"What is unimaginable? How is it possible to know the idea of an unimaginable thing?"
Fear Harness is an exploration of repetition, introspection, and the surreal worlds we travel to in the waning hours of unconsciousness.
I’ve always experienced vivid and frightening nightmares; they often inform my ideas. It’s always felt normal to me, yet another part of me knows it’s the byproduct of anxiety, stress, and residual trauma.
Sleep is a necessary act we all inevitably endure, and even if we don’t remember them, we all dream. Some prescribe exhaustive interpretations of what our subconscious tells us, while others dismiss it as nothing more than a mind dump.
I believe it’s a bit of both. Dreams are the soul cleansing itself, shaping it into a narrative fashion so we can understand them, and, by association, ourselves — to a limited degree.
We repeat them continually until we die, yet we take them for granted — like the shadows that follow our forms. I sought to explore why.
When I wrote this album, it was during a period of darkness and depression, something I’ve always wrestled with. This was only further exacerbated by the new realities 2020 conjured.
The external landscape I existed within was wrought with chaos, while internally, I felt disconnected and detached from everything. Within the empty comforts of my seclusion, I found solace through the eerie and familiar passages of my dreams.
It was this wonder and intrigue in my dreams that guided me through the initial stages of quarantine. I felt limited and confined in the midst of that despair, but I also felt inspired and driven by the images this solitude conjured.
So I attempted to make sense of it. I turned to music.
I never set an agenda for this project or these songs. I simply wanted to utilize music as a conduit for escaping the struggle within.
These songs came from a place of confusion and pain; writing them was a form of catharsis that enabled me to channel the negativity and anguish I felt — both past and current — into something positive.
To find light, one must often traverse through darkness first. These songs were my Virgil in the dark wood, leading me into the depths of Hell in order to ascend. And I felt a deep sense of terror through it all.
The question I pose with Fear Harness is coiled within its title: what does it mean to harness fear? Is that possible, or does fear always harness the individual?
The album is a rumination upon that sentiment. It’s partially why it contains so much repetition — across time, humanity repeats the same cycles of their actions and transgressions in perpetuity.
This album is a microcosm of that notion, through the context of repeated dreams and the eternal loop of sleep and awakening.
As the first and last songs suggest, we descend into our earth and awaken in their world. It’s an examination of the internal reflections of our own neuroses and conflicts waging war with the external reflections of those we share existence with.
Dreams are often distortions of the experiences we have in life. They’re artifices or composites of who we see, what we feel, and where we venture. Our mind is a complex and often clumsy storyteller, chronicling the vignettes of our existence through abstractions and absurdity. They rarely make sense, but neither does reality. It’s up to us to decide which matters more.
Escapism can be a beautiful method of transcending existence. Music and narrative represent that for me, and are often in harmonious matrimony through my dreams. To repeat these sequences and replicate them through songs is a glimpse into not only my perspective, but a new dimension that can generate additional ideas through others’ interpretations.
What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you see? What do you harness? What does it mean to you?
I encourage you to find out.
Phantom Heir is the musical endeavor and moniker of the art director and designer James Edward Bonilla.
His sound and style fuses contemplative and tranquil atmospheres with a visceral tenacity drawn from metal and hardcore. Together, this culminates in soundscapes guided by conceptual narratives and punctured with emotional depth.
A multi-instrumentalist and fledgling producer, Phantom Heir is currently based in Oakland, CA and always seeking new collaborators.