Review Summary: It’s never quite the same.
Any fan of bands that might describe themselves as “Christian Rock” are haunted by Hank Hill’s biting commentary toward the genre: “You’re not making Christianity any better, you’re just making rock and roll worse!” It stings because it’s usually true. But sometimes you find a band like My Epic, who write music out of heartfelt conviction rather than marketing to a particular demographic. My Epic’s consistency in crafting their songs around the philosophical landscape of the Christian faith doesn’t just bring them to the peaks, as on 2013’s stupendous progressive masterpiece Behold; sometimes it takes them through deserts and valleys.
Violence is the aural travelogue of these hard places, tackling interfaith conflict, personal loss, anger, and doubt. The darker areas of faith have always been part of My Epic’s sound, such as on “Open Letter”, but they come into focus on Violence. 2013’s Behold merged their various sonic influences - post-hardcore, prog, post-rock, and metal - into an elegantly unified whole. Their successive EPs have tended to explore the various dynamics essentially refined on that last full-length record.
Interestingly, Violence - implied to be their heaviest effort to date - actually sounds like something of an escape from the tropes characterizing their last few releases. It’s not a return to the theatrical and twisty song craft of I Am Undone, but it is something new. While last year’s EP Ultraviolet started with the poppiest song My Epic has ever written, “Bloody Angles” opens Violence with a concise song that encapsulates several aspects of the band’s more ambitious leanings. Jagged rhythmic changes, sonic obelisks of post-metal distortion, and ethereal melodies crash into each other in a surprisingly coherent manner. It’s catchy without trying to sound accessible, which certainly distinguishes it from Ultraviolet’s straightforward opener.
My Epic really hit their strides on the middle tracks of Violence. “Black Light” is a tense, uncomfortable rumination on miscarriage, an erstwhile companion to the terrific “Wive’s Tale” from Viscera. Even if My Epic’s sound is fully formed by now, they continue to take their lyricism in interesting directions, and the earthy nature of the songs spreads their conceptual landscape further than ever before, embracing the difficult and uncomfortable alcoves of Christian spirituality similar artists ignore. On top of that, it’s a great song that balances the dynamic of the band’s heavier and post-rock elements.
Lest you think My Epic is out of tricks, a song like “Spit It Out” offers up a few surprises. It’s the fastest song My Epic has ever recorded, trading the alternative metal underpinnings of other songs on Violence for blazing punk rock energy and a more conventional song structure, and it works surprisingly well. It’s much more compelling than “White Noises,” which is as close to generic as My Epic has ever sounded and the only real weak point on the EP.
It’s worth mentioning Violence contains two experimental tracks that diverge the EP's alt-metal blueprint: “Spit And Blood”, and “Tsuneni.” The glitchy “Spit and Blood” is a counterpart to Ultraviolet’s similarly piano-driven “Voices,” which seems much better as one half of a whole. “Tsuneni” is another uneasy, churning composition that fuels the anxious atmosphere of Violence.
My Epic usually saves their best for last, so it’s no surprise that “Bad Accent” is the best song on the EP, its post-metal riffage constituting the best heavy moments of the record. As great as its chorus is, the massive bridge - its riff teased earlier in the track - is the best moment on Violence, effortlessly merging the band’s aspirations of simultaneous heavy metal weight and elegant melodicism into total catharsis. It’s My Epic at their best, without sounding like old hat.
The only real downside to Violence is that it’s both clearly better than its predecessor Ultraviolet, and weirdly also makes that EP seem stronger than at its initial release. It seems that combining the two EPs and sequencing the tracks differently might have resulted in a complete album that could stand with their best, Yet and Behold - but taken on its own as an EP, Violence is still very good, and My Epic show no signs of slowing down.