As Paradise Falls
A Call From the Abyss
By Michael Aronovitz
The song “Star Blind,” by Eclipse recording artists As Paradise Falls, is the potent and devastating first cut that appears on the album Digital Ritual, just released worldwide on July 21, 2017. This is a song about death and denial, a terrifying binary that links a desolated finality with our lifelong attempt to dress up the journey leading to it with alternative facts, hip Instagram accounts, and a barrage of metaphorical selfies smiling back at us like circus creatures in an eerie ring of carnival mirrors. As Paradise Falls is Danny Kenneally on guitar, Shaun Coar on vocals, Jon Messer on bass, Jimmy Upson on guitar, Christian Rady on drums, and Glen Barrie on guitar. I mention Glen Barrie here, because they kept his guitar tracks on the album. I mention Glen Barrie here, because he died in 2015.
Not to become a character in my own review, as that would be seen as pretentious (and rightly so), I nevertheless feel it is important in this particular case to discuss my process. I had a choice. I could have talked about As Paradise Falls as if the current five members are the band, that the lifeblood of this project is pumping through a brand new heart in a brave new super-being recently born. The “ultrasound” was the sneak-peak we got of “Star Blind” before the album’s release, and it was outstanding, a prelude through which we got to perceive the band as brand new phenomenon, as if they belonged to us, our precious find, something we helped discover from the point of inception.
On the other hand, I could have called this album what I might argue it is going to actually become: a memorial for a great one who has fallen, and the song “Star Blind,” among others, a testament to the importance of his life, not only to the other members of this powerful musical project, but to listeners fortunate enough to celebrate his legacy.
Of course, the video for “Star Blind” is grand, almost majestic in its aesthetic representation of stark hopelessness. Visually stunning, the performance footage takes place on a beach with empty desert sand under a bleak or dying sun. Many of vocalist Shaun Coar’s shots are presented in dark profile with the background of storm clouds bleeding the dusk, and in between the close ups of bands members, the more profound clips show the distance between players in what seems hundreds of yards on the crest of this wasteland.
Considering the complexity of the mixed meter verse riff, its heaviness, and absolute razor sharpness, the visuals of vast emptiness almost play the viewer like being beaten into a state of vertigo, especially at the moment the camera is brought straight up looking down as if from a crane five hundred feet high over drummer Christian Rady, showing just how isolated he is from his band mates.
The female model does a nice job in the story shots at the beginning of the video exemplifying the lyrics, those which directly address the latter side of this binary, indicating that we are living virtual lives and losing our sense of self and collective identity. She is looking at her tablet, unhappy with her social media, and then it is indicated that she is being perceived (possibly by herself) as this monster in a mask with goggles, similar to the killer in My Bloody Valentine, (1981). The lyrics back this up with the lines, “When was the last time you saw it for what it is (alternative facts), “We’re all dying from “exposure” yet we never see the sun (we are “exposed” to social media more than being exposed to life), and, “We got blind people screaming at deaf men” (all of us posting and hoping for the likes that our “friends” are only giving in return so we’ll reciprocate the gesture in some sick, incestuous circle).
All of this works. The message is clear, the music fits it, and the optics make it real. This song has a phenomenal beat, an outstanding vocal, and a buzz-saw riff that gets you right in the spine. If I wanted to go metaphorical, I could easily raise the point that the sand here seems oceanic, almost like a “sea of life,” and I don’t think there are too many that would disagree that As Paradise Falls could very well be illustrating the idea that when we are cast out into the cold water some of us have a sliver spoon. Others get thrown to the waves in a rusty dinghy, and to make matters worse, we brag that it’s really a clipper ship. In terms of this part of the paradigm, the band nails it. They have made a powerful statement audibly, visually, and emblematically on two levels. What more could one ask?
How about the primary part of the binary?
Fact is…they left some of Glen Barrie’s guitar tracks on the record posthumously. That makes this song more than a song. It makes it more than a hit too, though I will cheer for the band when it becomes one.
Glen Barrie’s guitar tracks are on the record.
Growing up, I was a rocker through and through, and I will admit to you, I never liked New Wave. Still, the band The Police came up with an album name I never forgot: Ghost in the Machine, probably alluding to Arthur Koestler’s novel, The Ghost in the Machine,” 1967. Here, in the case of As Paradise Falls, the concept takes on a whole new relevance. I might word it differently, as I do not consider Glen Barrie a “ghost,” as that has a schlocky, B-horror movie feel to it, and this band is anything but schlocky. I might call this “the spirit in the mechanism,” for Glen Barrie lives in this band, in their fingers and their fiber, and their music has an almost machine-like proficiency. If it stopped there, however, As Paradise Falls would be generic Industrial Metal with a heartache, and I believe it goes further than that.
Listen to the music.
There is a pristine, unbreakable loyalty embedded in this mechanism, and a glorious phantom working the pistons and the crank shafts in the shadows of the ones who will never forget him. This song is about desolation, but one walks away from it feeling enlightened on a number of complex levels. This is an amazing thing for one song to embody, but the stakes could not have been higher.
This was the one As Paradise Falls defined themselves by.
This one was for Glen.
Michael Aronovitz/ MHF Magazine
Michael Aronovitz is a horror author who has published three novels, two collections, more than thirty short stories, and a number of horror and metal reviews. His first novel “Alice Walks” will come out in E-book form through Cemetery Dance Publications this summer. His latest novel “Phantom Effect” can be seen on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/jcg59wo