Traversing a tale of reflection and introspection through its confounding artistry.
Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):
It's release week for Time Will Take Us All — the third full-length by way of trailblazing progressive death metal unit, Entheos, who now hit a culminating high-mark in their journey through the genre. The record, which arrives on March 3rd via Metal Blade Records, comes adorned by the perplexing art of the celebrated Eliran Kantor for one comprehensive audiovisual mirroring frontwoman Chaney Crabb's state of mind at the time of its creative development.
With it being several years since Dark Future (2017), the band has built from consistent touring schedules and a multitude of life experiences, allowing for much in the realm of creative reflection as Time Will Take Us All took form. "I would agree that this record finds us in a state of reflection," says Chaney. "I had just gotten in an accident, right when I started writing the lyrics for this album and it almost reshaped the meaning of all of the lyrics that I had written and what I was writing moving forward. It put me in this state of gratitude for all of the time I've had, all of the people I've met, and experiences I've had along the way, but also in a state of anxiety because I only have a finite amount of time left in this world. When you get in a serious accident like that, it really brings those things to light. I also had a really close friend of mine die under some crazy circumstances while I was writing for the record, so it was really coming from that state of just reflecting on life and thinking about how life would be moving forward."
The emotional investment placed on the record's lyricism would assume a great deal of catharsis to be had upon detaching from the material and letting it go into the hands of audiences worldwide. "I feel it very much," mentions Chaney. "Writing the lyrics was cathartic, tracking the vocals was cathartic, just seeing it all come to life was cathartic. There are points in the album where even when I listen to it now, there are parts that still make me tear up." Despite the album's accessibility, Entheos don't write to fit a particular narrative nor do they abide by any particular conventions, musically and lyrically speaking. Time Will Take Us All is personable and unique to the perspectives of all, which is every bit intentional. "I don't intend on anything to be a particular thing for an audience. The lyrics are very personal and mean one thing to me, but when we release the album and once other people start hearing it, it belongs to everyone else in a different way. I think that that's one of the coolest parts about putting out art into the world, seeing the reaction of people and seeing the way that they interpret the art and the lyrical content. You can never dictate how other people are going to feel about things and everyone's coming from a different perspective, reflecting on a different things. I always look at lyrics in a way that provokes and invokes some kind of feeling in another person that I may not get."
Like the lyricism, Eliran's surreal cover illustration is wide-ranging and open to a myriad of interpretations. The more you get lost within its wonder, the more layers begin to unfold, especially when holding onto a physical copy and listening to the record in synchrony. Chaney and multi-instrumentalist Navene Koperweis transitioned from Khomatech's work on Dark Future to Eliran for this new record, and rightfully so, as their compositional craft has as well. Entheos were curious for what Eliran could envision for this album cycle, and upon presenting him with some loose guidelines, the rest was history. Chaney offers, "I really wanted to see what he would do with something super surreal. When I first approached him, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted our cover to look like in order to match the the feeling and the emotional content of the album. I wanted to see his take on the thought that I had in my mind."
Eliran then went and took a listen to the band's previous material upon being told that a red / black / white/ gold type color palette would be desired, similar to what one would associate with the red room in Twin Peaks. Chaney's ominous yet hopeful vision of two heads ripping apart with a castle growing out of them was met, staggering in its detail as the castle cracks apart with a staircase coming out of the middle. There's a strong Alejandro Jodorowsky — The Holy Mountain (1973) and 70s prog influence that steered Eliran's creative direction in the right way. After materializing it all, Time Will Take Us All became his first cover of the year.
The cover itself is quite a departure from its Khomatech-illustrated predecessor, which treads down darker atmospheres. Distinct in every way, Time Will Take Us All employed a distinct art form to meet the band's evolution. "The reason that we moved from Khomatech is because Khomatech is very digital art based and it doesn't look like a painting when you see his stuff. That really worked for our stuff in the past."
Chaney continues, "Years before we went to Eliran, I already knew he was who we were going to try to get to do the cover just because his painting style and the way that you can see every single detail spoke to us. I don't think that I could have even imagined that it would turn out as beautifully as it did. It just totally blew my mind when I when we received the first sketch." The initial draft of the cover was the starting point to a wondrous visual that left a lasting impact on the band from the get go. "The minute that we got it, I started crying. I just had such a visceral reaction to seeing it in real life because he just perfectly executed the album cover for us."
From its charcoal origin to its vibrant conclusion, Eliran's work evolved beautifully, requiring no common ground to be found between either party. It took but a few emails to reach its goal, which speaks highly of the seamless collaborative process that was had. The only compromise made was that of a few symbols. "Because of the aforementioned direction, it was clear it'll end up a surreal piece, so my main contribution was suggestive we would avoid melting clocks," says Eliran. "Instead of standing on its own with its own personality, it'd just render the piece as a Dali homage. So, I went on and instead of melting clocks, I painted the clock hands on the eyeballs." He continues, "I have to admit, I haven't even seen one episode of Twin Peaks or Jodorowsky's 'The Holy Mountain', but every time I'm faced with my own ignorance, I try to turn it around and make it into an a good thing - as I didn't want to rip off anything else and deprive our cover from having its own personality, just like with the Dali melting clocks. So, instead of sitting down to watch these references, I used the little I do know about them from popular culture in order to dig deeper and think about why Entheos is into these references in the first place: I assumed they are drawn to modern surreal fantasy with a sense of mystery, stark geometry and color, with a big sense of eerie space where the vagueness of the surrounding contributes to the strangeness of the overall vibe." The result is one ambiguous, labyrinthine being that initially comes across as mental anguish or the depiction of a sort of mental puzzle that one has to try to piece together when going through certain situations, at least personally speaking.
Eliran may have cemented a firm position among the most renowned artists in the metal ranks, but his work is far from linear, straying far from metal tropes and remaining unique from one cover to the next. Time Will Take Us All is exactly that, multi-layered yet accessible at first glance. "I like storytelling in art, and I like pieces that lure me to spend a bit more time with them, even though that usually doesn't mean by the use of many details," he says. "Some of my favorite pieces by other artists are not very busy at all, but are just so interesting to me that they demand spending more time with. With my own work, I try to use ommition instead of loading with layers and details, I try to see how much I can remove from the story without hurting it. This particular one I felt needed everything that we left in, in order to work, which is why the red cloudscape that serves as the background is not very busy, for instance. It could work with a busier background too, but it would change the vibe because I wanted that undefined vastness and sense of space from the original direction I've discussed with the band." It's safe to say that every inch of space was used strategically, encouraging a more engrossing sitting as the music sinks its teeth deeper upon the listener.
Visual interpretation is key for Entheos. Beyond the artwork, the intentionality extends beyond just the cover artwork into the videos, like the enthralling, My Good Eye-directed I Am The Void. "The way that the videos look, the way that the art looks, along with the music and the live show, all go together," says Chaney. "We do have a standard of how we want all of that to go together and create the one entity that is Entheos. We don't want to have a bunch of things that are super disjointed. We put a lot of thought into all of the art that accompanies all of our music because it's incredibly important." Chaney herself is a fan of seeing other bands do the same. "I want to see something that ties everything together across the board and tells a story, or can immerse me. So many of my favorite bands do that really well. It's something that I and Navene have always aimed to do. It's something that we discuss a lot and spend a lot of time thinking about, especially because they solidify a sense of individuality in bands."
A strong point of I Am The Void in particular is that there's a strong sense of vulnerability, tracing back a bit to that aforementioned catharsis and lyrical investment. Chaney embraces the black goo surrounding her on set as an invigorating act. As the album suggests, sometimes you can't escape your own fears and anxieties, but you can make the best out of the time that we do have on this earth and rewrite your own narrative. "It's actually crazy hearing you say all of this because that's exactly what I want listeners to feel from this," says Chaney. "I'm honestly getting chills hearing you say this because when you're creating something and you have an idea in mind for how you want people to receive it, you never actually know how people are going to receive it. You can hope for certain things, but in reality, you can't control how people think, like I said earlier. I feel like people are starting to understand our band and understand the message behind us, which is that we truly feel like people can create their own reality. We're all here on Earth with not really a lot of time to figure out who we are or what we want to do. We have to acknowledge those we love the most and spend time with those people. We're all vulnerable and we are all faced these anxieties. None of that is escapable and it's just a part of being human, which is what I'd like for people to take from our art."
Turning to Eliran, he's now cemented a firm place in metal's contemporary history as more than an artist, but a storyteller, one that introduces a tale expanded upon by the music within. He continues to collaborate with bands both new and established, and meet people across the world who have been touched by his art, which can surely be humbling. He mentions, "I feel immensely lucky to be doing this. With bands, I try not to lose that obsession I had early on, of wanting the music I love to have visuals that will describe it accurately but also give it a unique and memorable face and tell an interesting story. As for the impact on others: I never felt like I had a particularly great grasp on how to make others happy, certainly not how to make tens of thousands of people happy, and never attempted to cater to an audience, so again I feel very lucky that others find my ideas appealing. I never take it for granted, it's amazing to me and I'm very grateful."
Art certainly plays a very significant role in the human experience as we continue our understanding of the world and discover our purpose. Though some can dismiss cover artwork as a marketing element, it represents the entirety of an album cycle, a point in time during a band's life, and more. Entheos know this well and pay a great deal of attention to the visuals associated with their output, as all bands should. Time WIll Take Us All excels on this end, immersing viewers/listeners from the get go and guiding one from one track to the next with dimensions of audiovisual splendor. Chaney concludes, "Art is all around us, and it dictates a lot of what we think, feel, and see. There's art on billboards, people make their yards into art, and decorate all kinds of things as an art form. Even the way that you dress can be an art, so the way that art plays a role in the world, to me, is one of the most important things that we consume as humans. That's why it resonates so much with so many people. That's why we form these deep connections with artists that we love and we feel like our souls are intertwined even though we may never meet that person or have a discussion with that person. You just feel like that person has, through their art, spoken to you in the deepest way possible."
Time Will Take Us All arrives March 3rd via Metal Blade Records (Order).