Sunlight of the Spirit & Chapter I
For past INTERVIEWS (audio and print), click HERE.
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1/2008: "Professor" Jim Price- WBXQ- Q94 (Sunlight of the Spirit)
1/2006: Derric Miller- Hard Rock Haven (Sunlight of the Spirit)
5/25/2006: Matthew Bankes- Rising Forces USA (Sunlight of the Spirit)
5/25/2006: Matthew Bankes- Rising Forces USA (Chapter I)
2004: Mirko- Defenders of Steel (Chapter I)
Review by "Professor" Jim Price- WBXQ- Q94, www.wbxq.com:
From the Baltimore/York region, Images Of Eden’s journey began in 1998 as the brainchild of founder, singer, bassist and keyboardist Gordon Tittsworth. The second album, Sunlight of the Spirit, is the second chapter and progression of Images Of Eden’s concept and sound. Elaborating on the progressive hard rock/metal sound that surfaced on the self-titled debut, Sunlight of the Spirit expands on the theme of Eden as a personal state of mind each person must ultimately define within themselves. Tittsworth, guitarist/keyboardist Dennis Miller and drummer Matt Kaiser craft a sound undeniably rooted in the classic progressive hard rock/metal traditions of Queensryche, Fates Warning and Dream Theater; with detailed and lavish song arrangements, frequent tempo and chord shifts, dramatic and climactic twists and turns, and more. Tittsworth sells his song material with a powerful siren-like call in the tradition of Queensryche’s Geoff Tate or Fates’ Ray Alder. Images Of Eden demonstrates their ability to craft tight and concise melodies on shorter numbers such as the charged opening combo “Ascension/Kaleidoscope,” the majestic and serene “Beyond the Horizon,” the driving “To Live Another Day” and the powerful “Aladdin.” The group can also deliver the expansive epic as well, demonstrated on the 8-minute-plus “Dream-Catcher,” the 11-minute-plus closer “Midnight’s Tide” and the nearly 15-minute, three-part title adventure “Sunlight of the Spirit.” The group’s arrangements display smooth transitions between tension and release and from journey to side-journey, as well as a crisp balance between the various guitar and keyboard textures. The group’s production enables everything to be clearly heard; and while the group’s soundscapes are usually busy, they are never needlessly cluttered or overblown. These aural panoramas smoothly gel into a cohesive whole album that flows nearly seamlessly from start to end. Images Of Eden shows convincing power, finesse and a sense of adventure on Sunlight of the Spirit, and this latest chapter of the group’s sonic journey is a triumphant, intelligent and uplifting album well worth exploring.
Review by Matthew Bankes- Rising Forces USA, www.risingforcesusa.com:
Gordon Tittsworth had a huge reason to be proud in 2001. He had just released the first Images of Eden record, which was entitled Chapter 1. This record was the culmination of almost two years of hard work and dedication that would force most musicians to check into the looney bin. Not only did GT write the songs and perform the vocals, he also played guitar, bass and keyboards (he had a session drummer). Whew! Now that he had an album recorded, and a name for his new band, he needed one more thing…a band! He found the first piece of the puzzle when he recruited guitarist Dennis Mullin from the progressive rock band Illuvatar. Several drummers, keyboardists, and bassists came and gone while the new band started to play the Baltimore club circuit. Stability on the drum riser would come with the addition of drummer Matt Kaiser, and Brian Gulin from the band Hyperchild joined on bass for awhile. This lineup would last almost a year before Gulin decided to part ways. Although he was now short a bass player, Tittsworth did not let that stop him and his new mates. He felt that he had finally had the musicians he had been searching for all of his life. Armed with his most compelling set of songs yet, the trio headed into the studio to record the follow-up album to Chapter 1, which was titled Sunlight Of The Spirit.
In an interview I conducted with Gordon Tittsworth, he says “The one thing about Images of Eden, and this wasn’t something that I meant to do, it’s just something that kind of started so I’m running with it... Each album starts where the last one leaves off. It’s like an ongoing story and progression through life, told in a positive and uplifting way. The first album began as thematic. It’s about putting the past behind and starting brand new, finding this “estranged”, peaceful world... after the “demons” have all gone away.” He describes it more poignantly than I ever could right there. Now that the past is behind you and you have fought all the problems of the world, it is time to enter Eden again. So, my friends, let’s push play and let Sunlight Of The Spirit be our guide back into Eden.
If you close your eyes and listen to the opening intro “Ascension”, you get the feeling that your spirit (no pun intended) is leaving your body and is escaping the physical plane. Eden awaits!
Well, I say, if Eden is anything like the opening song “Kaleidoscope” , I never want to leave! A punchy mid-tempo riff and the pitch perfect drumming are backed by a subtle keyboard texture, and then GT’s powerful vocals take over. His vocal delivery sounds even better here than it does on Chapter 1, if that was even possible! Awesome chorus harmonies in this one, and Mullin delivers the perfect riff! Musical perfection!
Soothing sounds of the keys and the sweet textures of the guitars are now taking you “Beyond The Horizon”. This song is beauty personified! GT hits some awesome high notes and tells us “Don’t tear yourself apart over things out of your control”. This song is a rallying cry for you to get up and find your own Eden, instead of waiting for Eden to come to you. Beauty and heaviness are balanced perfectly in this song, which would be a perfect single.
“To Live Another Day” talks about the long journey it takes to get to where you want to be in life. Punctuated by Rush-esque guitars and atmospheric keys (and a cool keyboard solo) this song is a short, but sweet track. A testament to the triumph of the human spirit.
A William Blake quote over a military style drum roll, piano, and strings begin the breathtakingly epic journey that is “Dream-Catcher”. The sounds build and the tension mounts…the intensity is about take over! It’s gonna get heavy! Nope..nope…they are maing you wait! A Zeppelin-esque movement begins and acoustic guitars and pianos take over before GT says “You’ll never be in heaven without going through hell”. The calm takes over again as this songs shifts tones once again. Once you have calmed yourself down and the defenses are gone, then the madness takes over with some bad ass riffing and some awesome soloing! A song that tests your patience in a good way! This song is an instant classic.
All of need someone to love in our lives, and if you have one, it is the greatest gift in the world. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” showcases all the beauty that there is in spending quality time with the person you love. Indulge yourself in the serenity of the acoustic guitars while GT sings of the joy of the moment, of indulging in the fruits that some call sinful, but what I call beauty and bliss. The beauty is disrupted as the acoustic melodies give away to electric riffing and you can sense that the moment is about to get nasty in a good way! Let the party begin!
While the beauty of love is explored in the previous track, the meaty guitar riff and the sleazy rhythm of “Aladdin” suggest that things have progressed to good a good old down and dirty romp in the sheets. This song is about as close to sex, drugs and rock n’ roll as Images of Eden is gonna get. Man, this is a fun track, from the awesome riffs to the nasty snarl of the guitar solo. A heavy rock ode to the sins of carnal knowledge.
We go from celebratory to somber with the first track of the Sunlight Of The Spirit trilogy, entitled “Emerald Rain”. The sound of falling rain is punctuated by the toll of a bell and a lonely guitar as GT’s vocals sing of remembrance of what once was. Later, the song shifts to a heavy riff and GT pouring all the emotion he can muster in to one amazing vocal performance. A perfect song to reflect on lost loves, lost relatives, lost whatever! Get your tissues out because this song will make the tears come.
Part 2, “I Remember When”, is an ode to those lost, but also a testament of strength as the message is “Now I‘m serene, now I’ve found peace. I am whole now and ready to start again“. I love the riff in this track, this song is so heavy! GT’s vocals on this track are incredible as well. A short track, but a powerful statement!
The trilogy concludes with the optimistic beauty of “Through October Skies”. The recovery from our loss is complete, we have beaten the past, and we are ready to take on the world! Another powerful song which showcases GT’s dynamic vocal range and Dennis Mullin’s multi faceted guitar work. A perfect end to the trilogy.
One of the most beautiful piano lines I have ever heard drives the short, but beautiful instrumental “Ethereal”. Short, simple instrumental. Very nice piece!
Reflections abound in the coup de grace, which is “Midnight’s Tide”. By far, the most powerful song on the album, full of awesome riffage, killer drumming, and some arrangements that may make Dream Theater green with envy! Gordon’s vocals are simply superb on this track as he powers us through a recollection of our lives as we look back on our mistakes, our losses, our sorrows, and we use those experiences to help us make our lives the best we can. SIMPLY AWESOME! I have heard few epics that are better than this one!
Production on this album is great! Everything sounds perfect in the mix and nothing overpowers anything. Musically, Images of Eden boasts a powerful trio of musicians. Guitarist Dennis Mullin can play almost any style that the music calls for, whether it be meaty mid-tempo riffs, beautifully crafted solos and acoustic interludes, or even fast paced metal riffs! He can do it all well. Drummer Matt Kaiser is a very skilled drummer, showcasing power and precision on the skins. His style puts me in mind of Mike Portnoy or Neal Peart. Gordon Tittsworth once again wears multiple musician-hats, playing bass with skill, keyboards with beauty and elegance, and belting out phenomenal vocals! I have heard few vocalists that have the power and emotion that GT has. He pours his heart and soul into every single syllable. Even though he is not on this recording, I have to acknowledge and welcome the band’s new bass player Bryan Wierman. A longtime friend of Gordon Tittsworth, Wierman adds another critical piece to the band’s sound. I look forward to seeing him live again and hearing him on future recordings.
Images of Eden should be proud of themselves. With Sunlight Of The Spirit, they have not only made one of the best progressive metal/rock albums of the year, they have re-written the rulebook on progressive metal. I am not bullshitting here: If there is any justice in this world of ours, Sunlight Of The Spirit will go down as one of the greatest progressive metal offerings of all time. Never before have I heard an album with such emotional depth and power! Such a delicate balance of walking the tightrope between complexity and accessibility! It is a REAL record. You feel what the writers are feeling, as if you just took their joy and pain and sorrow and put it into yourself. Images of Eden are more than a band, and Sunlight Of The Spirit is more than an album…it is a spiritual gate to a new awakening. Go out and buy this album and find your own Eden today!
Review written by: Matt B.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Review by Matthew Bankes- Rising Forces USA, www.risingforcesusa.com:
Gordon Tittsworth was at a crossroads in 1999. He had just been fired from his previous band Out Of Nowhere in a very unprofessional fashion. That would be cause to crawl into a hole and hide for a while, right? Not in his case! In actuality, he was looking for any excuse to leave the band because of the bad situation he was in. Now that he was out, he had FREEDOM! He decided to use that freedom to focus his energies on making an album which showcased his abilities, and could be used to help form a new band which would help him create the music he always dreamed of making. Armed with a batch of killer songs, Gordon decided to head into the studio with session drummer Steve Kilgallon in tow to record this record. Showing incredible versatility, Gordon not only wrote the music, but did the vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards! After a year and a half of hard work, he emerged with what is now known as the debut album for the Maryland/Pennsylvania-based prog metal wizards Images of Eden, which is entitled Chapter 1.
We could spend days and moons and eons here in a fierce debate over whether this is a “true” Images of Eden record or if it is just a solo album. I don’t want to waste time here doing that. Instead, read my interview with Gordon Tittsworth (which is also on this site) and you should have all of your questions answered. OK? Now, let’s get on to the music.
The opening track, “Stealth”, leads off the fun, and you can rest assured that this record will deliver plenty of it. Driven by one of the best mid-tempo riffs I have ever heard, and kicked in the ass by the computer-like precision of Kilgallon’s drumming, this track should make you a fan of the band right off! If not, I feel sorry for you. Go home and bang your head into a wall 10,000 times. Maybe that will give you some sense!
“Tied To A Wish” is one of those tracks where I can close my eyes and make myself and all of my problems drift away like wind-blown smoke. Bursting with beautiful piano melodies, a simple but sweet guitar solo, and Gordon’s awesome vocals, this track will put you in mind of the joys of spring. I suggest you plug this into your portable CD or MP3 player and listen to this track outside during a cool spring morning. If it rained the night before, it’s a plus. Now, you’ll get the picture of how this song makes me feel.
I love the rhythm of this next song, “Return To Twilight”. Drums, bass, guitars and even Gordon’s vocals unite for a really amazing effect on this track. This has to be one of the coolest and most unique guitar riffs ever written. Where does he come up with this stuff? Pure genius! Another track to lose yourself in. As you go on, you will find this album is loaded with them.
The gentle sound of falling rain announces the arrival of another work of beauty. Acoustic guitars and yet another sweet melody invite you into the world which is my favorite track on the record, “September”. I fell in love with this song while on a Sunday morning drive through the farm country near my home. A testament to the fact that even sometimes bad things happen in your life for a reason, but if you make it through, the rewards are great. The melodies in this song are so amazing I cannot describe them with words. GT really belts out some killer vocals on this track. Let this song be your guide through hard times. You’ll be glad you did.
Native American pow-wow? The drums, the rain stick and the haunting keyboard may make you think so, but the tribal vibe then kicks into some more catchy guitar work and you are now in the land of the “Brave Horse”. I love this song! It’s really awesome live and one listen will have you hooked! Very nice guitar effects and a really simple but effective guitar solo equals another home run for GT! He’s batting 1,000 so far! NOW I’M ALIVE! Oh yeah!
“Jade’s Dream” leads off with more beautiful piano, and leads into a cool bass line and some more killer odd-meter riffs. Another melodic masterpiece. Damn! This is only the sixth track and I am running out of adjectives and clichés! See how great this record is already? Bottom line: A nice mellow number with a nice mix of heavy moments as well and another cool guitar solo.
Pretty, pretty music! Gentle feelings of reflection abound when the beginning of “Dawn (Another Sunrise)” hits your speakers. Drift off and enjoy. GT shows great emotion all around on this song, vocals, guitar…everything! The feelings of gentleness eventually end and are muscled away by another tight guitar riff. Cool keyboard solo in this one, too!
‘Edge Of The Ocean” is powered by yet ANOTHER sweet riff from GT’s seemingly endless bag of cool guitar riffs! This song will either take you away or cause you to start head banging….or both! Very few songs possess that ability. Good God! I am really grabbing for descriptions here!
Take a break for awhile during the nice interlude entitled “Images of Eden”. The mood is about to change!
Crashing chords and MORE cool hooks bring about some anger management as GT uses “Only In My World” to give a telling off to all the negative forces we have to deal with everyday. It’s a call to get out of the world that the news pumps into your mind everyday and for you to step into your own private Eden. Take his advice because it will save your sanity. I love this track because I am also sick of all the bullshit we have to put up with day in day out. Hey! Stay out of his world and while you are at it, stay out of mine too! Go on, GET! Great track!
Aggression comes out to play in the guise of heavy riffing on “One Last Hero”. Easily the heaviest and fastest track on the record, it is a frenetic cacophony of chords, heavy drumming and spoken word verses that lead to pain-filled screaming choruses and GT asking, “Where were you when I was falling down?”. Total madness! Very strange but very satisfying! I have a few theories on who he may be telling off on this killer but I will keep them to myself. I’m a journalist, not a psychologist.
The final epic, “Autumn’s End (The Last Sunset)”, has much personal meaning for me. Autumn is my favorite season and I always feel a sense of finality to the year when winter finally rolls around. The cold takes over and holds the world hostage for four months until spring, and then, rebirth! Melancholy beauty abounds in the vocals, the keyboards, and builds into loud guitars that explode at just the right spot during the song. Longing, sorrow and hope fill this final chapter from Chapter 1 as we forge on into the great unknown. A perfect epic!
Musically, Gordon Tittsworth proves himself to be a jack-of-all-trades in the musician department. It takes a lot of guts, courage and patience to perform most of the instruments on an album, let alone sing! His guitar and bass work is solid and dependable, and he has this ability to write awesome guitar riffs that don’t sound complex by themselves, but as a whole sound incredible! Great musicians have that gift to write music that fits the song as a whole, and doesn’t sound like complicated mish-mash. He also plays some pretty underrated guitar solos on the album too! Greg White does some sweet soloing in the guest role on the tracks “Brave Horse” and “Only In My World”. Keyboard-wise, GT also does a very nice job, going from soothing backgrounds to sweet melodies with no trouble. He also plays some good keyboard solos. His ability as a bass player needs to be mentioned as he plays some really cool licks on songs such as “Jade’s Dream”. His bass lines lock in perfectly with Steve Kilgallon’s tight and precise drum work. GT drafted the perfect drummer to play on this album, and the results speak for themselves. Vocally, Tittsworth is amazing. He possesses a great vocal range and shows great emotion and depth of feeling. You can feel the passion that was put into this record.
Production on this album is almost perfect and everything sounds clear and powerful. The drums boom, the guitars sound heavy enough to bang your head yet melodic enough to let your consciousness slip away and lose yourself in another world for almost an hour. Keyboards and bass are not overpowered in the mix. Everything is in its place.
Do yourself a favor and pick up the album which saw the birth of one of the next prog metal powerhouses in the world. In due time and with a little luck, you will see their name mentioned alongside names like Rush, Queensryche, Dream Theater and Fates Warning. Hurry, before it goes out of print! You’ll be sorry if you don’t!
Gordon said to me in the interview that completing this album was like “climbing Everest." Well, he should be as proud as Sir Edmund Hillary for completing this masterwork! With this record, GT had the perfect vehicle to showcase his abundant talent and songwriting ability. Now, would finding the right musicians to complete his band be like climbing K2? To be continued…
Review written by: Matt B.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review by Derric Miller (Hard Rock Haven), www.hardrockhaven.net:
Gordon Tittsworth handled writing all of the compositions (while co-writing one with Dennis Mullin), played bass and keyboards, while being the lead vocalist as well on their new CD, Sunlight of the Spirit.
On the band's Web site, Tittsworth names his favorite quote from George Carlin, which basically attacks Catholicism, and he also quotes Victorian poet/philosopher William Blake on the CD liner notes: "To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour …" Basically, you are not going to get sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll with Images of Eden. Theirs is more of an existential calling.
Getting to the music, Sunlight of the Spirit begins as all progressive metal CDs are doomed to begin: with a brief instrumental intro. Once that is behind you, "Kaleidoscope" kicks into gear. The song is heavy, intricate, with a catchy guitar groove, and this is the first time you'll hear Tittsworth sing. His voice is throaty, a bit heavy on the vibrato, and unique. Like all good prog bands, the drummer has to be a true talent, and Matt Kaiser answers the call. It's nothing new, but does make you want to hear more.
Lyrically, the songs are all upbeat and hopeful, or maybe "serene" is a better description. On "Beyond the Horizon," the guitars again lead with a heavy chord progression, but then things soften up when Tittsworth begins singing. "I used to believe Heaven were clouds in the sky, islands for angels to fly to." You may think this is going to be a soft, gentle passage, but when Tittsworth rages the sentence, "drifting away … beyond the horizon!" with real energy, the lyrics and delivery contradict, making this song even more interesting. This could be best track on the CD.
"Dream Catcher" shows another side to the band, a keyboard heavy 8+ minute composition rich in melody and moodiness. The song begins with the Blake quote, and Tittsworth fills in the rest of the lyrics. The "images" you see repeated on this CD are "sun, water, clouds, sky, earth," and also, the aforementioned theme of hopefulness. But everything comes at a price, as they explain, "you refuse to believe you'll never be in Heaven without going through Hell." Blake himself would like that lyric.
Sunlight of the Spirit has a subplot as well, with three songs called "Part I-Emerald Rain," "Part II-I Remember When," and "Part III-Through October Skies." The theme here is about remembrance, about not living in the past but carrying the past with you, and being "whole" today. The first part is thick with atmosphere, with thunder in the background and a beautiful acoustic guitar presence. The second part, "I Remember When," is a much heavier track, sounding somewhat like Queensryche at the onset. Again, you'll be clubbed over the noggin with the same thing, as each lyrical passage begins with "I remember when." The line that sticks out most in this song is the empassioned plea to hold on to those memories: "Memories, no one can ever take away. They're not gone … no, they're not gone!" The dénouement is the third section, as the journey comes full circle to accepting the past, putting it behind you, and living in the now.
What else can be said? Images of Eden has released a thought provoking, uplifting, well-written and heavy CD. You don't have to deconstruct the music and lyrics to enjoy, it, though. The music stands on its own. But if you want to delve deeper into the meaning behind the music, then these guys are your band.
Review by Mirko @ Defenders Of Steel- www.defendersofsteel.net (English Version):
“Art”, to be called “art”, must be free, without compulsion or conditioning. Of course, this isn’t always easy, and most of the problem comes directly from the record label…..I’ve always been sure that the art (the true art, the pure and unpolluted art, the art that alone keeps its message) is very far from trend and the music biz…… The art fully controlled by its creator has always been a dream in the drawer, a hard rule where every musician believes. Fortunately, in these days, the internet era, this dream is becoming true. Today, it’s not easy to find (excellent) bands who understand the meaning of the word “art” and bravely decide to record its disc without any label support. This art has always been synonymous with freedom so it must remain free from conditioning of any type, and it especially must remain free from parasites who try to make money off the music; those parasites, who often have an artistic feeling very near to zero. A lot of ignorance has slaughtered the dreams and the message of the bands only for a personal business gain. In few words, the concept of art is diminished and put in the hands of people who don’t understand anything about art and metal.
An example of free art is in this incredible platter from the American band, “Images of Eden” “Maryland’s Premiere Modern Progressive Hard Rock Band”, well……not very modern…..because I think that “Images of Eden” plays good old-prog metal that reminds me of Queensryche, and not, for example, Dream Theater. Anyone who is thinking of another Queensryche clone-band is totally wrong because this band is only a starting point for “Images of Eden”, a point where the strong personality of the 2 musicians involved in this project are born.
In this platter you will not find strong hits, complex songs and impossible melodies, in the tradition of the most famous Seattle bands. What is consistent on this debut album are the large melodies that the band can play with everything united in their elegant music. It is an ambitious project that involves all of the elements of the band in the production, with good results.
It’s hard to say which is the most important song, or the most interesting one because all of the songs are at a very high level. No track can be forgotten because every song is connected with the other in a concept album with themes very valued some lustre ago (the Son of the Flowers). Of course, the sound could be very soft or not interesting for the young metal-kid because the band prefers a sound for the adult listener.
Anyway, episodes like the opener “Stealth”, with riffing and vocals that reminds me a lot of Queensryche; the solar “September”, an old school ballad between acoustic guitar and electric refrains, not very original but enjoyable; or the speed-heavy-doom of “One Last Hero”; show a band that won’t leave you indifferent. Also, incredible episodes, “Tied to a Wish” and “Jade’s Dream”. The first one is the “most metallic song” composed on the disc and reminds me of 80’s hard rock, with a sound near Threshold. The second one is a brave track that reminds me of bands like Night Ranger and the Styx.
It’s incredible to think of a debut album recorded by 2 musicians without any label support…… Anyway, I strongly recommend this band, but understand that the modern metal-kid would hardly listen something not properly metal. The listener of this disc requires a big musical background to appreciate it, but for whomever loves the music, don’t miss the American threesome called Images of Eden……"