s Behold.
These two albums not only continued Facedown’s streak, they somehow managed to eclipse what had come before from the label that year.
Fast forward three years to a more middling 2016. With fears heightened on both sides over the pending election and several reliable bands having produced less than exceptional efforts, 2016 has not stacked up to the heights that 2013 achieved.
So, what could save us from a sonic drought? Why not let My Epic and Everything in Slow Motion have another go?
Though only an EP in length, My Epic returns with one of the most powerful albums of the year. What better way to begin the album than by pairing the band with the other half of that 2013 one-two punch, Shane Ochsner of EISM.
“Ghost Story” is an instant classic. Tackling the “Cheap Grace v Costly Grace” dilemma that Bonhoeffer so eloquently tackled in The Cost of Discipleship, “Ghost Story” explores the very real theological understanding of how God’s free gift of grace is actually the most costly gift every given. The harmony between Aaron Stone’s smooth vocals and Shane’s guttural pleas play off equally as well as EISM’s own “Speak (Feat. Christian Lindskog),” which was far and away my favorite song of the aforementioned year.
In turn, “Ghost Story” is certainly vying for the best song of 2016! It is powerful and engaging sonically, brilliantly written, and theologically brings a masterful treatise on grace. Seriously, with every listen I hear just a little more passion in Shane’s cries, just a little more of the beautiful invitation for the Holy Ghost to “keep haunting me,” and I am floored just a little more by the song’s exploration of the true cost of grace. “If it takes everything, and I’m left with nothing. I know your glory follows after the cross, My God so help me I will carry it on.”
Following the masterpiece that is “Ghost Story” (Have I driven that home, yet?), is “Memoir.” “Memoir” begins with a fittingly atmospheric style and piano melody that cascades through the ear canal and sweetly caresses the brain with a redemptive plea. “The wrath that I was owed, poured on Your blameless Son. For every song I’ve sung, still it seems senseless.” As with “Ghost Story,” “Memoir” is a theologically dense track, exploring the need for Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice. “The righteousness He owned, free to us wicked ones. I feel it in my lungs. It leaves me breathless.” For as hauntingly deep as “Memoir” is, it is just as sonically engaging.
“Cesura” moves through with a melodic, string heavy instrumental track. Having an instrumental on such an already short experience would be a little disappointing, were it not for the astonishing quality of the rest of the tracks on the album.
“Wive’s Tale” picks up the pace with a more upbeat ditty that feels a bit more catchy, and still equally theologically charged. However, because of the astonishing quality of the other three (full) tracks, I found this to be the track I skipped most when it came up in my playlist of new(er) albums. The song explores the promise of eternity and offers an eternal hope.
This tour-de-force concludes with “Open Letter.” “Open Letter” is simply an incredible theological treatise posed through the form of recurring questioning. “What kind of God makes a word like this, lost in the dark? And how’s it good news that we’re all damned, right from the start?” True to its name, “Open Letter” feels like a wonderful exploration put in the public sphere for examination.
The song is not afraid to open up and explore some hard realities of our world, and yet also present the Gospel powerfully. “What kind of Father offers up His Son for His enemies? How is it right that He just forgives such awful things? I tried explaining, because I still want to live in a world full of grace. But who gets acquitted, when all men are felons and victims the same?”
How can mercy and justice both have their way? This is the heart of My Epic’s… epic open letter to God. As the song explores these fundamental questions, it also rises in power sonically to match the gravity of what is being explored, which just makes it feel as powerful as it is deep.
“God if you’re hearing… I’m out of answers, and I’ve got nothing else… Just speak to me.”
Overall: My Epic returns with an EP whose only real fault is that the listener will long for more. With only four full tracks, one of which is good and three of which are out of this world fantastic, the Viscera EP leaves the listener clamoring for more. One can only hope another full release is right around the corner.
If you are not familiar with My Epic, this is a great place to start. Just like Behold before it, it is an exploration of where heaven and earth bleed together. It is, in effect, an exploration of those thin places where heaven seems so close you can feel it on your breath.
RIYL: Circa Survive, Saosin, Thrice, Alive in Wild Paint, Coheed & Cambria, MuteMath