Following his triumphant return as a performer in 2018 with Eric Clayton And The Nine, the voice and creative mind of Saviour Machine reports back with a personal and gripping new album. `A Thousand Scars’ contains 15 brand new songs running over 79 minutes, all crafted around biographical personal lyrics. It’s an intense and personal frail statement depicting the vocalist’s journey, struggles and battles since he was diagnosed with a progressive form of Barrett’s Esophagus, making him vanish out of the spotlights for over a decade. His descend into paranoia and his rebirth, musically and personally, are captured on this new album.
Following the launch of his `Bowie / Decade’ album, it became crystal clear for Clayton that his devoted fan base was lingering for new music. With his performances as Eric Clayton and the Nine rejuvenating Saviour Machine’s many classics. Added the (less obvious) cover versions of David Bowie, the set list for their shows revealed Eric’s creativity with intense arrangements empowering emotion. `A Thousand Scars’ erects the sound of his former band’s most gripping songs as well as it links to his shows with the Nine. Working with his brother Jeff Clayton the songs feature the benchmark sound and perfectly blends somber arrangements with Eric Clayton’s typical baritone sound. The outcome is a tentative gripping endeavour performed by his new band The Nine, with Clayton shining in the dark. From the intense and appealing ,,The Space Between Us” onwards, the album enrols as an emotional diary with intense lyrics and honest frailty. The ominous tone and the uplifting guitar work and clean piano tingles contrast with the overall gloom of the album. The choirs are impressive and add to the powerful arrangements that are signature for the Clayton Bros. The first spins are an overwhelming experience with an artist revealing his pain and agony battling the dark void that became his surroundings. The diagnose of his illness and the departure from his band distancing him from his fans and loved ones, are transferred onto the listener. The music is powerful and Eric’s voice transcends. His baritone low register and the narrative appeal ebbs and floods with emotions. ,,Revelation Mine” packs tremendous withhold energy with guitars taking dominance and Clayton’s voice echoing powerful. The progressive breaks are insanely gripping towards the chorus of ‘sighing’ chants. It paws deep into your gut with Eric calling out to find “the man behind the mask”. Eric moulds his strong lyrical content into an appealing and gut wrecking experience fusing his believe and faith with his personal life experiences. His narrative whispers and chants enhance the songs as they did on `Legend’. The glorious choirs at the end touch with his personal struggles of his clouded mind and the revelations to rise from the illusions and delusional state. It’s the powerful end that rolls like and endgame towards the revival of his past in the serene ,,Where It Starts”. The loving memories of his childhood with a caring mother versus his haunted experiences of his father’s alcoholism. The self-delusion with Clayton addressing the monsters of his mind and concluding “they are mine….” With a sigh of redemption is tear evoking. It just hits you in the chest. On ,,In the Lines” the rage becomes dominant and he delves into the mental state of depression and mental illness in his genes. Eric’s voice tones down and the growl in his voice addresses the agony. The orchestration is dense, yet very transparent with piano and tribal low drumrolls powering up underneath the whammy hovering guitar line driving the “…madness in here”. Eric forgives his father on ,,A Man’s Heart” fighting the paradox of love and fear with a caring father appearing as a monster tormented by his inner demons. It’s an emotional outpour with ethereal piano orchestration aligning with the content welling with tears as the boy rises to find a way and forgive. ,,Initiated” starts with whispering narration. The dark cinematic piano elevates from its melancholic echoing state into `Legend’-like taunting power. It wells with emotion addressing the aspects influencing the alter ego of Eric growing up under the influence of school, church and its ideology combined with television adding vision and pictures of the state of the world. It reveals the root of the Saviour Machine `Legend’ trilogy and sheds light on Eric’s controversial approach (much to my personal idea). The controversy within the Christian community towards the project for me falls into place with ,`A Thousand Scars’ unravelling Eric’s story. Not even halfway in ,,The Cages” strikes down deep examining his internal struggle to contain his own rage that came to live on stage with his Saviour Machine stage persona. Eric powers up with Saviour Machine reminiscent vocals and refers to the chains used as artefacts on stage adding to the dramatic evolution of his alter ego. Trying to relief the world of their demons while battling his own mental state the self-punishment takes shape. As self-destruction is around the corner and his messiah complex growing ,,Lacerations” reveals his rise and the inflicted scars leading to demise. “By my own design” he calls out in despair, consciously embracing the alter ego he created. Towards the end the grim song builds up in tension with Gregorian reminiscent choir chants, enhancing his spiritual background. ,,Chasing Monsters” is an intimate piano ballad with the lyrics depicting his trauma and taking right to the middle of his darkest period and right into his heart, calling out in agony. It is the chapter towards the turbulent self-imposed reclusion from music and society. The visionary that fades into obscurity and madness and paranoia and pushing away the hands willing to help. The Lackey family, signing for most of the choirs on the album, adds a lush yet stringent posture. The harsh and loud riffing guitars, progressive drums, combined with the eluding chants create a sense of paranoia scattering of the turbulent 2nd half of the song. It’s repetitive and the agony is felt throughout. The harshest track on the album is ,,American Whore” that oozes discomfort, tearing down the madness within him and in the outside world. The song fades out into the short instrumental ,,Faithful Son”, which Eric on his Facebook pages fused with a traditional image of him with the American flag, yet shot in the present. It’s an interlude much like rebirth morphing into ,,New Man” that slowly evolves into a louder track with urging arrangements and glorious chanting. It paves the way for the melancholic title track crafted around a light and uplifting acoustic guitar lick. The gloomy chants and repetitive title is almost tormenting, yet it also feels as a relief. Slowly towering with pompous magnitude, the song builds around its musical carcass. ,,The Greatest Of These” links to this immediately with classic arrangement and orchestration. The whispers and sighs and silent chants need me to grip for the lyric sheets. The lyrical content is perhaps the most important in the end conclusion but feels consciously subdued to the musical arrangements making it a humbling experience of hearing Clayton transcend from the madness, being reborn. “Love is Alive” adds to the glorious revival that is captured in powerful symphonic orchestration with Clayton humbly phrasing “Love is a Whisper not a Shout… not a Shout hear… hear in my voice, as it rejoices the sound”. The song oozes comfort and injects the positivity that slowly takes shape over the last 5 tracks. With a 5-piece also being used as a way to describe a fist in slang and a perfectly proportionate body, I wonder if the choice for these 5 last chapters of resurrection are a coincidence.
Never before has an artist taken me into the darkness and caverns of his mind like Eric Clayton does on this epic album. `A Thousand Scars’ features an intimate insight in the last decade and a half when Eric stepped down from his alter ego and society descending into the agony and despair imposed on him during his childhood and young adolescence. His rise and fall of an artist as well as a man moulded into lyrical format with gut wrecking outcome and intensity spawned. Though the concept is the centre point of attention, the entire album enrols like a somber melancholic biopic full of self-reflection. It captures the darkness and evolution towards a grandiose ending hardly needing the power of his lyrics. It had me grip back to the lyrical content as it administers an entirely different view on Saviour Machine’s songs like ,,Carnival Of Souls”, ,,Enter The Idol” and the unfinished `Legend’ trilogy.
The album is produced by Devon Graves stepping up to take the helm in capturing the sheer power and musical brilliance from Clayton and his brother Jeff. Graves guided the project and his keen ear for detail makes the album one of the best productions of 2020. He managed to capture the emotion and provides powerful arrangements with vivid orchestration. The musical execution by his trusted band mates in The Nine is simply breathtaking and stunning, and it becomes clear that all members of his band are very closely connected to the spirit of Clayton. Though dominant, he also is a humbling persona reaching out to bring his fans close to his heart.
`A Thousand Scars’ does the exact same thing…. A humbling experience that needs to be heard.
Order the album here
HBLS live review here
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