“Past, Present, Future”: Inside Observe the 93rd’s Ontological Alt-Rock Reckoning, ‘Eternalism’

Observe the 93rd © Danielle Marshall
Observe the 93rd © Danielle Marshall
Observe the 93rd’s Derek Henry dives deep into the theatrical alt-rock band’s stunning fourth album ‘Eternalism,’ a provocative and cinematic reckoning with time, existence, and life’s dark and unknowable depths.
for fans of My Chemical Romance, Muse, Panic! At The Disco
Stream: “We Are Already Dead” – Observe the 93rd




Eternalism is a theory that proposes that the past, present, and future are all equally real and all happening simultaneously. Subject matter revolving around this theory is the main thread of this album.

We are already dead; we are not yet born,” Observe the 93rd’s Derek Henry sings at the top of his band’s fourth LP. “We are right here amongst the surf-tormented shores.” Life, death, presence, absence; it’s all here, happening right now, while you read these words and hear this music.

It’s a shocking way to start a conversation, and Henry wouldn’t have it any other way: After all, his band has always had a bit of a hot streak – a flare for the melodramatic, the bombastic, and the provocative… And what’s more provocative than singing, “We are already dead”?

Eternalism - Observe the 93rd
Eternalism – Observe the 93rd

Eternalism is, first and foremost, a philosophical theory; a means of understanding life, existence, time, and the crossroads thereof. This is heady material – and there are plenty of rabbit holes to dive down, should you so wish to explore this topic further, both on- and offline – but thankfully, you don’t have to be a scholar of ontology, or have a philosophy degree, to appreciate the depth, and the drama, of Observe the 93rd’s latest album. A theatrical musical exploration of what is, what was, and what will ever be, Eternalism is a hard-hitting alt-rock reckoning dwelling in life’s dark depths.

It’s a thought-provoking fever dream full of fire and brimstone, raw emotion and the visceral aches that come with being alive in this fractured present.

Considering the landscape of 2023 and 2024, haven’t you looked around and wondered if we’re already dead?

Superimposed with ghosts and UFOs
Derealization on the backroads
Smolders in time yet lingers very close
Has it always been if it’s inevitable
I am a vision of an apparition
Bunnymen living limited edition
Stillframes play in sequence ‘til collision
‘Round we go, ‘round we go, ‘round we go
We are already dead, we are not yet born
We are right here amongst
the surf tormented shores
– “We Are Already Dead,” Observe the 93rd

Independently released December 15, 2023 – or has it always existed? – Eternalism is the striking fourth studio album from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania alt-rock band Observe the 93rd. Following their 2022 LP an eeriness to everything, which received praise from a number of music sites, including The Aquarian and New Jersey Stage, the duo of vocalist/guitarist Derek Henry and drummer Dylan Zepp returned with with a record that, at a base level, combines the pure theatricality of My Chemical Romance with the refined edge of Muse.

Within that musical framework, Henry lets his imagination loose – combining it with a keen intellect and pervasive anxiety to craft a compelling, distinctive record that strives, if not to answer, then to offer some candid thoughts about those big rhetorical questions we often ask into the ether, without expecting a reply.

Observe the 93rd © courtesy of the band
Observe the 93rd © Danielle Marshall



“When I was around 12 or 13 years old, I was swinging at the park near my childhood home. It was a transitional period of my life. All my friends had moved away from the neighborhood and my family was gearing up to move as well. As I was swinging, I began to feel an overwhelming sense that everything had happened… or was happening,” Henry tells Atwood Magazine. “I was thinking about the implication of certain things being inevitable – soon I’d be in a new house and neighborhood, soon I’d be in high school with a bunch of new kids, one day I’d be out of school and living my own life, one day I’d die.”

“As I pondered the seemingly inevitable nature of these events, I felt connected to them, as if my focusing on them in that moment was a form of time travel. As some of those moments have come to pass, I could still feel myself on those swings… can still feel myself on those swings.  All moments of my life feel anchored to my pondering in the park that day. This persisting sense found a creative home in our album, Eternalism.”

Observe the 93rd © courtesy of the band
Observe the 93rd © Danielle Marshall



Production-wise, the band’s vision going into this record was to strip it back – away from the “perfected” sounds of their last records.

Less produced. Lean into the imperfection,” Henry says. “There are a couple keyboard-centric songs on this album that have a more modern touch (digi-drums, quantized), but the majority of the record is unquantized to retain a more natural feel. We never use pitch correct/auto-tune, and that practice has continued into this album. The further we got into this project, the more comfortable we felt letting go. Now, we did put time into getting the best takes and tones we could, but there are plenty of imperfections and blemishes that we kept because we felt they held emotional value. We tried to capture whole takes as well, as opposed to fragmenting or comping the recording process too much.”

“We’re finding ourselves more and more interested in looser recording practices, drawing a lot of inspiration from Nirvana’s In Utero, Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, and The Beatles’ White Album. There are still plenty of layers on our album, but we don’t utilize the digital tools at our disposal that would ensure razor-sharp production. Our past albums were a bit more modern in production style, with a baseline of quantized drums and heavily comping takes. We’re very proud of those previous records, but just in a different place now in terms of execution.”

Observe the 93rd © courtesy of the band
Observe the 93rd © Danielle Marshall



That lack of perfection is just one of the things that makes Eternalism such an exciting experience: Observe the 93rd keep things a bit loose and relaxed, despite the intense nature of their music (and their subject matter).

The album opens with the aforementioned “We Are Already Dead,” a strong cinematic entrance that immediately sets the scene, and the tone, for all that’s to come.

“We placed this song first in the tracklist to immediately introduce the concept of Eternalism and the idea that all points in the timeline already exist – from long before our individual existence, to our birth, to after we’re dead and gone,” Henry explains.

Meanwhile, he says his current favorite song is actually the record’s sweeping finale, “Glimpse.” “It grapples with death, contemplates the nature of time and reality, and best encapsulates the main theme of the album,” he notes, citing lyrics from its second verse as some of his favorites on the entire album: “Melodies on a vinyl all exist, but you only hear the music where the needle hits. This is our window. Our glimpse.




Observe the 93rd © courtesy of the band
Observe the 93rd © Danielle Marshall

Of course, there are plenty of highlights in-between these two bookends, including the emotionally charged anthem “Stick Around” – a definitive standout, about Henry’s struggles with mental health the insecurities that kept him from reaching out to others for help – and “The Halloween Song,” which, just as its title suggests, is something of a dynamic post-punk ode to October 31st (we could make an “Observe the 31st” joke here, but we won’t).

The hyper-charged, thrashy metal-leaning “Zimbabwe” sends shivers down the spine with lines like, “Fish in the abyss are oblivious that land exists” and “Welcome to the end of the play-pretend.” And the aching “Who Will Find My Body?” – which alternates between brooding ballad and frenetic upheaval – feels like the musical equivalent of a panic attack.

I tried picturing the future
But I couldn’t see myself in it
They say beggars can’t be choosers
I begged for mercy now I’m choosing to end it
Quietly wasting away
Quietly wasting away
I don’t wanna talk about it
I don’t wanna bring anyone else down
Yeah I know just how it feels
And that you’ll be better off when I’m not around
If you hear me now, out there somehow
Breathe in, breathe out
And please stick around




Observe the 93rd © courtesy of the band
Observe the 93rd © Danielle Marshall

There’s lots to love about Eternalism, and the best thing one can do is dive into its depths headfirst.

The past, present, and future collide as these two self-described “freaks in an alternative rock band from Central PA” unpack their philosophy of space and time, diving deep and holding nothing back as they openly ponder the nature of our very being.

While so much of this album rests on the existential – and the implications of Eternalism, if in fact everything is happening all at once – the record’s lyrical content itself is surprisingly accessible, relatable, and achingly human. From Henry anxiety to nagging nostalgia and the pain of not knowing where we go when we leave this realm, Eternalism captures and conveys many of those same things that keep us all awake at night, when stillness surrounds us and our thoughts run wild and free.

In the morning throw a hoodie on
It’s tied around your waist at 1
Dead leaves tumble down suburban sidewalks
A double-feature’s playing down a couple blocks
And it’s always so comforting to me
When it gets close to Halloween
We’re all a ghost story it seems
Just ghosts still existing
– “Halloween,” Observe the 93rd

“I hope our work makes people feel less alone… and maybe instigates a bit of existential wonder,” Derek Henry shares. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Observe the 93rd’s Eternalism with Atwood Magazine as Henry goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s latest album!

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:: stream/purchase Eternalism here ::
:: connect with Observe the 93rd here ::
Stream: ‘Eternalism’ – Observe the 93rd



:: Inside Eternalism ::

Eternalism - Observe the 93rd

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We Are Already Dead

‘We Are Already Dead’ is a song that sets the stage for the album’s theme, which, of course, is that of eternalism – a theory that proposes that the past, present, and future are all equally real and exist now. Given this theory, that means, at this very moment, we are simultaneously unborn, walking the earth, and long dead, like the lyrics declare. This is also what inspired the ghost imagery. The ghost represents every moment in time lingering around us, like unseen apparitions (though maybe now and then there’s a glitch and we see another part of the timeline momentarily, which could explain some alleged paranormal sightings). We are haunted not just by moments of the past, but also by our perceived future. Everything is happening, and nothing is happening, because it has already happened. Such as there are precise coordinates for all points in space, and there are precise coordinates for every moment in all of time.

Hypnotic

‘Hypnotic’ delves into the other side of this album’s imagery- ufo’s. How do ufo’s tie into the theory of eternalism? Maybe the ufo phenomenon is closer to home than we’d suppose. Maybe it’s us. Maybe when we die we are released from the clutches of time, which we perceive as constantly driving forward linearly towards entropy, and are then able to travel across the timeline of existence freely, since eternalism would grant that all points in time exist right now (“Or could it be that to die means the illusion subsides? No longer tethered to time and we are rewatching our lives.”). I’ve decided to label this as becoming a “traveler”.  We could be visiting ourselves. Similar to looking back at a scrapbook, these ‘aliens’ may be nostalgic. Maybe we are still nostalgic.

Deja Vu Slide

On ‘Deja Vu Slide’, I imagine being out enjoying the night-life as a 20-something-year-old and experiencing a sudden bout of derealization that transports me to specific memories of being a young child staying up late watching shows on Nick at Nite. I reference a couple of these shows in the intro of the song- “1 am to 2 am feeling alright, oh happy days. Come and knock on the door to my mind.” (Happy Days and Three’s Company). I also talk about experiencing deja vu (“Here and there do the Deja Vu Slide.”), as the title would suggest. If all of time simultaneously exists, that means the future has already happened. Maybe when we experience deja vu, we are actually remembering the future the same way we remember the past, whether through a glitch in the timeline or from us tuning in to a certain frequency via our consciousness. The two points in time in this song (being a child watching tv and being in my 20s out at bar) become linked via time travel, instigating both the sensation of deja vu and derealization.

Clever III

A continuation of ‘Clever Mr. Feather’ and ‘Clever II’ from our debut album ‘The Vast and Boundless’, ‘Clever III’ has our cast of characters from the previous songs (Mr. Feather, Sir Prize, and Tribal Mantis) driving home after a party when they start being followed by a strange light. They pull over and call out to the light through a cracked window but receive no response. They decide to take off and attempt to outrun the mysterious light. The song then changes to the perspective of the strange light, which is revealed to be a highly advanced craft piloted by the future, and long-dead (traveler) versions of Mr. Feather, Sir Prize, and Tribal Mantis. They eventually catch up to the “present” version of themselves, transport them into their craft, and explain the true nature of reality to them.

Stick Around

This is a song about struggling with my mental health and refusing to reach out for help for fear of being a burden to others. The verses outline my downward spiral, while the latter half of the choruses become a voice of reason, “If you hear me now, out there somehow, breathe in, breathe out, and please stick around.”. I speak to the listener in the past tense during the verses, as if this is an artifact I’ve left behind for them to stumble upon. It’s also reflective of the hopelessness I feel during these periods of anguish. The bottom line is to stick around though. It does get better. The pain subsides and we always find our way to moments we’re glad to be here for.

The Halloween Song

This is a simpler song, as it’s just about how much I love Halloween and fall. My family would always go all out for Halloween when I was a kid in the ’90s and early 2000’s. I love all the vintage decorations, the crisp feeling in the air, the leaves rustling as they pass. I’ve noticed that post-punk music feels very tied to Halloween/fall for me: The Cure, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc.. I think it’s a combination of the melancholy vibe, the darker lyrical content, and also that certain movies based around Halloween/fall seem to use these kinds of bands in their soundtrack (I reference ‘Donnie Darko’ specifically in the song’). I still touch on eternalism in this song with the lyric, “We’re all a ghost story. Just ghosts still existing.”

Gong Station Chimes

In ‘Gong Station Chimes’, I’m writing about specific moments separated by both distance and time, yet occurring simultaneously and therefore overlapping. We open the song with what’s essentially an ode to Long Tall Sally by Little Richard. I’m imagining a band playing in a popular bar during the 50’s and singing the lyrics of our song. In this section, the lyrics reference Number Stations, radio stations that militaries use to send encrypted messages. Number Stations have always had an existential aura to me. I wanted it to seem as if the fictional singer of this 50’s band was almost dropping hints and somehow knew more about the ‘big picture’. Maybe he’s a ‘traveler’ who reintegrated with society and was now leaving us breadcrumbs. Then, in the pre-chorus, we change settings to me alone in my house in 2023 struggling with depression, “I want to leave everyone alone. Tell them all I’ve wandered home to non-existence.”. This is accurate in terms of how I was feeling at the time I wrote it, but I also strategically placed these two sections of the song right next to each other for the purposes of the overarching song’s meaning. I wanted the drastic change from a ‘band in the 50s playing an upbeat song to crowd’ vibe to a very isolated and introspective section. Moments juxtaposing in time, space, feel, energy..yet nonetheless occurring simultaneously. I repeat this pattern of drastic setting changes throughout the song. The chorus takes the perspective of UFOs traveling across the timeline and helping us along in our evolution, “Look at the lovers out on a mission, shedding their skin with some assistance.”. It swiftly switches back to a moment of isolated, first-person existential pondering, “Does anyone else feel a billowing increased detachment from reality?” (another Donnie Darko reference in that line with “increased detachment from reality”). The bridge takes us to 3 different settings: a war torn country with innocent civilians struggling to escape, Bonnie and Clyde driving down that dirt road shortly before being struck down in a hail of bullets, and an omniscient narrator stating, “Nothing’s happening. These still-frames overlapping.”. When I break it down, it’s just many small stories being told. From our perspective, they’d all be from different points in history. But, in eternalism, they actually all occurred and are occurring simultaneously, as well as right now, perpetually.

Screaming

This is a song about school shootings. The verse and choruses reflect the apathetic stance many take on this topic, while the bridge highlights the horrendous aftermath of such events by reciting fragments of actual autopsy reports from the Columbine shooting.

A Sensation of Haunted

‘A Sensation of Haunted’ dives further into eternalism by describing block universe (a universe where the past, present, and future are all equally real) as a “vast cube” made up of “polaroid ghosts”. According to eternalism, every point in time is best viewed as a still-frame. This massive collection of still-frames makes up a cube of moments that all exist now and have specific coordinates, the same way all points in space do.  The first time the idea that everything has already happened crossed my mind, I was 13 years old and swinging at the park near my childhood home.  Of course, at this time I didn’t know how to articulate that thought very well, and was completely oblivious that there is an entire area of study built around this theory. As I was swinging, my shoes would graze the dirt beneath me. I make mention of this in the line, “Sneakers still scraping the dirt, that we’re both above and under.” I’m saying that, given the framework of eternalism, I am currently still on that swing pondering this idea for the first time, and I’m also both alive and dead..as we all would be.

Zimbabwe

‘Zimbabwe’ is a song about the ufo phenomenon, the main reference here being the encounter at Ariel School in Ruwa, Zimbabwe in 1994. I touch on the capabilities of the craft- “Abracadabra. Zooming in and out in place.”. This is both a reference to the Arthur C. Clarke quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” as well as Bob Lazar’s description of the pilots of such craft remaining stationary in their experience while we perceive them as zipping around at great speeds.  I also touch on the capabilities of the craft in the line, “Pewter stylus shine.” If all of time were a vinyl record, ufo’s seem to be a stylus that can drop onto any song at will. I discuss our blindspots as a species and my suspicion that our current limited understanding has us living in an illusion of sorts, similar to a fish at the bottom of the ocean. They have no concept of an atmosphere above the surface of the water, land past the shores, outer space past our spherical terrarium, etc… In fact, they don’t even know they’re in water. I suspect that we are living a very similar experience and are oblivious to anything at the fundamental level of the nature of reality.

Who Will Find My Body?

This is a song about depression, loneliness, and the slippery slope of beginning to lose the internal battles. It’s about the work I’ve done towards coping with deteriorating and the negative voice gaining power again. It’s about an overwhelming feeling of pessimism regarding my own existence spiraling out of control. It’s about waking up in the morning and feeling the weight of existential dread crushing my ribcage into my lungs.  But, it’s also about something else very important- being aware of it.  Conscious awareness of all of this happening in your subjective world allows you to not simply be a victim at the mercy of agony. It affords you the chance to take back control. Writing this song was an exorcism.

liminal space

This song is about one point in space containing every moment that will ever occur there all at once.

Glimpse

The chorus of this song is about coping with death and loss. The verses ponder the theory of eternalism and find a certain comfort in the prospects proposed by the theory. Given the theory, we never really die, and we have also been dead all along. All of our favorite moments exist now, and will eternally. I compare time again to a vinyl record, and our lifetime is just a small part of a song that our consciousness was lucky enough to get to hear, “Melodies on a vinyl all exist, but you only hear the music where the needle hits. This is our window, our glimpse.”. I reference me being on the swing again at the park near my childhood home. When I would get to the highest point of my swing trajectory, I could always see this old stone house in the distance where The Bill of Rights was partially written. Now that house has been torn down. Given eternalism’s framework though, that house has always been gone. It was there while I was swinging, and simultaneously a ruin of the past, as was I. “At the peak of my swing a stone house came into view. It has since been forgotten, replaced, consumed. This will be my fate too.”. Our memories are always unfolding somewhere, somewhere.

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:: stream/purchase Eternalism here ::
:: connect with Observe the 93rd here ::

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Eternalism - Observe the 93rd

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