Album Review: Beautiful Ashes By Eowyn

By Paul Anthony | August 4th, 2011 | Posted In Album Review

{May 3, 2011}




If the Cranberries and Nine Inch Nails had a child and named her after a Lord of the Rings character, you’d have Eowyn, an independent Nashville-based singer whose fifth album, Beautiful Ashes, uses the mechanical sounds of her industrial rock to enhance her deeply personal message.
Eowyn, a one-woman band, went the increasingly popular Kickstarter route to fund this album, garnering $20,000 from 150 supporters to re-enter the music industry after money woes forced her retirement two years ago. Assuming she was done with the frequently unrewarding, brutal business of making Christian music for mass audiences, Eowyn sold her equipment, only to find God had other plans.
So the phrase “beautiful ashes” conveys several meanings, not least the mythological phoenix rising from the rubble of its own demise.

“It felt as though everything that was built over the years had crumbled and burned to nothing,” she wrote on her Kickstarter site. “But then God began to rebuild my faith, and slowly my hope returned as I turned all that I had over to Him. He began to show me the beauty that still lingered amidst the ashes, the rubble waiting to be rebuilt.”

If anything is clear from listening to her latest work, it’s that Eowyn threw herself into her work. Her unique vocal stylings are inherently emotional, far more evocative than those of Evanescence, The Letter Black or even Flyleaf, to name three bands to which she is frequently compared, but when she sings the title track or “All I Need,” songs that clearly were written in response to her personal struggles, her voice carries the resonance of an additional instrument, one a less invested singer simply could not replicate with the same material.
Those songs are also highlights of the album musically, both dialing down the straight-ahead, mid-tempo industrial hard rock of the rest of the album for a more ethereal, slower pace that is as haunting as it is memorable.
On “All I Need,” the interplay between music, lyrics and vocals is at its best. The song begins as a piano-and-strings ballad as Eowyn places the listener in a garden of turmoil: “Take this cup from me. Is it half full or empty. My will screams demands.” Then, as the lyrics turn heavenward — “But You pour out Your mercy, and I pray” — a staccato of guitars interrupt the foreboding quiet, as if representing God Himself knocking on the door, breaking through the darkness as the song opens into a chorus that affirms: “Captured by Your love. You are all I need. Standing inside Your light, falling on my knees. Take control, fill my life, You’re all I need.”
The song is also a welcome relief. After a solid opening with “You Had To” and a terrific one-two punch of “Beautiful Ashes” and the album’s only true ballad, the mournful-yet-hopeful “More Than Yesterday,” the disc begins a descent into monotony, which is an ever-present risk in a musical style so dependent on machines to produce the principal sounds. After several listens, I’m not sure I could tell you the difference between “Dream,” “Cliche,” “Burning Pages” or “Alive,” even though I liked all of them in isolation.
Even so, this is a well done album. “Fail-Safe” feels like it could have a future as a rock hit in the Skillet/Red/Letter Black vein, and “The Music Box” leaves the listener wanting more at disc’s end. Travis Wyrick’s production is of course top notch. Independent releases don’t come much better than this.
Lyrically, Beautiful Ashes is refreshingly real. Eowyn avoids the biggest trap of modern songwriting in Christian contemporary music by mostly steering clear of addressing God and Jesus so generically that the song could be applied to any other relationship (the “Jesus is my girlfriend” phenomenon). She does this by writing about real struggles, real faith and real hope. To do so is uncommon, and it takes a courage rarely seen in popular music.
Beautiful Ashes is a triumph for Eowyn, not only because she succeeded in releasing it after giving up on her career, but also because it successfully melds the two conflicting worlds its title implies: the beauty and honest emotion of its singer with the grittiness and raw power of her music.
[rating stars=”4″]
~Paul Anthony
Favorite Tracks:
All I Need
You Had To
Beautiful Ashes
More Than Yesterday

One Response to “Album Review: Beautiful Ashes By Eowyn”

  1. Danny says:

    Super God is a God of Rock 😉

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