IMAGES OF EDEN – “You Don’t Have To Go Down To The Ditch, You Can Go The Other Way”
March 30, 2021, a year ago
Music is the universal language and is the great healer. Metal in particular can arouse a myriad of moods and in the turbulence and doubt of 2020, U.S. heavy metallers Images Of Eden offer hope, perseverance, and seek to uplift those who are going through a tough time with fifth album, Angel Born (out now via Pavement Records). In addition to those ideas, Images Of Eden paint a picture of difficult situations and the reality of death and accepting loss. A soaring sound of progressive metal with deep, genuine, and powerful vocals from Gordon Tittsworth, Angel Born is heavy both musically and emotionally.
“There are sort of consecutive running themes that both lend to the title Angel Born,” explains Tittsworth. “If you look at the cover [done by Jan Yrlund], you’ll see hands with an angel that you really can’t see, and then you see destruction, a destroyed world. So the question is, ‘Is the angel being sent down or is it being picked up?’ And the answer to that would be both depending on which theme speaks to you. For example, dealing with loss or grieving, mourning, and overcoming it and getting confirmation that your loved one is in a good place, et cetera. That is definitely a running theme. I think that’s something we can all relate too. We’ve all lost people close to us; we all want to know they’re in a good place.”
The title Angel Born can have multiple meanings, but at the heart of the matter is every person has value and one shouldn’t feel like there is no meaning to their life.
Tittsworth expounds, “There are so many people and I think we all know so many people who have been abused, beaten down, neglected and for whatever reason they’re just broken. They have horrible self-esteem, horrible self-worth, and they just think they’re worthless. This is a reminder that you are absolutely not worthless. You were born as a perfect angel, so to speak, the world has soured you, but you are loved unconditionally. It is hope and inspiration, but in a way that every single person can relate to.”
As drummer Steve Dorssom points out, this is all “rolled up into metal music.” Images Of Eden carry that message in the heavy music which is almost religious to a certain degree, but the band doesn’t want to preach to anybody.
“We all have faith, we’re all believers, but we don’t preach,” confides Tittsworth. “One reason we don’t like being preached to, if we want to get preached to, we know where to go. Number two, there is a common denominator in our faith that gets us through that, you know? I’m a perfect example of that. 23 years ago I was almost dead and I went from being in the gutter, in the sewer, to a really good place. It’s basically overcoming obstacles; it’s kind of rags to riches. But yeah, there is a hint of faith in there because that’s what works for us.”
Continuing on about the lyrics, he divulges, “They’re actually written for a secular audience. Christian metal or whatever is very preaching to the choir. This is not, this is written for a secular audience. It’s kind of like, ‘okay, here are all the trials and tribulations that we’ve gone through and here’s our testimonial.’ The members of Images Of Eden have gone through some brutal stuff and here’s our testimonial. And hopefully you can grow from it and that’s more or less what we’re trying to do.”
Dorssom elaborates, “There’s nothing gimmicky about it. It’s just our life struggles. I’m going to paint the picture for you. You don’t have to go down to the ditch, you can go the other way. And we rolled that up into metal music and I just don’t see what’s wrong with that. Everybody is so focused on being negative and especially now, we don’t have to be that way. We can give a good message and we can go kick your butt with some double bass at the same time!”
What makes Images Of Eden stand out is the aggressive, fast delivery of some of the tracks juxtaposed with uplifting lyrical content. The simply titled “If” is powerful with the motivating lyric, “Be somebody’s hero!”
“That was actually the first song that wrote on the album,” says the singer. “I sat down with a blank canvas, had the acoustic guitar, took a deep breath, hit record, and just started playing that intro line. The cool thing about that was I was kind of going through a rough patch. The whole thing is so many of us are like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m never going to be successful. I’m never going to be doing this. And, if I could just do this or if I could just do this,’ well, the reply is not ‘if,’ but ‘when’ you know, there’s no ‘if,’ there’s ‘when.’ At the end of that song is, well how many times has somebody cried out to you or how many times have you known somebody who needs to be lifted up? It’s kind of like we have the ability to lift and to inspire and to be somebody’s hero, we have the responsibility to do it.”
The title track, which features stellar drum work, holds the chorus lyric “Don’t you cry another tear for me angel born.” What appears to be a depressing expression is almost promising in a way in that’s it’s an acceptance of death and although a loved one may be lost, they’re still around in spirit.
Tittsworth agrees, “Taking that one step further, when you've lost somebody very, very close to you, there's, multiple feelings that we get. There's a selfish feeling that we didn't want them to go. We want them here with us. And until the day we die and that's it. But sometimes we lose them to cancer, they're very sick, they're in pain, whatever the case may be and we hold them close. So it's kind of like, this is sort of a selfless reminder to ourselves and to the one that we've lost, it's kind of like, yeah, I want you here with me every day, but I know that you can't be, and I would only be for selfish. You would be in pain. I would be happy, but you would be in pain. So what I'm saying to you is I want to be selfless here. You're out of pain now. So I just want you to fly home.”
Dorssom breaks down his approach to drumming, “On my drum style for Images Of Eden, well I’m a real vocalist at heart in a drummer’s body (laughs). I get real percussive with the vocal line as well as matching the guitar and rhythms. I just like to speak with my drums and I like to accent with Gordon and I can of follow that a little bit and that’s kind of the clever way that I approach it. That’s one of my favorite songs as well.”
Continuing on about the messages around Angel Born, Dorssom says, “We really hope people grab hold of it and not be frightened away because it’s positive. It’s not all positive. We talk about a lot of ugly stuff. We talk about taking a positive path instead of a negative one. That’s the difference. So don’t be scared and come give it a chance because it’s meant for you. I guarantee, I don’t care who you are, what you believe, who you pray to, you will relate to this.”
One of the highlights and more interesting inclusions is a cover of Triumph’s “Fight The Good Fight”. Featured on their hit album, Allied Forces, the 40 year old song was a massive undertaking for Images Of Eden and they wanted to make sure that justice was done to a classic song. The cover was originally meant as a single and not to be included on the album, but the song’s message resonated with the theme of Angel Born and was a natural fit. Going through multiple takes and overcoming frustrations with getting the cover right, Images eventually found the right way to tackle the song. As the drummer reveals, it was fate to do the song.
“Nobody's remade that song, to my knowledge, to this date, there's probably a reason for that,” he says. “But nonetheless, we got a little nudge to that song and like everywhere I went, I got some kind of sign that it was meant to do that song. Then we got a Christmas card from one of our media partners and he had no idea we were even thinking about this and it read, ‘great album, keep pushing, keep fighting the good fight.’ Like, wow, that's crazy. You wrote me that. And I'm thinking about this. I'm like, well of course there's our sign. We need to do this song.”
Closing epic “In Memory Of Me” bookends with opener “Autumn Is Burning” as the listener can hear the crackle of a record beginning and ending as the album closes. “In Memory Of Me” goes through many musical changes and reads like an epitaph of sorts and is this somebody accepting that they’re dying?
“At the very end, I left it open for interpretation for the listener because the end can be looked at a couple of ways. Well, what's actually happening at the end? I don't know. It sounds like he might be dead, but it also sounds like he's just moving on with his life. He might've been agoraphobic for many years and now he's got the strength to leave and you know what, both answers would be right. And if there's a third answer or something, that's right too, whatever you interpret it as is exactly how it was meant.”
The members are spread out all across the United States so they have a different way of recording songs. Angel Born was originally slated for a 2020 release, but Covid-19 put those plans on hold.
“We started this shortly before the release of Soulrise. We just put it together in piecemeal, in-between touring and in-between playing and I think we got most of it musically done before the pandemic,” states the singer. “During lockdown, it gave us a really good opportunity to make sure we had more than enough time to track everything and it was actually a little bit of a blessing in disguise for us because it gave us a really good amount of time to get our chess pieces in place.”
Images Of Eden is celebrating 20 years since their self-titled debut was issued. Released independently, Tittsworth was a one-man band armed with a drummer, Steve Kilgallon, and had no idea how to properly record an album. Tittsworth is still proud of that record and is grateful for how far Images Of Eden has come since that time.
He reflects, “The only way you’re going anywhere is if you’re almost completely obsessed with it. 20 years later we have every single chess piece and contact in place that we could ever need. We’ve gotten to that point now and I didn’t know that we were ever going to get to that point. If you just listen to the difference between chapter 1 and Angel Born, it’s 20 years. It’s very clear that it’s 20 years. I still love that album though. It’s funny because people say, ‘how would you describe Angel Born?’ I’d say I’d describe Angel Born – if I had to compare to any other Images album, it would be the first one because all the songs are very different. I mean they’re night and day from each other. They’re all standalone. There’s not a specific story going, but it’s almost like the first album since the first one where I did this, that unfiltered creativity came out.”
Tittsworth also had the opportunity to guest on the Christopher Lee’s 2013 album, Charlemagne: The Omens Of Death, singing on the track “Ultimate Sacrifice”. It was an incredible opportunity to guest on the legendary actor’s final album. The vocalist was randomly contacted by “a guy named Juan in the U.K.” and at first was going to turn down the offer.
“At the time I was like I've had so much stuff going on. I was like ‘I'd love to do it, but can't,’ and he said, ‘well, Christopher Lee's playing the main part Charlemagne.’ I was like, wait a minute, I'm there, I've been a huge Christopher Lee fan,” enthuses Tittsworth. “I remember sitting up late on Saturday nights, watching him, all of his horror movies back in the day elementary school and whatnot and loved them and Lord Of The Rings, loved that whole series. It was kind of funny because they sent me the tracks and everything I needed and sort of a guide. I tracked my part while Christopher Lee was in New Zealand filming The Hobbit. That was pretty cool. So when Christopher Lee got back to the UK, he had to listen to my part to do his part on top of it. So I'm thinking, ‘wow, I never got to meet the man, but I mean, here's a guy who I've looked up to ever since I was a little, you know, as an actor, and no one’s more metal than Christopher Lee. I just loved the fact that he had to hear me to do his part. It’s just an awesome memory.”
As for the possibility of touring and returning back to the stage, Images Of Eden closes with a tease.
“We have a possible iron in the fire. We don't like to talk about it yet, but we're almost kind of putting a lot of our eggs in this one basket just because if it does work out it would be everything we could hope for. I'll just leave it at that.”