A concept album of sorts, Ed Hale and the Transcendence‘s All your heroes become villains is a collection of songs tackling different genres. Not too diverse to be disparate but still different enough to be dissimilar, it harks to some brit pop, some prog rock and, of course, some blues based rock.
After a strange, chaotic and almost cacophony-laden intro (‘All your heroes become villains – Main Theme’), the band goes for a more straight up approach. ‘Blind eye’ has a foot clearly planted in 70s arena rock with some good ol’ riffing (rocking moments there). It’s a wild song and it’s a safehaven after the more experimental nature of the opening track.
Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further – I had not heard of Ed Hale or The Transcendence before CUTA editor Matt passed me this album with a glint in his eye. I make this statement because by the time you finish reading this review, I’m hoping that your never having heard of them either won’t stop you from giving this cracking album a go. Because that’s what it is – a cracking album. I mean, sure, there’s a lot going on, and it’s a little bit nuts, but since the fateful day when Matt handed it over, I haven’t stopped listening to it. I’m listening to it now, while I write this review. It’s intriguing, addictive, maddening, impossible to pin down…yeah. Like I said.
Out of the 11 songs on the new Ed Hale & the Transcendence album, All Your Heroes Become Villains, there are only 3 that offer any kind of hope, optimism, or hopefulness: track 3 entitled “Solaris,” track 6 “Here it Comes,” and the album closer “Last Stand at the Walls of Zion.” The rest of the album is a dark heavy brooding downward spiral into the lead character’s disillusionment with everything in his life. From the album’s trance-hop/operatic instrumental opening, which starts with a slow dirge-like pace and rhythm and then builds to a climactic crescendo of dissonance punctuated by two competing melodies – one played by trombone and the other sung by guest vocalist Dee Dee Wilde’s gospel tinged moaning and wailing — all the way through to the album’s closing track, All Your Heroes Become Villains feels like the soundtrack to the end of the world.
Song by song the lead character vents his anger and disappointment with the society he lives in and his own personal life, aiming his rage at everything from the political system (“Blind Eye” and “We Are Columbine”) to God and religion (“Waiting for Godot”) to friendship and romance (“Indian Princess” and “Messed it Up Again”). The climax of the album is track 10, the majestic seven minute ‘suicide letter in a song’ entitled “After Tomorrow” where it appears that the lead character has had enough of blaming the world around him and has turned inward only to discover that he doesn’t have what it takes to continue any further in a world full of hate, war, disease, crime and betrayal.
And yet amongst all this drama and pathos there is the beauty and hopefulness of the song “Solaris.” In their traditional Britpop meets post-modern rock style, Ed Hale and company deliver a near perfect pop song clocking in at three minutes and thirty seconds that shines a bit of light on the stage of their apocalyptic rock opera. Sweet and tender and yet mysterious, “Solaris” seems at first to be a love song. But the female character being sung to doesn’t appear to even be alive, at least not alive on planet Earth. Rather, the lead character sounds as if he is singing to someone far removed from all his earthly troubles, someone who is far far away, living in another galaxy called “Solaris.”
Lead singer Ed Hale summed it up this way, “A girl I knew, someone very close to me, had just passed away. And I found it impossible to deal with emotionally. Right around the same time, I had a chance to see the DVD of this old film called “Solaris” starring George Clooney. The film was based on the book by Stanislaw Lem. Seeing that movie just hit me at the right time. I had my guitar with me and while I was watching the film I just started strumming these chords and creating this song about my friend… What I did really, was just place her, Julia, into the movie… in order to bring her back to life for myself. I just felt that because it was unbearable to contemplate her passing that at the very least I could make her alive in some other form, like she’s still living but in a different dimension. So the song “Solaris” is just me, or the lead character of the album if you will, saying a prayer to her, talking to her… asking her how she’s doing… like “how’s life in your new world Julia?” It made me feel better. And although it isn’t enough to keep the lead character alive by the end of the album, I think it gives him some hope along the way to his final decision… like that.”
I encountered an interesting parallel story during a recent weekend in New York. During lunch with musician pals Richard X Heyman and Edward Rogers, an obscure British musician named Jimmy Campbell came up. Campbell wrote a few mildly successful hits in the mid ’60s during the full flush of the British Invasion. Few Americans know of Campbell, but Hale sure does. His label, Dying Van Gogh, has a multi-artist tribute planned and Rogers is contributing a track to the effort! Anyhow, here’s the rest of my little chat with Mr. Hale.
Endless war, exploitation, lies. Turn the anger and outrage into a guitar riff, and you have the pulsing heart of “Blind Eye,” the latest release from All Your Heroes Become Villains by Ed Hale and The Transcendence. The riff, accomplished by some tricky open-D tuning, and then mirrored by syncopated bass (Roger Houdaille) and drums (Ricardo Mazzi), sets the emotional tone, giving the listener more than a hint where the song is going.
“It’s cynical as hell but I think it’s how a lot of us feel right now in the US; and around the world,” says Ed Hale. “You [politicians, elected officials] can do whatever the fuck you want to. I’m sick of your lies. I’m sick of your endless wars. So here’s the deal: do whatever you want to. I’m sick of fighting you. So I’m going to turn a blind eye to you and your wicked bs. But just don’t mess with me or my family. Don’t come near my home. And don’t ask me to help you in your quest to destroy the world around us.” Hale’s haunting lyrics, “Everything I hear/And everything I see/I won’t be afraid/You won’t bother me/All your evil ways/With everything you do/I will turn away/You won’t bother me, ” are delivered with such steady resolve that you can almost picture him turning his back silently afterward. The refrain, “Murder Greed Destruction Exploitation Rape Sex and Violence/Take your money Take your money Take your money” whispered quickly and venemously, came from a list Hale wrote at Fred Freeman’s, the producer of the album, suggestion. About halfway through, “Blind Eye” begins to spin, vocals, guitar, drums, bass and effects coming together in a representation of the chaos and evil present in the world today. Download “Blind Eye” now.
Preview and Pre-Order the New Ed Hale and Transcendence album All Your Heroes Become Villains on iTunes or Amazon.com Starting Today!
Watch the trailer for the new All Your Heroes Become Villains album exclusively on YouTube!
Photo Courtesy of Gina Rowland: pictured from left to right are Ricardo Mazzi (drums), Zach Ziskin (guitar), Ed Hale (vocals, guitar), Fernando Perdomo (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Allan Gabay (piano, keyboards), Karen Feldner (background vocals), Roger Houdaille (bass, vocals), Kamran Green (DJ, Remixer), Leor Manelis (drums)
The new album, All Your Heroes Become Villains, is now available for pre-order on iTunes.
Click here for US iTunes, or UK iTunes.
Ed Hale and the Transcendence, All Your Heroes Become Villains is certainly titled appropriately for the times we live in. Like a shadow of today’s chaotic world, “The Villains album,” due out November 15th on the Dying Van Gogh Record label, is dark, moody and heavy, and yet every now and then it glimmers with hope and those catchy ear-candy melodies that fans of the band have come to love and expect.The collective, which reached up to 12 members during the recording process of their latest, weaves together their trademark post-modern rock meets Brit pop — creating an unforgettable aural soundscape that is larger than life and will leave you humming.
Hale and the band worked for over a year, bringing in other musicians when needed as varied as a gospel singer, a second drummer, a Los Angeles DJ, and various horn players. The result is a mashup of sounds but highly cohesive as an album still recognizable as having “that Transcendence sound.” Haunting melodies, bold sonic experimentation and Hale’s richly layered and impassioned vocals all come together to create a highly memorable and moving listening experience. Sounding more like a rock musical or a concept album, the songs both musically and lyrically tie into one another seamlessly in one cohesively bold brash and powerful listen more akin to Pink Floyd or David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.
While Transcendence singer/guitarist Ed Hale continues to hole up in the recording studio with other band members working on his next upcoming solo album, Dying Van Gogh Records finally announced a formal release date for the long awaited new album from the band, the much anticipated concept album entitled All Your Heroes Become Villains. The band’s last official release was 2009’s The City of Lost Children, but it was a b-sides and rarities collection. Their last album of new material was 2005’s classic Nothing Is Cohesive, considered by many to be the group’s best album to date.
But the band and its record label hope to change that. The All Your Heroes.. album is by far the most commercial, provocative and ambitious collection of songs the band has ever assembled. From start to finish the album took over four years to record, with most of the band members working straight through the night for often days at a time. Recorded in Miami, Florida at both Hit Factory Studios and Dungeon Recording Studios, the album was produced by Fred Freeman (Dashboard Confessional, New Found Glory) who also produced the band’s second album Sleep With You. Freeman purportedly worked the band tirelessly to obtain the best performances out of them. Lead singer/guitarist and chief songwriter Ed Hale felt that the time was right for the band to expand beyond albums that were mere collections of songs and instead attempt something more thematically cohesive and structured.
What came out of the process is the heaviest, deepest and darkest album the band has ever created, eleven mini-rock operas featuring a wide variety of instrumentation that take a sledge hammer to the band’s trademark Brit-pop sound and turn it into a whole new beast entirely. With song titles such as “Waiting for Godot,” “Blind Eye,” “Last Stand at the Walls of Zion” and the suicide letter in song “After Tomorrow” the album also offers a rich template of political, philosophical and emotional lyricism that is intense, thought provoking and at times sheer stunning.
The album will be officially released on November 15th nationwide and on November 17th in the United Kingdom. It will be available for pre-order exclusively on iTunes and Amazon.com on October 18th. The first single from the album is scheduled to hit college radio in mid-September and Modern Rock commercial radio stations on October 1st.
With each and every Transcendence album, one is never quite sure what to expect. During the nine years since their genre-defying breakout debut Rise and Shine, Ed Hale and the Transcendence have been musical shape-shifters, willing to assume whatever form and go in whatever direction their music demands. On their latest release, their fourth album, entitled All Your Heroes Become Villains, they harness the best of their previous efforts and multiply it by a gazillion. It was the result of a long, grueling recording process, appropriate for an album as equally accessible as it is complex and eclectic. Haunting melodies, rock-God guitar riffs, rhythmic adventurousness, bold sonic experimentation, inspired songwriting and Ed Hale’s impassioned vocals create a highly memorable experience for the listener that could easily be called a concept album. Each song seems integral to the work as a whole.
All Your Heroes Become Villains comes off like an instant classic – stylistically and lyrically unified and thematic and by far their most ambitious work to date. This masterpiece is dark and heavy, and yet every bit the catchy ear candy that fans of the band have come to expect. Hale sings of hope, victory, loss, suffering and blind idealism on a personal and global level in his signature tortured baritone while the band weaves together their trademark post-modern rock meets Brit pop creating an aural soundscape that is truly unforgettable. Features the hit singles “Blind Eye,” “Waiting for Godot,” and “Solaris.”
Out November 15th, 2011 (US) November 14th, 2011 (UK).