We at Heavy Blog love concept albums. There’s something special and thought-provoking when a band is able to communicate a good story through music and lyrics, and it’s a phenomenon that seems to be most prevalent in progressive rock and metal, which just so happens to be our main collective genre of interest. *prognotes is a play on the idea of *sparknotes, a website that aims to help readers understand the context and story of books. We’ve always wanted to highlight and detail the stories of our favorite concept albums, and we’ve finally gotten around to doing just that. Have a suggestion for an album you’d like us to cover? Let us know! – Ed.
Last week, we gave you an overview of the story leading up to The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, which I highly recommend you read if you want to know the story outlined below. This week, we dissect the events that take place during the actual EP. Unfortunately, the story taking place in Hypersleep Dialogues is vague and open to many interpretations, and hopefully will be elaborated upon when The Parallax II: Future Sequence comes out this October.
The story so far is… it’s kind of an introduction to these two characters, and one of the characters is where… “Swim to the Moon” on The Great Misdirect left off. These two guys live on separate planets in separate times of existence, I guess. They’re on separate journeys and they’re kind of slowly coming closer to each other without knowing it, and they have some connections, which we’ll find out later. The EP’s pretty much an intro to what’s going on, so it’s kind of vague. So when you read the lyrics, it’s kind of hard to understand what’s going on. But yeah, it will all make a lot more sense… whenever the next record comes out [laughs]! But most of the time these two guys are just spending time by themselves, you know? They’re on these journeys—one guy’s making his way back home… they’re both kind of making their way back home, whatever their “home” is… and there’s lots of odd things happening to prevent them from actually getting back there. I dunno… I hate how vague it is right now, but at the same time it’s kinda cool because people don’t really know what the hell is going on, and we like that [laughs]!
– Tommy Rogers [via Heavy Blog is Heavy]
Apologies if the explanations seem scattered and aimless. As the story is kept vague, know that the theory and interpretations below may have inaccuracies and is subject to change open release of The Parallax II: Future Sequence. Please feel free to elaborate and come up with your own ideas of the story and continue the discussion in the comments section below.
It is known that our two characters are connected in some way and are going through similar struggles, and they may be some cosmic “mirror image” of each other. This theme continues with the title of the opening track ‘Specular Reflection’:
Specular reflection is the mirror-like reflection of light (or of other kinds of wave) from a surface, in which light from a single incoming direction (a ray) is reflected into a single outgoing direction.
The first track on Hypersleep Dialogues picks up with Prospect 1, who has drifted out to sea during ‘Swim to the Moon.’ Lyrics from the song imply that Prospect 1 has been unconscious and floating out at sea, making a crash landing of sorts on an island, or perhaps even “The Moon.”
A twisted crash… vibrations forming my personal currency.
A lifeline… a sweatbox, the linear mind as one.
Who would have thought?
This distant face…
Distant life… never before seen.
Deep sleep in deep sea. Nerves are torn from their ends.
It has been three nights and still the puzzle is cut by a shaky hand.
Carved out of improper materials… imperfect directions.
A crushing sound soon awakes. Where am I?
The taste of sand wipes away the grime of my past life…
The life I fled… the grip I loosened.
It has all caused an even pressure. The kind they show us on our screens.
I’ve become what I’ve force fed my entire life… a drifter’s dream… a loner’s mind.
Wanting what they have… their perfect smiles and heartless lusts.
On night four they come back.
Awaiting a new life. Over and over… like I’ve been there before.
Living and breathing, but still choking.
A mirror stares back. I contort the wheels in my head…
Still nothing happens. Please wake up.
Perhaps Prospect 1 has been jolted awake from his sleep at sea and washes ashore at some island — whether real or just in his own mind. He has left his past life behind, just like he wanted. Still, something doesn’t seem right. He’s disoriented and confused about where he is, maybe even showing initial signs of regret. He’s alive and well, but he’s still having trouble breathing… He also pleads to be woken up. Perhaps he is in a coma or still in some form of sleep, or maybe he just thinks he is because of this surreal new location.
During this event, he may be becoming aware of Prospect 2 in his own mind, seeing visions of a “distant face” and referencing a mirror that stares back. Signs are starting to point to some sort of connection that these two characters have, similar to the phenomenon in the Harry Potter universe where Harry and Voldemort catch brief glimpses of each other in their minds.
Meanwhile, Prospect 2’s planet is on the brink of destruction, and he is on a mission of sorts. His “lover” (the headless wonder that sprouted a tree of life-esque plant from her neck in ‘Prequel to the Sequel’) is dead ( or “wilted away”), which brings about the end of the world (depicted in ‘Lost Perfection’). Prospect 2 is introduced:
I open my eyes to the smell of morning skin.
The soft touch of your hair.
Your breath I breathe in.
The reality chases and catches up on actual alertness.
I’m awake… a daydream… alone. Silence.
This is the last few years rolled into one new instance.
I need something new.
I jerk back in and out of a daydream self.
A backwards day… water surrounds.
A cool breeze wrapping its smell around my skin.
The mid day siren awakes what was a false idea of sleep.
Daydream society. Walking past what we used to see.
(The runner’s come to a halt. The air seems half full.)
Walking into a certain state of suffocation.
Confusion surrounds… day after day.
The questions I face… the dealings I deal.
Do I complete me? Do I complete humanity?
This day will determine it all.
It could be interpreted at this point that Prospect 2 is dreaming of his life prior to these events. The first paragraph of his introduction may refer to the time when he was with his lover before he is thrust back into the gravity of his current situation in the second paragraph, although this is challenged later during ‘Augment of Rebirth’.
He is faced with the silence that is mentioned in ‘Lost Perfection.’ He begins to “jerk back in and out of a daydream self” which sounds an awful lot like Prospect 1’s journey during ‘Swim to the Moon.’ Like Prospect 1, Prospect 2 also seems to have trouble breathing. The connections between the two characters are getting stronger. He knows what mission he’s on, and his final solo lyrics in the song foreshadow his role in saving humanity.
The lyrics end with both Prospects repeating the song’s chorus, ending with the unsung lyrics, “please wake me up.” Literally or figuratively in either case is unsure, but there is a blurry line between consciousness and unconsciousness and it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins in this story.
Augment of Rebirth
Although ‘Augment of Rebirth’ begins with Prospect 2, we’re going to start with Prospect 1’s lyrics. The order doesn’t really appear to be too significant and may only be that way for better aid in phrasing and songwriting:
Mind bending strategy game. Running through obstacles on a land never ventured.
Every night. Every wake. Alone but not for long.
The signals worked. Did I want this? I must go back and explain my reasonings. Worse things have happened. Worse things will happen.
The old atlas is found. No matter what I do it’s been done… it’s been worse.
This is not reassuring. Imperfect. Improper. Extinct.
They have found me.
A new journey.
Prospect 1 is on this new land and dealing with life on the island. This mind-bending strategy game may simply be the act of survival. He seems to be regretting his decision to float away at sea and has built a signal to try to get help. He begins to question his motives, and brushes off his attempt at escape from life. After all, worse things have happened and will happen, and whatever it is that he has done will not be the worst thing to ever happen. Even still, he’s not reassured. “They” have found him, perhaps the people he was looking to signal and he is to be rescued.
Augment of Rebirth is largely Prospect 2’s song, as he deals with his own journey and mission:
Memories left behind. A new life, a new journey. I’ve built anew.
For mankind… for my kind.
The vessel stares back at me. From every angle, the menacing smile latches on.
Talking walls speak and spell my life story.
My past life.
The vessel sleeps beside me… the comfort breath.
Morning skin of machines, of humanity’s beginnings.
Am I God? I’ve been called worse… drift in and out.
The vessel brings me sleep.
Whatever this vessel is (mechanical? biological?), is is what puts Prospect 2 into a state of Hypersleep. Maybe it is some sort of chamber that puts him into stasis, allowing space travel to continue at what feels like a faster rate while preserving his mind and body (a la Prometheus as a recent example). While in hypersleep, he might be able to get visions of Prospect 1 or even flashbacks to past events. Part two continues:
I approach unfamiliar ground. Left standing with the air swirling silently.
A creepy siren, the siren of loneliness.
Twisting, falling, and screaming.
Please break me out.
The crumbling starts. Inch by inch the ground takes over.
The wretched clench of my insides.
Unspeakable anguish… this fucking contortion.
Awake, mime standing.
Air swirling around me… silent.
Siren of loneliness. This is real isn’t it? Can’t tell these days, the longest fucking days.
Why the anger I wonder?
(The mission must stay focused. I work day in and day out.)
To create. To recreate.
Have I become a god? I have been called much worse.
Secretly that title makes me feel comfortable.
In my place. It’s been a while. This god-like complex does bring me a smile.
To create. To recreate.
Down to the last seed I stand with a dark stare. Still silent, still frighteningly silent. I must leave myself.
That’s what all of this has gotten me… infinite life? Conquering of death.
The seed is planted.
Time to move on. What have I become?
I’ll make my own life seem new.
Face all of my mistakes and grow.
He is working on completing his mission, perhaps an attempt at re-planting life, going by the act of planting seeds and feeling god-like. This God-like complex occurs as he comes into the role as a savior of sorts. He has conquered death in some sense and he may be able to use his knowledge to prevent it from happening to others, an act that is quite god-like. He becomes obsessed with this idea, it seems, and lingers on it. He eventually comes to the conclusion that he must move on and grow from this experience.
The title of ‘Lunar Wilderness’ may be a reference to Prospect 1’s surroundings and adds some confirmation that he has made it to his idea of ‘The Moon’. The lush music in the intro does a great job of creating a soundscape that builds the scenery of ‘The Moon.’
Many days and fewer nights… so I’m told.
I’ve lost my time years ago… so I’m told.
The explaining. The whispered words.
This will be the hardest part… so I’m told.
I wish my mind would work… unfold.
The explaining. The whispered words.
The front doors opened to the look of death. Will this make sense? Will this be comforting at all?
The questions dive in day and and night. Nothing we can do. Nothing I can do.
Twists and turns must be answered.
I hit land… so it seems.
The dirt chokes up my legs… strong air then shoots down my throat.
Sensory overload in an instant of sense.
Charting through the old water that I pushed away to drown.
To find and be found.
This is what I’ve set out to do. Where is this door?
Prospect 1 has lost his perception of time and is in sort of a daze. In ‘Augment of Rebirth‘, he mentioned having to explain his reasoning, and it looks like he’s having to do that now and it’s not being taken well, as any other suicide attempt. He speaks of hitting land again, making his way back through the body of water he found himself in during ‘Swim to the Moon.‘ He’s on his way back home, it seems. But still, there’s this sense of confusion and unease with everything.
This is the climax of Hypersleep Dialogues, where we discover who Prospect 2 is and what he’s doing, which we’ve outlined last week.
The constant movement of my eyes. I can feel but I can’t open the lids. The back of my skin is scarred, torn and broken.
A reflection of what I’ve seen. (What have I become?)
They let these people recreate. Maybe I should have ended it all. Too late?
Moving forward is a must.
Commence sleep inside sleep.
(An out of focus picture brings up a familiar scenario. Three people fill the room. There seems to be a fourth, but very small. We are speaking about some sort of mission. My mouth won’t stop moving… talking way too much. Even through the blur I can feel their stares. This one sided discussion seems to be about what I am preventing. Is this a sign? Too late… I’ve said it before. The people then disappear. I look about and the western sky seems to be red… alone. I can smell burning flesh… scorched life. I turn around and the face of death stares so grim that the lids finally open…)
I’m close… very close. But something isn’t right.
A horrifying realization is swept over me.
Home. The empty space of home.
All I’ve known is gone. All I’ve loved is lost.
The parenthetical lyrics are not in the song, only available in the liner notes and lyric websites that have the full transcription. It’s the ‘plot twist’ of the story, as we discover he’s a character mentioned previously in BTBAM’s discography.
People on his home planet may have been recreating and multiplying, but they did not have the resources to sustain the population. Perhaps he had an opportunity to end it himself but didn’t take the chance. It looks as though there’s a possibility that the EP from his point of view up to this point has been a flashback or series of memories coming back to him while he’s been in stasis and on his way to Prospect 1’s planet to find a way to cure his own. He remembers what happened while he’s in a deep sleep inside his vessel (noticing that his skin is scarred, torn and broken, possibly a reference to the lyrics “the skies open up, the flames pour in” during ‘Lost Perfection’) and comes to the conclusion that he’s too late. His home planet — all he’s ever known and loved — is now lost. The whole EP has foreshadowed this fate with the constant theme “silence.” The lyrics of ‘Lost Perfection’ speak of loud noises until “the noise stops.”
“Regarding the concept of The Parallax II: Future Sequence, the new full-length album picks up where the 2011 EP, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, left off. The two main characters of the story take on a journey through space and time with the unenviable task of having to cure the flaws of humanity by any means necessary. While the EP served mostly as an introduction to the characters, Future Sequence contains the action of the story. The lyrics are written in the stream of consciousness style, which really helps to capture the perspective and emotion of the characters. We really enjoyed the challenge of writing this record, and I think we were all pleasantly surprised with how well the music and lyrics jived with one another. I couldn’t be happier with how Future Sequence turned out,”
– Paul Waggoner [via Metal Blade]
So now with Prospect 2’s planet destroyed, he’s on his way to Prospect 1’s planet, where they will meet and try to save humanity. It will only get more interesting from here, so be prepared for October 9th when Between the Buried and Me’s The Parallax II: Future Sequence is released via Metal Blade Records. Below, hear a song from the later half of the record, ‘Telos’ (meaning ‘end’ or ‘goal’) which includes the lyrics “Goodbye to all I’ve known. I love you.” Doesn’t sound promising for our Prospects!