November Monthly Musical Moment: Ashes of Eden

Justin Langham   -  
If you attend our wonderful church regularly – and I hope you do! – you may notice that the brilliant Melissa Burnham and I like to plan a variety of music to enhance the theme and experience of the worship services. This is actually an intentional choice we both make, not only through our desire to reach people with varying musical and worship preferences, but also because we both believe that there is something to draw from different styles of music: classical, gospel, folk music, pop music, death metal…  OK, maybe the last one wouldn’t fit in a service as well, but you get the idea! I’ve always had a passion for learning as much as possible about all types of music and sharing what I believe are beautiful moments in music that others may not be aware of in their own musical bubbles, which was the genesis of this column.
This month’s musical moment comes from the world of hard rock. Don’t worry, no death metal this time!
I’ve been a fan of the rock group Breaking Benjamin for decades now. Founded in 1998, the group likely hit peak national popularity when I was in high school, but I’ve followed them ever since and have seen them live several times, most recently this summer! As time has passed, I’ve appreciated more and more the intention with which they connect to their audience through their music. I’m also drawn to the musicality of the group, especially the lead singer, as well as the subject matter in their songs where they often tackle themes of facing and overcoming struggles in life. Great band to listen to for motivation or while exercising!
Their 2015 song “Ashes of Eden” has stood out to me as an example of not only a well-paced, musically moving ballad, but also a style of songwriting that invites the listener to assign their own meaning, much like some visual artists will leave much of the interpretation of a painting or sculpture to the eye of the consumer. The lyrics of “Ashes of Eden,” can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, which was an intentional choice by the group. Lead singer Ben Burnley told Billboard magazine that he drew inspiration from another great artist, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who was adamant that people find their own meaning in what his songs were about. “So, I kind of take a page from his book and do the same thing where I like people to draw their own conclusions,” Burnley said. The power of the song also comes from a slow, steady pace maintained from beginning to end, which is musically difficult, especially through an almost 5-minute song!
I find the song incredibly moving, especially if viewed through a more spiritual lens. While not explicitly religious, the lyrics aim directly for some of humanity’s biggest unanswered questions that make up the foundation of the Christian faith:
“Will the faithful be rewarded
when we come to the end?
Will I miss the final warning
from the lie that I have lived?
Is there anybody calling?
I can see the soul within
And I am not worthy,
I am not worthy of this.”
So much of our days are spent passively listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and music. I hope you can insert into your daily routine a moment of deep listening to something new. You never know, it could be the beginning of a lifelong fandom!
Listen to Ashes of Eden Here
Have a great month!
– Dr. Justin Langham