“I guess if you put Jethro Tull, Dream Theater and Final Fantasy music into a blender, you’d get Edensong,” ponders James Schoen, the New York born vocalist/guitarist who has, over the last 12 years, transformed his band of teenage Rush disciples into an orchestral prog rock monster. It’s an evolution crowned by the band’s second full length album Years In The Garden Of Years. It’s a sprawling, evocative entanglement of gritty, time signature shifting prog metal, folky flourishes and emotively driven film scores, and while the ripples this band have thus far made in the vast ocean of the music industry may be small, their mindset is very much the opposite. Here, they have rearranged a mosaic of familiar sounds to resemble something brimming with inventiveness.
“As a child I was exposed to orchestral music through my favourite films and video games,” says Schoen. “I’ve always been drawn to those expansive, giant sounding symphonic works. By late high school I wanted to take the rock stuff we were doing and push it in a more orchestral direction.”
The synopsis of this record sees time as its thematic umbrella, each song branching off into a different musing on the subject. Working within that template, Schoen explains, has been liberating, allowing the album’s concept to guide their songwriting.
“I like to write stuff that I feel is visual. Much like how film scores support visuals, we want to create visuals inside the mind of the listener. It liberates us from more traditional song structures; we can explore different emotions and let each song progress linearly as opposed to returning to a familiar hook. There are songs which think about time in a very personal way, following a person’s progression from life to death. Generations and Regenerations then zoom out a little further and look at the rise and fall of humanity and the constant cycle of history repeating itself through the ages. Conceptually, we knew the emotions and storylines we wanted to convey before most melodies had been laid out.”
Like Icarus however, their soaring ambitions were coupled with drawbacks. The album took five years to complete, with Schoen often pushing his own perfectionism to breaking point. It’s a factor which he admits had to be tamed. Having written the majority of 2008’s The Fruit Fallen alone, here a stronger sense of collaboration gave the songs more focus and personality.
“We learned to work to each other’s strengths. I’m a conceptual thinker whereas Tony [Waldman, drums and vocals] is more melodically focused; most of the more memorable moments are from his brain. Barry [Seroff, flute] has a really unique voice on the flute and he plays so with so much versatility that it opened up a lot of possibilities for us.”
From its first breath to its last, the record’s far-reaching sounds never feel erratic or out of place. Played out with a perpetual forward motion, the longer you listen, the deeper into its depths you sink.
“Writing this album,” Schoen concludes, “has been the best musical experience of my life.”
Line-up: James Byron Schoen (guitars, vocals), Tony Waldman (drums, percussion), Stefan Paolini (keyboards), TD Towers (bass), Barry Seroff (flute)
Sounds like: If Dream Theater wrote the soundtrack for Game Of Thrones
Current release: Years In The Garden Of Years is out now via The Laser’s Edge