Illenium begins a new phase of his career with release of ‘Fallen Embers’: Album Review
The next chapter of the phoenix has officially begun as Illenium has released his highly anticipated 4th studio album, “Fallen Embers.” This project follows after the first three widely successful albums of Illenium’s discography “Ashes,” “Awake” and “Ascend,” and is the next story in his music tenure. The album consists of 14 tracks with 20 featured artists. Some songs have already gained popularity by being released as singles. However, many of the tracks will be listened to for the first time.
The title “Fallen Embers” resembles a new phase in the bass producer’s life. As the first three albums represent the rise, growth and rebirth in the phoenix’s (Illenium’s) journey, it can also relate to the listener’s journey. This 4th album resembles the healing powers that the phoenix possesses in what creates a brand new phase.
“Fallen Embers is just looking at the journey of a phoenix ascending. The phoenix is fire and what that creates is embers. I just thought it was so cool to give those healing powers, the embers themselves, a kind of mystical in its own light. It just doesn’t have to be about the phoenix but what about it leaves behind. Whether the phoenix falls or dies, you take the fallen embers of that event and you learn and heal through that.” – Illenium, “Fallen Embers” Trailer
Fresh off his iconic record-breaking stadium show “Trilogy” in Las Vegas, where he previewed a 20 minute set of what was to come on the new album. The world is now able to hear and experience the full 54-minute project.
Track 1: “Blame Myself” – Illenium and Tori Kelly
This track begins the new journey. The song was first featured at the “Trilogy” show and received great feedback. Illenium wastes no time accessing emotions as he starts with a gentle guitar accompanied by powerful piano chords. With 18 seconds in, Grammy-winning Tori Kelly’s voice begins to take over with beautiful lyrics that fit perfectly with the instrumental underneath. The lyrics say, “Lie to me, it would help. Just lie to me, say you found someone else so I don’t blame myself.” The song is one of the best opening tracks Illenium has put on an album, and with Kelly’s vocals, it is a guaranteed 3 minutes and 50 seconds of raw emotion.
“Once quarantine hit this was the first song I worked on. I feel like it set the tone for the whole album. If people asked me if I had to listen to one song from the album what would it be? I would probably say this.”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
Track 2: “Heavenly Side” – Illenium and Matt Maeson
The last track promoted as a single before the release of the album. It already has over 5 million global streams. “Heavenly Side” takes the listener on a progressive ride as the track begins very soft with very few instruments and then by the last drop features heavy guitar and captivating percussion. According to Illenium during his “Falling Embers” listening party, almost no synths were used during the production. The song features vocals from Virginia-based singer, Matt Maeson that do a tremendous job at playing off the thundering sound that Illenium has created. With lyrics like “you can let go if you want to, cause I’ll love you all the same” the track will have you singing at the top of your lungs.
“Matt’s voice is just so sick. And you know the lyrics, I feel like they are just so clever and honest. I love it”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
Track 3: “Fragments” – Illenium and Natalie Taylor
This is one of the tracks that wasn’t previewed at the “Trilogy” show. But one of the best and most interesting productions Illenium has ever created. The song features a very heartwarming synth arp and takes listeners back to the nostalgic sound Illenium is known for. Very melodically driven, the song brings in American singer-songwriter, Natalie Taylor. Who’s lyrics “you can pretend that you don’t care. I know you hate the way it happened. Whatever’s left of what we had is scattered in fragments” will have you singing this track over and over in your head.
Track 4: “Sideways” – Illenium, Valerie Broussard and Nurko
Also, one of the last singles released, “Sideways” has earned 25 million global streams and comes to life with an official music video directed by Rafatoon (Rafael Perez) and shows the imagery of the phoenix falling and the embers. The drop might be one of the most captivating breaks that Illenium has ever created and with the help of trance sounds from Nurko, this is one of the biggest hitting tracks on the album. Valerie Broussard provides the vocals for the song with phrases such as “when your hope’s gone, can barely hold on. When your sky is running out of blue. When the world is going sideways. I’ll be sideways, sideways here with you.” There is no question that this track is ready for the festival stages.
“[This] song is such a good listening song and [so] good playing live. [It] hits so hard.”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
Track 5: “First Time” – Illenium and Iann Dior
The most radio-ready song on the album and another early single that generated 50 million global streams. This track features rising hip-hop artist Iann Dior and almost ditches all traditional dance techniques for authentic band instruments. With a rock-oriented tone blended with a hip-hop-style beat, this song also comes in the form of an official music video starring Illenium and Dior. If you haven’t played this in the car with the windows rolled down, you need to.
“That song is just a vibe. I love it. I feel like it’s a great change of pace.”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
Track 6: “U & Me” – Illenium and Sasha Sloan
Possibly the coolest sounding tracks in the entire compilation? “U & Me” includes masterful vocal chops incorporated by Illenium throughout its duration that will have you on the edge of your seat. Including lyrics like “let’s leave the world behind us. A place they’ll never see. Go somewhere only we know. Somewhere for you and me,” the song depicts two people trying to find their place together in the world. And with amazing vocals from Los Angeles-based singer, Sasha Sloan the song provides a feel-good experience that listeners can connect with.
Track 7: “Nightlight” – Illenium and Annika Wells
As of right now, the most popular song on “Fallen Embers” with over 150 million global streams. This was the first single heard off the album. And is one of the most thundering tracks Illenium has in his discography. The drop leads with an electric guitar that is unforgettable. The official music video is visually captivating, with naturistic scenery being the background and once again depicts a scenario in which the phoenix falls and leaves its embers. According to Illenium, the vocalist, Annika Wells, wrote all the lyrics for the song and sent him a rough demo of the first verse and chorus. Hearing that draft blew him away. The main phrase being “but I still need you to ease my load. Hold me when the lightning strikes. Lead me home. When I don’t know which way is right. Love me when it’s hard. I promise that I’m not leaving from your side. And when I fall apart, promise in the dark you’ll be my nightlight,” the song has everything one could want in an Illenium production.
“I feel like [this song] is the one that started this whole thing. This whole phase.”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
Track 8: “Hearts on Fire” – Illenium, Dabin and Lights
Another popular single, this song saw a December release of last year, having over 60 million global streams. The obvious focal point of the track is the masterful guitar playing from Canadian-based producer and good friend of Illenium, Dabin. Also joining in is another Canadian-based artist, Lights. Her incredible vocals give the song its power. The music video depicts two individuals in a fallen world trying to find each other in a beautifully crafted story. With the phrase “this is for the hearts on fire, outta control. Boy, you gotta let ’em know. This is for the hearts on fire, singing alone. There’s only one way to know. I wish you could read my mind or gimme a sign. Tell me you wanted to be mine. This is for the hearts on fire, singing alone. There’s only one way to know,” this is a track that will have the entire crowd chanting in unison.
Track 9: “Lay it Down” – Illenium, Krewella, and SLANDER
This song was the most anticipated track among fans. It features the powerful sister duo, Krewella (Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf) and Slander (Derek Andersen and Scott Land). First showcased at Ubbi Dubbi Festival in Dallas, Texas, Illenium surprised attendees with a guest appearance from Slander. Since that night, “Lay it Down” has been the most talked-about track on the album. According to Krewella, this song began in 2018. With contributing to the production, the two are also the featured vocalists. The well-thought lyrics and the vocal adlibs and chops are what makes this song stand out from the rest. Krewella says it best with the line, “I would lay my guard down for you.” It’s unquestionable how much the track means to all those involved in the production. Among fans, this was a high-demand collaboration for years and, it finally finds light on”‘Fallen Embers.” With these three highly regarded acts working together, the track had high expectations. But to no surprise, not only did the song live up to the hype, it exceeded it exponentially.
Track 10: “Losing Patience” – Illenium and Nothing, Nowhere
The most unique collaboration on the entire project. Illenium teams up with American rapper and singer Nothing, Nowhere, for a song that was not expected but most certainly welcomed. Illenium is not shy of his fandom for Nothing, Nowhere, even having a tattoo of the song “Clarity in Kerosene” on his leg. The chemistry in this song shines and brings out a different side of Illenium as the drop is unlike anything he has created before. Lyrics like “losing patience, I’ve been waiting for something to stop all this pain. Stuck in the past. Life moves so fast. I try but it don’t feel the same” will resonate with listeners. And the emotion in Nothing, Nowhere’s voice will be what makes this track loved among fans.
“[The drop] is definitely different. I’ve never done a drop that sounds like that, which is fun. I’m excited to play it out.”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
Track 11: “In My Mind” – Illenium, Excision and Haliene
Nothing more needs to be said when you see these three names on the credits of a track. Illenium joins forces once again with dubstep king Excision and American singer Haliene, who is well-known in the dance community for her many successful features. As expected, this is the most aggressive track on the entire album. Haliene stated in an Instagram post that she sees this song as a continuation of the highly regarded singles “Rush Over Me” (with Illenium) and “Erase You” (with Excision). Once again, Haliene delivers a deeply emotional performance, and with her favorite lyrics being “I will smile and say I’m moving on but my heart betrays me in a song” the track is bound to connect with hearts worldwide. Showcasing the sounds of Illenium in the first drop and the beautiful aggression of Excision in the second, this song is another perfect yin and yang from the two producers after their first two collaborations, “Gold (Stupid Love)” and “Feel Something.”
Track 12: “Paper Thin” – Illenium, Tom DeLonge and Angels & Airwaves
This is the second single released in preparation for the album. In collaboration with Tom DeLonge (co-founder of Blink-182) and his band Angels & Airwaves, the song plays around the vocals of the frontman that listeners remember him best for in the 90s and early 2000s. The drop is another unique creation by Illenium that focuses on vocal chops along with powerful synths. This music video transports the viewer again into a fallen world where individuals search for something to heal their wounds. Towards the end of the story, crystals begin to fall from the sky and release particles that heal people and restore the world around them. It is the best visual depiction of the meaning behind “Fallen Embers” and another stunning video to add to the impressive resume of the Illenium team. Featuring the lyrics “your broken heart was just like mine. We built these walls and hid inside ’em. I said, I wouldn’t let you in and now you know, I’m paper thin,” this track is a perfect blend between rock and dance music.
“That was a dream collab. I feel like [Tom DeLonge] brought such a cool vibe. I had like a totally different verse and instrumental in the verse when I sent it to him. And he just added that guitar which is so sick and so his sound. So it was definitely a fanboy moment for me.”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
Track 13: “Crazy Times” – Illenium, SAID THE SKY and Rock Mafia
Is it an Illenium album if there isn’t a SAID THE SKY collaboration on it? It’s no secret that Illenium and SAID THE SKY (Trevor Christensen) are long-time friends and, at one point in time, roommates. This song was the closer for the “Trilogy” show. It includes Tim James (vocalist on “Take You Down”) and his band Rock Mafia, sharing a message that can depict what the world has gone through over the past year and a half. Saying “it’s so hard to find some peace of mind in these crazy times,” this is a song that everybody can relate to. With James using his unmatched falsetto and the magic that Illenium and SAID THE SKY create in the drop, this song is the correct choice for the penultimate track on the album.
“That last minute and a half of that song maxed volume just smacks, smacks me.”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
Track 14: “Brave Soul” – Illenium and Emma Grace
The phrase “saved the best for last” could be applied here as Illenium holds by far the most emotional song off until the end with “Brave Soul.” First premiered at the “Trilogy” show, the song has a special place in Illenium and Emma Grace’s heart. According to Illenium, the story in the song is about the loss of Grace’s brother and is a tribute to him. It is for anyone who has ever lost a loved one to addiction. The track introduces Grace, who gives a performance that will put tears in the listener’s eyes. However, no words trying to describe this beautiful yet deep song in an article will ever be able to do it justice. It is a track that deserves to be listened to with undivided attention. Arguably, the most emotional section of the entire song is “here’s to your brave soul. You fought but you lost hold. Now I’m alone to face the truth. You left me broken. Shattered to pieces. And how can I go on without you. And I know you’re shining ever so brightly. Won’t you lead me through the night? Here’s to your brave soul. I’m trying to go on without you.” It ranks up there as one of Illenium’s most emotional songs he has ever created. But with that, it is also one of the greatest songs Illenium has ever made. And without a doubt is going to connect with fans and become a favorite on the tracklist. It is the perfect way to end the album. And Illenium and Grace put the final period on this project in the most breathtaking way. Once the last second ticks off, it will leave the listener speechless.
“The story behind the song… I feel like that mixed with just the overall tone of the song and how it progresses, oh yeah that one [messes] me up.”- Illenium, “Fallen Embers” listening party
“Fallen Embers” is not just an album, it’s an experience and arguably Illenium’s best project to date. You can hear the transition into the next phase of his life as he conveys it in the most captivating way imaginable. It includes breathtaking features that all share beautiful messages and unique productions. This album cements Illeniums name as one of the biggest in all of dance music.
“This album is the result of my healing and personal growth. A lot of passion went into every single song. Thank you to everyone involved who helped make this album what it is. I’m stoked it’s finally here and I hope you enjoy the start of this new chapter I’m sharing with you”. – Illenium, press release
No matter what the journey of the phoenix means to you, this album is certified to take you on an emotional journey. And until the next chapter of the story is written, this one will be well worth listening to for quite some time.
Stream Illeniums 4th studio album “Fallen Embers” via 12 Tone music on Spotify below:
Image Credit: Illenium/press