Hymns of Eden’s Gate
Recently I listened to Far Cry 5‘s music and remembered something distant yet close. I ended up reaching for a dusty book on the bottom shelf near my desk. It was an old hymnal with a cover of green faux-leather. The word “gather” reached across the cover in faded golden font, its weight reminding me of the difficulty I had as a child holding the book up to sing “City of God,” “Taste and See,” or “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart.” I would usually resort to leaning the hymnal against the back of the pew in front of me.
Flipping through the first few pages, the words “Morning Praise” jumped out at me, followed by a brief song:
Holy God! Fill us this day with new breath! And we shall be living words of praise!(Gather Comprehensive, 1994, pg. 1)
I can guess what you may be thinking. But…isn’t this a video game blog? Absolutely. And I would like to try something a but different with this post. I’m hoping what follows will translate well as a reflection/critical reading kind of post. So let’s dig in to it.
The Music of Far Cry 5
I really enjoy the music in Far Cry 5. Like, really. Some of the songs are haunting and mesmerizing, and I could play them on repeat for hours. This is a bit unusual for me. When a video game’s music is good, I take notice and maybe buy a song or two, but Far Cry 5‘s music is on a different level.
Far Cry 5 was released in 2018 by Ubisoft and centered on the conflict caused by Eden’s Gate, a doomsday cult based in Hope County, Montana. This entry in the franchise is similar to its predecessors in that Far Cry 5 presents an open world for exploration and combat. One element that distinguishes Far Cry 5 is its original soundtrack. Gospel-style. Choir. Religious. These words may seem outside the bounds of a franchise defined by absurd open-world chaos, and yet they aptly describe Far Cry 5‘s powerful soundtrack. The music created by Dan Romer feels like it’s for and of Hope County.
The game’s music is available via three albums that represent the Far Cry Presents collection: Into the Flames, When the World Falls, and We Will Rise Again (which is performed by Hammock and reinterprets Romer’s songs). Each album is distinct in its delivery and sound. Into the Flames features songs from the cult’s perspective. This includes praise of the cult’s leaders (“Oh John,” “Help Me Faith,” “Oh the Bliss,” and “Set Those Sinners Free”), calls for cult members to protect and steady themselves for the predicted collapse of society (“Build a Castle”), and messages aimed at separating the cult from the rest of the world and its sin (“We Will Rise Again”).
When the World Falls is performed by a choir and includes all the songs from Into the Flames. The choir rendition of these songs is beautiful, and I’ve found myself getting lost in this album more than a few times. “Help Me Faith” is a particularly haunting song. We Will Rise Again adds an ambient/post-rock feel to Romer’s songs. The orchestral arrangement of this music creates an otherworldly/spiritual feel to the songs.
Step into the garden We're gonna lock the gate We gotta keep out the sinners We gotta keep out the hate Look at the horizon The time is coming near Look out at the world on fire Look at the people frozen in fear Portion of "The World Is Gonna End Tonight" by Dan Romer
This music is a reflection of the doomsday cult and its prominent members. Eden’s Gate is led by Joseph Seed, but it is his disciples who control the game’s three main regions. Jacob, John, and Faith work to recruit, maintain, and defend, and the music is a reflection of them and their efforts. While much of the music is beautiful and mesmerizing on first listen, there is a darkness to the cult’s words. For the sake of brevity, this post will focus on one of the three albums.
Context: A Brief History of Hymns
1 a) a song of praise to God; b) a metrical composition adapted for singing in a religious serviceMerriam-Webster
Hymns are songs written for prayer and adoration, and the collection of hymns is known as a hymnal. Like that green Gather hymnal I am all too familiar with, hymnals tend to center on the praise of prominent religious figures. I was raised Catholic, so the hymnals I used were centered on Christ and his teachings. We used hymnals during mass and the hymns were almost always accompanied by music (though this is not a requirement with hymns). Christian hymns relay and reinforce religious beliefs, practices, and living and often center on themes (“Short Guide“). For example, hymns in Gather are categorized according to function and topic. “Daily Prayer,” “Mass,” and “Hymns and Songs” are the three main categories. “Hymns and Songs” is further divided into “Advent,” “Christmas,” “Holy Family,” “Epiphany,” and so on. For some denominations, the hymnal is representative of all aspects of religious experience and life and could be used for public praise and individual meditation (The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church, ix).
The genre lends itself to many types of material: narrative, praise, confession, petition proclamation, encouragement, instruction, commitment, lament, thanksgiving …“Short Guide” by The Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Far Cry 5: When the World Falls
When the World Falls consists of eight songs performed by a choir. These songs serve as anthem for Eden’s Gate while marking beliefs, who belongs, and consequences for sinners. Some of the songs identify Joseph, John, Jacob, and Faith, planting them firmly in the world of Far Cry 5, while other songs sound like they could be lifted and sung in a church.
The album opens with “Build a Castle,” which lays out Eden’s Gate’s offerings–protection from the coming storm. This is also the first song that references “the voice.” Taken in context with other songs (like “Now He’s Our Father”) the voice seems to represent God. Based on this song, Eden’s Gate seems like any other Christian denomination seeking members and offering comfort and safety from sin. The castle they are building is strong, fortified, and signifies their dissonance with the world.
The second song, “Help Me Faith,” provides an example of why such a castle is necessary. “Help Me Faith” shares the perspective of someone who grew up initially oblivious to the shortcomings of the world. The song’s speaker states that “my family swore, they knew best for my life…When it came to the world, I never thought it would end.” Presumably, this experience would be common for Eden’s Gate’s members before joining the cult.
Midway through the song, the speaker expresses dissatisfaction with life stating, “My heart never loved, and my soul couldn’t laugh.” In the bridge (the song’s climax), the speaker expresses regret for continuing to live a life of sin, realizing their error too late. “Help Me Faith” is a warning for those who hesitate to recognize their folly and join Eden’s Gate. There’s an urgency to Eden’s Gate–sin is overwhelming the world and doom for non-believers is soon to follow.
The light that guides sinners to Eden’s Gate is, of course, Joseph Seed. “Now He’s Our Father” provides Joseph’s origin story. He’s described as a hard worker, a man with calloused hands who picked peaches all day long in the sun. Joseph eventually heard “the voice” and became a prophet. This work wasn’t easy, though. He was persecuted by non-believers, sent to prison, and starved “’til his face was cold and thin.” From this hardship, he emerged as the shepherd, captain, keeper, and father of Eden’s Gate. “Now He’s Our Father” is in praise of Joseph and leads naturally into the fourth song, “Keep Your Rifle by Your Side.” Rifles? Yep.
Up to this point, we have several things established. We’ve been introduced to two of the major characters and we have a sense of the conflict between Eden’s Gate and the rest of the world. What we can’t forget is Far Cry 5‘s references to doomsday preppers and the alt-right. Afterall, Ubisoft’s promotional material describes Eden’s Gate as a “fanatical doomsday cult.” They use force to get their way in Hope County, forcing its residents to convert and torturing those who refuse to comply. So while the mention of a rifle in a hymn-like song is unexpected, it works in the context of Eden’s Gate.
This cult doesn’t hide their intentions considering their music blasts throughout Hope County. “Keep Your Riffle by Your Side” firmly casts “sinners” as the enemy actively destroying the world; thus, its Eden’s Gate’s right to protect themselves and their beliefs. God is used to rationalize these actions: “When we hear the voice, we know we have no other choice.” This is the first blatant instance of violence promoted by the cult in the songs and marks a shift in the album. The stakes are amping up.
When the world is torn by war When the rain of bullets pours When bombs fall like autumn leaves There's a garden through the gate Where the father keeps us safe You'll find it if you follow me Portion of "Oh the Bliss" by Dan Romer
The next few songs (“Let the Water Wash Away Your Sins,” “Oh John,” “Oh the Bliss”) reinforce Eden’s Gate’s beliefs. The world is changing (for the worse) and followers will be tested, but those who hold strong and keep the faith will be rewarded. John will march them “right through Eden’s Gate” to the Bliss. The Bliss will set believers free, provide safety, and offer truth. Who doesn’t like the sound of that? Well, apparently the Bliss isn’t for everyone.
“Set Those Sinners Free” is the eighth song on When the World Falls. This song marks another shift in the album. Eden’s Gate no longer trusts that the people of Hope County will accept the father and gain the Bliss on their own merits. Non-believers are characterized as stubborn and clueless. The chorus establishes this: “You can sing all through the night. Preach till the morning light. Some cannot tell wrong from right.” Non-believers must now be taken by force, and that force has a name. Jacob. “Set Those Sinners Free” articulates the cult’s justification for Jacob’s forceful tactics: “Jacob’s gonna come and set those sinners free.” Jacob is in charge of security for the cult because of his background in the armed forces. He lived a rebellious life previously but was brought back into the family by Joseph and John.
Jacob’s tactic for converting non-believers is to capture and torture them into submission. Those that refuse to join Eden’s Gate die. I also take this song as a kind of last call for rounding up those stubborn sinners. The collapse is nearing as is evidenced by the next song. “The World is Gonna End Tonight” culminates everything touted by Eden’s Gate. The time has come for followers to “Step into the garden” because the world will soon be set on fire. People–sinnners–will be left outside to die. Eden’s Gate will turn on them entirely and without sympathy. “We won’t listen to their crying. They had their chance to see the light. We won’t be handing out no pardons.” The time for repentance, forgiveness, and new-found faith has passed.
The album’s final song, “We Will Rise Again,” summarizes all that Eden’s Gate stands for and professes. A “sinister creed” of the west is described. The devil’s lies convince people to live in excess while the poor go without. The “great collapse” will arrive but Eden’s Gate will be left untouched because they were prepared, they saw the evil descending on the world. As their reward, they will watch the sun rise from Eden’s Garden and start the world anew.
In Music, All Things New
The music of Far Cry 5 presents songs of praise, reassurance, and doom. Themes of light, community, sin, and the end times run through songs like “Oh the Bliss,” “Let the Water Wash Away Your Sins,” and “We Will Rise Again.” Into the Flames and When the World Falls carry the sounds of hymns and gospel music with their praise of God and the welcoming of a peaceful future. But their songs include shades of darkness. Eden’s Gate isn’t above using force to gather its members.
As seen through the game, Eden’s Gate separates people from their families, tortures some, and even kills those who refuse to believe in the father. The music perfectly captures Eden’s Gate and represents their beliefs throughout the game. Stalwart in the face of bombs and lies, Eden’s Gate persists in pursuing the Bliss to the very end. Their music plays its part as recruitment tool and propaganda for a cult rapidly approaching the collapse.
Listening to the albums is enthralling in its own right, but I cannot escape the comparisons with my past. I was raised Catholic. I sang songs praising God and his glory every Sunday morning. When I hear the music of Far Cry 5, I’m reminded of those times. Don’t get me wrong. I do not necessarily view Christianity as a cult. However, I do think that sometimes what makes cults so compelling is their similarities to what is acceptable and ‘normal.’ So much of the game’s music sounds authentic and captures the essence of the music I grew up listening to. If you look into a song like “All Things New,” you’ll see a similar sense of the world changing for the better, which is eerily similar to what Eden’s Gate sees in its future.
Sing a new song! Rejoice! The dawn is breaking, the earth is waking, its dreams come true. And do you hear the voice, darkness surprising, singing in its rising: "See, I am making all things new!" Portion of "All Things New" from Gather Comprehensive, 1994
However, it’s uncanny hearing a chorus of praise that also mentions violence and rifles. I believe this juxtaposition was intentional and that it works incredibly well. I’m sucked into the music whenever I hear it and am reminded of the misplaced directions such beliefs can go.
Even if you passed on Far Cry 5 or played it initially and found it lacking, I do recommend checking out Far Cry 5’s music. Some of the songs, especially on When the World Falls, are absolutely beautiful and haunting. When I first played Far Cry 5, the music immediately captured my interest. Years later, the songs still hold my attention, which speaks to the strong writing and performances. Give them a listen and let me know what you think.