Saturday, 18 July 2015

Lyric Commentary| Ashes Of Eden, by Breaking Benjamin

Song: Ashes Of Eden
Artist: Breaking Benjamin
Album: Dark Before Dawn
Album release date: June 23, 2015


After an official separation of ways in 2010, the hard rock band known as Breaking Benjamin got back together in 2013 and produced their 5th studio album, Dark Before Dawn. With lead singer Benjamin Burnley adding an all-new crew, including Jason Rauch, formerly a guitarist for Red, the band has rejuvenated itself into recording a now top-selling album. Largely, the sounds are familiar, utilizing common riffs and trademark vocal accentuation, while entertaining a little bit of new. A minimal sentiment of disappointment does swell from the thought that the group over-recycled past material. However, the whole is certainly entertaining with parts that are downright awesome. The real golden star however is given for the impressive lyrical strides made by the band, utilizing metaphors relevant to the group's history. In all, this electric, sophisticated album is a success, both in sales and in quality.  

Ashes Of Eden: A Psalm Of Today

In an album that is quicker on its feet than many have expected, a song like this makes sense in so many ways. It has the qualities of an album-changer and an era-definer, at least for the band. Perhaps, this song won't be privileged the attention given to other singles like Failure--to my disappointment--but it could alter the musical direction of the band for future projects. 
     Ashes of Eden is truly a song about lead singer-guitarist Benjamin Burnley. Perhaps it carries some meaningful overlap with the story of the band, too, but this song is about Burnley. And it's extremely relevant to the audience. It carries significance for those who respect, admire and criticize the band and especially its leading man since 1998. This is why it's an important track off the record to dissect.
     Taking a step back, for a brief moment, the musical aspect of the song is quite different from the norm. It paces to a near halt by comparison to the rest of Dark Before Dawn and the vocals are completely detached of the usual sand-paper we typically get from BB's lead. With subtle synth undertones, a strumming guitar and a chilling string accompaniment, the song is as tranquil and eloquent as the band has ever been.

Will the faithful be rewarded
When we come to the end
Will I miss the final warning
From the lie that I have lived
Is there anybody calling
I can see the soul within
And I am not worthy of this.  

Are you with me after all
Why can't I hear you
Are you with me through it all
Then why can't I hear you
Stay with me, don't let me go
Because there's nothing left at all
Stay with me, don't let me go
Until the ashes of Eden fall
Will the darkness fall upon me
When the air growing thin
Will the light begin to pull me
To its everlasting will
I can hear the voices calling
There is nothing left to fear
And I am still calling
I am still calling to you
(Don't let go)
Why can't I hear you
Stay with me, don't let me go
Because there's nothing left at all
Stay with me, don't let me go
Until the ashes of Eden fall
Heaven above me, take my hand (stay with me, don't let me go)
Shine until there's nothing left but you
Heaven above me, take my hand (stay with me, don't let me go)
Shine until there's nothing left but you

Obviously, Burnley is opening up to a slightly more transparent discussion of ideas surrounding God, the afterlife and redemption than earlier lyricism. BB has always rocked to an emo lyric, with moody themes often leaving tear-inducing afterthoughts. However, I get the sense that, as Burnley is cited to having divulged, the songwriter has sobered. In fact, I'm not sure we can properly make sense of this song without understanding, first of all, the personal issues Burnley has confessed to struggling with (alcoholism, health difficulties). Here, in the opening verse especially, it's apparent he genuinely wants to know his life is taking a turn for the better. And it makes sense to turn to the religious, the metaphysical for the answer to that kind of questioning. How can one cope otherwise? And I might add, for the record, that I highly doubt Burnley is engaging in an eschatological discussion just for an intellectual exercise.
     Just to support my previous point, in the first verse, Burnley contrasts the "faithful being rewarded" and receiving the "final warning from the lie that I have lead" to a spearheading vitality. Eventually, the honest assertion, or rather confession, being made is that he isn't "worthy" of being rewarded, of privileging from warning.
     As we hear Burnley's truly heart-searing voice resonate with the words of the chorus and the second verse, it's increasingly difficult to side-step the notion that Burnley is engaging in genuine conversation with God, about God. He uses metaphors, imagery and motifs that only really make sense in a religious context.
     For example, there's a light and dark dichotomy used to describe what is obviously the afterlife. Darkness as a possible aftermath to death (the "air growing thin") and light bearing one into its "everlasting will" as the possible alternative. There seems to be a connection being drawn, as well, with the contrasting thoughts of the first verse, expressing the ultimate outcomes of faithfulness and delusion. Darkness seems to be tied to the "lie that I have led" while light being the result of faithfulness, particularly underscoring the finality of life as the point of anagnorisis. Connecting these dots creates a picture of redemption in its causal structure as well as its theological application.
     If my conclusions are correct, then what we know is that (a) the songwriter is remorseful over his past life (duh), and (b) seeks to escape this guilt, and find his faith in hopes of redemption to avoid what would be the wrath of God or final separation from the eternal bliss of Heaven.
     From the looks of the pre-chorus and chorus, as well as the outro, the tangible, real, personal effects of God seem to be un-felt by the songwriter. Taking the theoretical, futuristic conceptualization and bringing matters to the present day experience, it seems to be that what the songwriter wants isn't just a pleasant existence. I think Burnley realizes when he says "there's nothing left at all" and "until the ashes of Eden fall" that the present experience is one of a decaying nature. Earthly life is a dying thing so he seeks to realize what's eternally satisfactory, what's everlasting--he wants communion with God, even in the now. That would be why words like "calling", "hearing", and "feeling" are used so repetitively.
     Looking at that particular line, "Until the ashes of Eden fall", there's further significance there worth considering. The symbolism of 'ashes' is that of death, decay, dissipation. The analogy of 'Eden' represents the initial perfection of the human condition (and, in a grander scope, universal order before chaos). I think the complete picture being painted is that of finality. 'At the end of all things', in other words. In context, this language stresses the writer's desire for ultimate joy that endures the long game, a peace that surpasses temporal complication, and a knowledge that permanent salvation is to be found.
     In the end, it's a faith journey. Many rock bands and artists come to this very point and write of their own walk in their own fashion. The songwriter, here, expresses a direct and repeated calling-out to one who ought to be ever present, particularly during hardship, but doesn't seem to be. That's a relational struggle that is almost exclusive to God, and within the context of the two verses, it's near impossible to argue otherwise. This seems to be a way of perhaps understanding the greater significance of his past struggles and the band's internal difficulties, or perhaps he genuinely wants to know whether God's a thing or not. Whether or not the Judeo-Christian God is being sought out is somewhat implicit. Obviously, "Eden" is referred to. And Burnley's relationship to Jason Rauch may be indicative of his religious disposition. However, from my understanding, it is uncertain.
How often can one say they've truly been desperate for God? Or, how often can we say we've genuinely sought the answer to the question of God? In a privileged, western world that uses suffering as an argument against God, can we escape culturally ingrained prejudices and honestly contemplate suffering as an indicator of God? Are there possibly satisfactory narrative and moral reasons for God's allowance of pain? Is pain simply the aftermath of the amalgamation of biochemical phenomena, or does its existence hint at a deeper, subconscious desire for something truly without our grasp but within our meaningful interest?
     These are questions that arise in the wake of a song like Eden, which reads much like a Biblical psalmPensive Christians should take the song as a reminder of how life is full of pain and seeking and is beautiful in its complexity. For the Atheist, it could make for an incentive to reevaluate the problem of pain. Perhaps, also, it can provide bridge for communication between the religious and the non. Or, perhaps, this is just another song written by just another band. But I think otherwise.