by M. Lewis Barker
Over a year ago, I had just returned from a semester-long study abroad in Paris when close friend and double-bandmate Archie Crisanto informed me that the Travelling Salesmen would be playing in Muse’s Battle of the Bands. I grabbed my guitar and played my first show in four long months. One of the other bands that night, Follow the Earth, made quite an impression on me. They were a Prog Rock band with songs that never quite seemed to end, but the soundscapes they made were a treat to listen to and the light show was the best I’d ever seen from a local band.
A few months later, Empirates‘ Travis White finished his dream studio in a large storage facility next to I-15. Follow the Earth frontman Andrew Wells moved into a room there so White could record his music. Throughout the rest of 2010 and into the new year, the band practiced and morphed into something new. Some of the band members changed, and the music took on a new shape. Being a friend of Travis’, and having quite a number of rehearsals (for both the Travelling Salesmen and Wild Apples) in that studio, I got to witness bits and pieces of the band’s progression along the way. Travis would show me a recording or we could hear them practicing in another room. The band was no longer Follow the Earth; it was Eidola.
A couple months back, I caught their first show at Muse. (You can read my impressions about in this review.) It was amazing, and a huge improvement over FTE. I eagerly awaited the new record. Luckily, a week ago today, Wild Apples and Eidola played a show together at the Grove Theatre (great venue, by the way, please go sometime). I grabbed a copy of their new CD as soon as I saw it. (I think I might be in the liner notes though my last name is not Baker.)
Music is tension and release. A good story has three acts: setting up the locale and characters, bringing in conflict, and then climax and resolution. Most great songs follow these same principles. “Yharzeit Homily”, the first song on the EP, clocks in at 6:36 and uses the storytelling elements in a musical setting. With dual guitars, plenty of effects, and Wells’ clean vocals, the dreamlike atmosphere of the record quickly establishes itself. Less than two minutes in, the conflict begins to present itself, with changes in tempo, tones, and melody. The progression leads to some very classic Rock & Roll, with other elements thrown in. If this were Die Hard, Bruce Willis would be killing off terrorists one by one. Like the mental and physical state of the protagonist throughout the film, chaos finds its way into the music. Steady guitar riffs, virtuosic leads, and Wells’ increasingly angry vocals all lead to a wonderful climax. And then everything pulls back together. Resolving the conflict, giving us another chorus. Alan Rickman falls out the window and the dad from Family Matters shoots a guy.
“Jagannatha” is not as complex, though no less enjoyable. It follows a much more standard modern song format, with verses and choruses and even a bridge. The band pulls a lot of inspiration from metal which is most apparent in the guitar work between Wells and Matt Dommer. Laden with cruncy riffs and fast solos, they never simple play their chords, opting instead to keep things alive and complex. “You figure the chords out!” the music screams to the listener. Zac Bryant’s drums and James Johnson’s bass provide the groundwork the guitarists need to operate. The constant changes in the music would make it a chore to learn the things coming out of Wells’ brain, but he managed to find bandmates able to pull it off and a producer with the musical knowledge to record it.
“Argue”, only 3 minutes and 17 seconds long, is straight up Rock & Roll, recalling early 90s Grunge bands Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. With lyrics like “Burn this city down!”, you just need to mosh to it. It’s a fun song, and even its short length doesn’t stop the band from adding in a few complications. The lead guitar work is amazing, but Bryant’s drumming really stands out for me. He hits hard and steady. The song feels a lot longer than it is – not because it’s dragged out, but because they cram so much into the short running time.
The last song on the Eidola EP is “The Golden Rule Is, There Is No Golden Rule”. It’s the record’s longest tune and fancies itself the most epic. The song is more like a movement in a symphony and less like a rock song. With samples from speeches, modulated guitars, and everything else thrown in, it’s quite an epic piece. If “Yharzeit Homily” is Die Hard, then “The Golden Rule” is the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy packed into 9 minutes. Wells throws everything into the song, which is both good and bad. It’s a very smart song with a lot going on, but it feels ready to implode in on itself. It ends with a speech from President John F. Kennedy:
The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it.
I can’t tell you with what intent the band included this quote, but I like to think of it as a call to not keep Eidola a secret. (A shallow interpretation, I know.) This is a band that makes you feel smarter for listening to them. Don’t keep music a secret. If you like something, tell people about it!
All in all, despite the glowing review, the EP is not exactly my cup of tea. I appreciate everything the Eidola EP does, but I am not its core audience. I am a very even-brained person and my favorite music taps into both the emotional and intellectual of my mind. Eidola’s EP is all left-brain. The record feels just a little too dry and lacks the kinds of melodies and motifs that would stick in your head for days to come. But their live shows, with eclectic lights and high energy, give a spark of life to this music that the recording doesn’t quite capture.
But if you’re a fan of Prog Rock, Metal, or anything that reminds you of Dream Theater or Led Zeppelin, then get the album. Don’t question it. You should like the band on Facebook and get more information there. You can also hear a couple of the songs on Reverb Nation.