Eden Shadow is an art / progressive rock project by led by young composer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Mark Elliott, hailing from Cardiff in Wales. The new album, “Melodies for Maladies,” has just been released and it can be said that this record is one of the 2016’s hidden gems.
In an interview for Progarchy, Ryan tells us about the album and his future plans with the project.
Alright, first thing is first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life?
It is great thank you. Very musical, be it creating, performing or teaching music. That’s the way I like it to be!
Speaking of new music, you have an album. What can people expect from “Melodies for Maladies”?
Big dark riffs! It is a very riff driven album and significantly more metal than my previous records. Despite plenty of riffs, there is a lot of contrast with plenty of symphonic moments and space, which is why I suppose you would define it this record as a ‘progressive’ record. I love to write music with plenty of contrast in feel, dynamics and tempo.
You can also expect the amazing work of my very talented team, Aled Lloyd on drums, Alex Broben on bass and I am also pleased to have Theo Travis guesting on flute and so- prano saxophone as well as Colin Elgie providing the artwork. He created the artwork for Trick of the Tail by Genesis, which is one of my favourite records and it is a dream come true to have his artwork for this record.
I would also say it is not an album for the faint hearted. I wanted to write a record that pro- vided a young person’s response to the many things that seem to be incredibly messed up with the world. The first three songs of the album look at external maladies such as politics of fear, subterfuge, manipulation and war. The last three songs are more internal and per- sonal, dealing with depression, anxiety and loss. There is a lot of issues about these things at the moment if you read the UK news. I am especially concerned about the mental health issues of young people at the moment and through this record, I aimed to make some sense of all the suffering that’s going on and encourage a sense of hope.
What was it like working on the album?
Difficult. I think it may be one of the most challenging projects I ever work on. The material has some pretty crazy guitar parts and arrangements. A lot of the tracks were written be- fore I was able to play them! Besides that, the songs are long, some are very extensive. Introspect collectively clocks 23 minutes. I started writing the track with the bass guitarist, Alex Broben in late 2011. He came up with the enormous opening riff of part 2 but it took me until summer 2015 to complete it. Most of the tracks initially came to life between 2011- 2013 but a lot of the time since then has been arranging them and obsessing over how I could make these songs translate through the production.
Furthermore, what made the record so challenging was the themes that each song explores. Melodies for Maladies is an album that does not shy away from a multitude of dark themes. Exploring such themes in the lyrics and putting the record together was like going through an exorcism! That sounds extreme but I think music can really overthrow you, especially when it is your own creation. Music is an incredibly powerful thing to experience.
Despite being challenging, the record has been profoundly rewarding to make. The end result is one I am proud of. I have learnt a lot as a composer and producer and the team I had on board with me to make this record was sublime. To finally be able to release it to the world is an enormous release.
Are there any touring plans in support to “Melodies for Maladies”?
There are, but they are long term plans. I am determined to put together a live show but technically, the material is very challenging and conceptually, I would want to put together a show that really captures the themes explored in the record and do it justice. This is not the kind of record you can just go out and gig.
I am hoping to do something over the summer of 2017, only if it is a small series of shows: I am too obstinate to allow it to not happen!
While we are on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?
Germany and Holland. They are the two countries that have responded best to my work as an artist so far in my career, so it would make sense for me to go to those countries first. I love Germany, and have been there twice but I have never visited Holland before. I would also love to do something in South America and that’s to do with the music fans there. Just watch a clip of Rush live in Rio and you would understand why any artist would want to tour there!
Who and what inspires you the most?
That’s an enormous question. So many artists have inspired me to great lengths. Brian May and Alex Lifeson were the two guitar heroes early on in my childhood and have re- mained integral to me. Since then, I have found that a tree of inspirations has continued to grow as I’ve gotten older. Eric Johnson, Satriani and Vai opened my eyes to what could be done on the guitar. Steven Wilson and Tool also had a huge impact on me through how they interweave musical and conceptual ideas together. Radiohead, Bjork and Kate Bush have also been inspiration to me for similar reasons.
Aside from music artists, I am also inspired by all artists and people who seek to make a difference. I have been reading Tolstoy and Proust and find that what they write greatly in- forms my own artistic expression and sense of values. I have had teachers, family and friends who inspire me all the time and spark ideas in me, even if they are not aware of it!
Many things and people inspire me, to say who and what inspires me the most is certainly hard for me to determine.
What other genres of music do you listen to? Have any of the other genres you listen to had any impact on your playing?
Everything! Despite writing lots of music that can be deemed ‘progressive’ rock, it is a mere fraction of what I listen to. My recent playlist has included the latest albums from Ra- diohead, Julia Holter, Bjork, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey, Beach House, Laura Mvula and Arthur Beatrice. I am also starting to get into Opeth’s new record and
Eric Johnson’s acoustic album. There have been some great releases over the past cou- ple of years!
I think Bjork has had a huge impact on me as a musician. She is incomparable in many ways, with not only her unique voice but her innovation with technology and blending it with stunning choral and string arrangements. Her lyrics are so human and vulnerable as well; I think she is incredibly brave: a definitive artist. Vespertine is one of my favourite records of all time. It is such an odd, and introverted album…I love it. Her latest album is a devastating record about her break up and few records ever express such a raw sense of visceral emotion to it. It is incredible!
The other genre would be classical, in particular, Shostakovich. His works can be very dark, especially his string quartets and they certainly had an impact on me when making this record. I watched a guy on YouTube do a metal rearrangement of one of his quartets and it suits the genre…never have classical strings sounded so metal!
I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else you would like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?
I would like to thank everyone who has listened and bought their copy of this record. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to get in touch with me!
Additionally, more music is on it’s way! I finished recording an album with my other band, The Kinky Wizzards over the summer. It is an instrumental rock jazz trio with two insanely talented brothers on bass and drums. I would say it’s for fans of Frank Zappa and The Aristocrats…it’s very quirky and I am looking forward to revealing a the lighter shade of my musical self!