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My Epic - I Am Undone

My Epic - I Am Undone

Facedown Records

Review 2545 Views

Spirituality and rock have never been the happiest of bed-fellows. It conjures up images of smiling clapping teenagers swaying to the music of a pristine white-clad acoustic guitar band, lost in the euphoria. Music seems to lose all credibility when religion takes over. North Carolina three-piece My Epic does not assume this unfortunate stereotype. On the surface they look and sound like just another melodic-rock outfit blending guitars and drums with thought-provoking lyrics and ideas. Far from it. The band has an inner vision driven by their truly spiritual ideals and this permeates everything they do - a blatant yet honest heartfelt celebration of what drives them, 'I Am Undone' is as sombre as it is uplifting.

My Epic has a distinct vocal style, at best it is focused and emotional but this tends to veer into the mournful and the melancholy. This just adds to the overall submissive nature of the band, fully aware of a higher purpose at work; a guiding light not to be abused but to be respected (even the pronouns 'You', 'Your' and 'Him' appear in the lyrics as rightfully capitalised). Whenever the music threatens to take over, it holds back and is continually restrained. A tendency to build up to a huge swathe of guitars and shouty vocals would be predictable and formulaic but the album would occasionally benefit from this approach. The music certainly suffers at the expense of the vocal and lyrical content.

When the band is in full flow, it really works. 'The Lover And The Thief' is beautifully level and controlled, a huge song with a great second half build-up to a crescendo that never happens. The guitar work and falsetto vocals form the high point and a wonderful string arrangement brings in a very subdued ending. Following track 'Perelandra' (a second reference to C.S. Lewis) is a Mogwai-esque four minute instrumental; very expressive but gets bogged down with repetition. On two occasions it begins to flow but then pulls back. 'Men In Little Houses' is the most 'complete' song: from the soaring guitars and unusually strict structure, a torrent of vocals lead up to a quiet interlude before another restrained outro. The message is clear: "And prudent hearts will find that there is beauty in the mystery of life. We are so small". Penultimate song, simply named '-' is also impressive, cumulating with the line "My God, I am not but You are". Why this is not the song title is anyone's guess. It is one of the only pieces to build up to a noisy guitar ending from delicate beginnings. The formula is paradoxically refreshing as it adds much needed structure to proceedings.

Elsewhere the album is consistent but steers the same dogmatic course. 'Communion' is very much the centrepiece and should by rights be the title track instead of such an obvious reference. The vocal arrangement, very reminiscent of 'Stairway To Heaven', builds to the line 'I am undone' with simple music and gorgeous voices. In spite of these positives, the entire song would benefit from a much bigger production. Ironically 'You Became I' could be lighter and for the most part sounds like a bad imitation of Coheed & Cambria; too heavy in places, particularly the end. Opening song 'Prologue' (no extra points for invention here) is a good choral introduction, designed to focus the listener before the solid 'The Oil Press'. 'You Know We All Love You' is a short noisy pointless mess - the only truly bad song. This is followed by the cracking vocals of 'Our Little Girl', a persistent dirge of loose structure with a weak inner beauty. Closing song 'It's at Times Like This That I Realize Survival is Not Enough' is a brave vocal experiment but only highlights some insufficiencies.

'I Am Undone' may not be the best musical work ever but as a pure celebration of hope and penitence there is nothing quite like it. Each song unfolds as a prayer; an outpouring of emotion and praise. The juxtaposition of such strong lyrics and an almost 'metal' sound and image is a striking combination but My Epic never descends into just layering heavy riffs with a multitude of instruments. They prefer to use vocal arrangements, albeit with mixed results and often to the detriment of the musical compositions, to convey a clear unhindered message. Being pro-establishment in a world of bands that constantly twist and poke religious imagery is admirable but the way in which the music is presented will remain a problem. My Epic are preachers without evangelism for these ever changing times.

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