Nature is known for camouflaging power. A great wave begins as a ripple; an iceberg hides its bulk under the surface. Nowhere is this more evident than what lies above us, behind the veil of the beautiful blue sky lies the infinite universe.
A closely guarded secret, In Hearts Wake's third album Skydancer has been lying dormant for well over a year. Recorded alongside Earthwalker – In Hearts Wake's award-winning ARIA Top Five sophomore album – in Michigan with Josh Schroeder (The Color Morale, King 810) in late 2013, the album is both a stunningly assured heavy record in its own right as well as a companion to its predecessor. What frontman Jake Taylor, guitarists Ben Nairne and Eaven Dall, bassist Kyle Erich and drummer Caleb Burton have unveiled is nothing short of the most ambitious and heartfelt album of 2015.
“The tracks on Earthwalker were more focused, personal, emotional and subjective,” says Taylor, “whereas the topics on Skydancer were written more from an eagle eye's point of view on the broader issues of the world. It's important to understand that both are very relative.”
The existence of Skydancer makes perfect sense when placed next to 2014's Earthwalker – after all, with the earlier album focusing on the feminine beauty and unpredictable chaos of Mother Nature, the sometimes-dark masculine power of Father Sky brings everything into sharp contrast. The concept is drawn from the Native American creation myth that details the attraction and mutual dependence between the two. “Modern society currently treats the masculine and feminine worlds as very separate: from law to religion, social to political and from health to commerce,” notes Taylor. “As a species, we cannot survive or reproduce in harmony without the union of both, and this is the same sacred cycle found within nature. Earthwalker (the feminine) and Skydancer (the masculine) illustrate both worlds, and aim to bridge the connection.”
Hence the constant dialogue on Skydancer between the personal and the political, the intimate and the social. Our generation's decisions will impact the planet – both positively and negatively – more drastically than arguably any other before us, so the need for people to be conscious of the systems that control us and how they affect us on a human level is huge. These issues affect all of us, whether we like it or not. Our choice is whether or not to be conscious, whether or not to fight back.
This battle reached Taylor's own doorstep, as he recounts in 'Cottonmouth'. His grandmother was ill in a nursing home, but it wasn't clear what was causing her more pain – the illness, the neglect or the medication? “Twenty-odd pills a day to combat her rapidly deteriorating physical condition. Each pill produced a side effect that required a prescription by the other. Behind Western medicine there's a pharmaceutical war being waged by multi-billion dollar corporations, churning profit at the expense of others. I symbolised the pharmaceutical evil with the deadly Cottonmouth viper. It is said that the white lining of the snake’s mouth is the last thing victims will see.”
Lead single 'Breakaway' perfectly encapsulates the harsh realities of man's inhumanity to both man and planet, takes on those who seek to profit from mass murder on an industrial scale. “Compared to tracks on Earthwalker it's more rigid, punchier, faster, and aggressive, which for me sparked the need to speak about the harsh shadows of war and those that financially fuel it – a fragmented figment of the masculine psyche.”
The genesis of the project came when the band collectively reached breaking point. Touring for the sake of touring wasn't enough, and something had to change. “We found ourselves asking the question, what is it all for?” remembers Taylor. “This was the turning point that we needed to create a real purpose to get out of bed for (or off the floor in the case of touring). At the source of it all, we just love feeling healthy and getting outdoors – it's exhilarating. So we wanted to create a side that would stand for what we loved and believed in. No longer were we spectators, we wanted to be a part of the bigger picture so that one day our children might (hopefully) enjoy the Earth as much as we did.”
Any journey begins with a single step. In Hearts Wake might be idealists but they also know how to express those ideals in real terms; just as through the course of the 'Earthwalker' campaign they planted 1,379 trees and revitalised a small patch of the planet in the process, with Skydancer they're seeking to make even more of a difference.
By working with non-profit organisation Economics Of Happiness they are combating the creeping insidiousness of globalisation by working to promote local economies and produce. “There are over seven billion people out there, so at the end of the day we can only make a small difference to the bigger picture,” smiles Taylor. “But hey – it's still a difference! If more and more people become aware of the real issues at hand rather than who won the latest talent quest, then the difference will start to grow on a much larger scale. We'd like to prove to both ourselves and the world, that if a bunch of average dudes from a tiny coastal town in the most isolated country in the world can make a difference, then anyone can.”