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.
Back in September our indisputable leader Alkahest laid down the outline for the beginning of the Parallax story in his two-part column on the story that came before The Parallax II: Future Sequence, and he did a hell of a job with it. However, with his growing schedule of school, an internship, a day job, and his usual work put into this blog, he didn’t really have time to devote to the next installment of *prognotes, so the task was delegated to me. For weeks I have been listening and re-listening to this album, scouring over the lyrics, liner notes and various interviews with the band in order to piece together this concept. It is a highly vague story, and while the lyrics are well written and often times quite beautiful, they lead a lot to be desired in terms or clarity. That hasn’t stopped me from putting many hours of thought and effort into unraveling it, though. So join me as I take you through the last chapter in this expansive concept, and hopefully we can put some of that confusion to bed.
I want to reiterate one thing that Jimmy said in his original articles; we apologise if some of the explanations are aimless, or even completely incorrect. The theories and interpretation in these articles are simply that; our interpretations. Everything outlined here is subject to change if enough evidence to the contrary is presented. Please feel free to elaborate and come up with your own ideas of the story and continue the discussion in the comments section below.
Goodbye to Everything
The Parallax II: Future Sequence begins in an unexpected place; not at the end of The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, but at the end of the concept as a whole. It features an unknown voice (of Tommy Rodgers) discussing whether or not he is still alive, and if he was ever that to begin with, and finally concluding that he needs to “switch off” and axcept death, uttering one last final good-bye before drifting off.
I wonder if I’m alive
Open your eyes
Can you hear me?
Look at what’s in front of you
An endless journey
What do you see?
What do you feel?
Were we ever really alive?
You know this is the right choice
Let’s switch off together
Let’s float to no more
Goodbye to everything
The voice is unknown, as the lyric booklet just features the lyrics to the song, but leaves out any mention of who is speaking, as opposed to every other line of lyrics on the two Parallax albums, where the speaker is made clear. It seems like an obvious omission in order to encapsulate all of the characters that will meet their end by the closing of this album, and this story.
Analyze my own matter from above
Blacked out eyes in an existence overgrown
Never fall back down
Trapped in myself
It would seem that at this point Prospect 2 is looking at himself by way of astral projection. The blacked out eyes refers to his now lifeless body — sleeping — while his mind hovers above himself, and contemplates his overgrown existence — his life has either lasted too long, or he has spread himself too thin.
Sold my hands
Can’t find the one
I slowly start to cut pieces of flesh from my body
Dig in and dissect
Collecting examples of what the outside world sees
Under it all
I know the devastation I have caused
Upon myself and this world
Here we see Prospect 2 truly losing it. In Hypersleep Dialogues we found out that Prospect 2 was tasked with creating new life by way of a machine — a failsafe to prevent the end of all humankind — a machine that rendered him almost godlike.
To create. To recreate.
Have I become a god? I have been called much worse.
Secretly that title makes me feel comfortable.
— ‘Augments of Rebirth’, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
But now, lost in his own thought, trapped in his astral body, he is losing control, and has somehow convinced himself that the way to atone for his sins, the ‘devastation I have caused/ Upon myself and this World‘ is by cutting away pieces of his own body; particularly the cosmetic aspects of his flesh ‘Collecting Examples of what the outside world sees.’
Speak to me freely
I am listening
This part is pretty clear. Prospect 2 is simply seeking answers from … someone. It could be a higher power, or Prospect 1, the walking mirror. Either way, he is confused, and we can infer that he doesn’t quite know what he has gotten himself into. Let’s continue.
Lay Your Ghosts To Rest
Once again, this song takes place from the point of view of Prospect 2 — this is a common occurrence for this album, so get used to it — and as I said before, this is basically the second part of ‘Astral Body’, so the timeline is pretty close, whereas when we get further along in the story, things will start to get wonky. This song also marks the beginning of the main story that will unfold throughout the album. The main problem for the story is set up, and we will see the events transpire around this incident later on in the album.
Under it all
A new world
A new world made with the hands of madness
They will always do the cutting
Piece by piece the pain gets worse
If only I could see myself right now
The lyrics are not very clear here, but it would seem that Prospect 2 is no longer in his astral state, and has finally come to full consciousness within his body as he says ‘If only I could see myself right now’, and if he were in his astral projection, he would be able to see himself, so we can deduce that this is not the case. Along with coming into his body again, he can now see what he has been doing while floating around. It would appear that during his episode in his astral state Prospect 2 unknowingly created life from the flesh he cut from himself, ‘A new world made with the hands of madness.’ He goes on to say that his hands will always do the cutting, as if it is his destiny for him to be doing this, despite the consequences. Unfortunately, here is where things get a little… weird.
The gathering of flesh
Transforming my face into an unrecognizable state
Smooth out the eyes
Smooth out the lips
Every mirror is a past idea smashed upon recognition (These selfish reasons… the letter is all I left for explaining)
The majority of these lyrics deal with ideas we have already discussed; the cutting of his flesh, particularly the cosmetic aspects — his face, eyes, lips — and how even though he has come into full consciousness, he still continues to mutilate himself, because he feels responsible for the all the horrible things that have happened — remember, he is one of the three that helped destroy the tree of life on his planet. The last line, and the unsung lyrics ‘These selfish reasons… the letter is all I left for explaining’ are especially interesting, as we have not encountered any references to a letter in Hypersleep Dialogues, or any of the other tangential songs in the BTBAM catalog. Prospect 2 also goes on to say that what he is doing — spreading life, mutilating himself — are for selfish reasons. As of yet, we do not know what he means by that, but as the song continues his mind stays focused on this letter he wrote.
Will it be found?
Will the right hands deliver?
The heartache I left
This is pretty cut and dry, as Prospect 2 is just ruminating on whether or not the letter he wrote will reach the right hands, or if it will be found at all, as it was obviously a point of great pain that he had to leave.
Cut until all that is left is new material
Day in, day out
Deep down I know what I must do
Prospect 2 is still cutting away pieces of his flesh, despite knowing what he has created, he still continues, sure that if he does, his body will renew itself, and all that will be left will be new material. His reasoning for this isn’t explicit, but I think we can assume that the character is pretty disgusted with himself, and wants to rid the world of himself, and be born anew. At least on purely surface level, that is. The last line states that ‘Deep down I know what I must do’, as of yet we the audience do not really know what he must do, but with the phrasing of this statement we can surmise that the decision must be very difficult, and possibly contrary to his current actions.
So much happens behind closed doors
So much happens behind our closed doors
This key will open them
Expose us all
Here I believe Prospect 2 is once again thinking about his old life, and his old planet. So much happened behind the closed doors of his life, so many things they did wrong, and he feels guilty for that, but he finds a small shred of consolation in the letter that he wrote, or the ‘key’, which he believes will expose and explain all of his actions, and possibly make amends for said actions, in some small way.
Awakened by my grunts and moans
Why do I do this to myself?
I suppose the choice was all mine
God felt so much better before the mirror glimpse
On the surface I know what I must do
Here Prospect 2 is just saying that he has recently woken up, and he contemplates a number of things and asks ‘Why do I do this to myself?’, which may refer to simply mutilating himself as he has been doing since the record began, or he could be referring to everything else at large; the entire journey that he has taken upon himself. He says ‘God felt so much better before the mirror glimpse‘, and as I already pointed out, many people from Prospect 2′s old planet — and himself — saw him as a god, and when he utters these lines we see just what an impact ‘the mirror glimpse’ — seeing and feeling Prospect 1′s existence — has had on our character. He no longer feels like a great and powerful being, and possibly he feels weak, and useless. The entire song reeks of self-deprecation, and the song title itself ‘Lay Your Ghosts to Rest’ may refer to the idea of leaving the past behind, starting anew, but with so much pain and wrong-doing in his past, that’s not something Prospect 2 can really do at this point. Other than cutting off his flesh in the vain hope that he will be reborn, there isn’t much he can do to forgive his actions, and even this action seems useless, and he knows it, as is evident by the statement ‘On the surface I know what I must do’.
The precaution documents
The failsafe way back “home”.
Should I end it right here and now?
That would be far too selfish
I shall end what I’ve begun
The creation of more
More of us
The skin and bones of destruction
An army of weak souls
(Written in a language I can understand. My brilliance seems questioned with these instructions. Fairly obvious for precaution documents I suppose. The “Night Owls” always send me back. Seems to be in their DNA)
I wake to my own whimper
Ship is counting down
Must regroup myself
The end starts now
This entire sequence is probably the oddest part of the song’s narrative, but it’s also kind of the coolest, as we finally get a glimpse at what Prospect 2 ‘must do’. This section is referred to as Folder 502, and appears to be a set of documents that outline a way back “home”, a failsafe in the event that Prospect 2′s journey should encounter trouble. We can assume that this is a drastic measure, as Prospect 2 is so reluctant to utilize it, saying ‘That would be far too selfish’. He resigns to continue on his path, creating life on other planets, sowing the seed of humanity, despite the fact that the lifeforms he has created are weak of mind and weak of soul, and will eventually create their own destruction, like the people of Prospect 2′s world — ‘More of us/ The skin and bones of destruction’.
In the end Prospect 2 says ‘The “Night Owls” always send me back. Seems to be in their DNA’ and then he fades out, and falls asleep within his ship. This is the most interesting part of the entire song, and yet the band saw fit to exclude these lyrics from being sung. What a shame. For those not completely versed in Between the Buried and Me lyric-ology, I will explain shortly who these “Night Owls” are, but let us examine the end of this song first. The line ‘The “Night Owls” always send me back’ could refer to many different things, but as Prospect 2 is simply sitting within his ship, contemplating things right now, i believe it just means that they cause him to reminiscing on his actions, and cause him to think of home. In the end he falls asleep, still contemplating everything that has happened, but soon awakes to the sound of his ship counting down — for what, we do not know. He ‘regroups’ himself, assuring himself that the end will soon begin.
Now, back to the issue of The Night Owls. Explaining who they are will be pretty easy, but it’s going to take us on a bit of a diversion back to the song ‘Fossil Genera – A Feed From Cloud Mountain’, off of 2009′s The Great Misdirect.
Meet The Night Owls: Fossil Genera – A Feed From Cloud Mountain
Like most things revolving around this story, that’s a lot to take in, but I’m going to break it down like I’ve been doing for the Future Sequence songs, so strap in, there is a lot of information at hand.
Beyond the satellites:
Sweet candy populous… a worry free entrance into the world’s history.
Never underestimate… never think beyond their thoughts.
The satellites have been trapped and Cloud Mountain will carry on the commands of our ancestors.
Indeed we work from here. We have for centuries… hearing every breath… watching every disease.
(You must accept this truth)
The song starts and states that beyond the satellites — a.k.a., the planets of the universe — there lies a place called ‘Cloud Mountain’, which is described as having a ‘sweet candy populous’ and ‘a worry free entrance into the world’s history.’ The song also states that the ‘satellites’ have been trapped and that the beings who live at Cloud Mountain will continue the work that their ancestors laid out before them. The beings that live here also wield great power and knowledge, and they state that they hear every breath and watch every disease, and the way this is said implies that they also have the power to ultimately decide what affect these — and many other things — could have on a society and the universe as a whole. But more importantly the song states to never underestimate these creatures. Foreboding words.
Below the satellites:
The leaders are driving to the farthest retreat. Sit back, relax, enjoy the ride.
They have been speaking for years.
Every night while you are asleep they have been discussing what the future holds for us all.
The outer space takeover. Worlds collide in a dreary pre-determined idea brought by our fellow night owls.
Their stories have been mocked… their ideas have been crushed… but after last night they control every idea we will think from here on out.
A government overthrown…
We have come to tell you all that we could have prepared for this.
The night owl speaks overhead:
The apocalypse (at least our apocalypse) will happen sooner than we think if we don’t read the journals our station has prepared for you all.
We call ourselves the “night owls”.
We’ve roamed the earth for years and kept your world afloat.
We’ve made it so you stay comfortable in your precious homes.
While you sleep,we discuss. Discuss our future… your future.
Our journals give detailed instructions on the machines and weapons we must build.
These are weapons that none of you would even begin to think could harm the outside world…
Everything you know is false… your first instinct is now your last.
Like I’ve said before… we have been discussing and planning this for decades.
(Trust is essential)
We don’t have time to explain everything, but just know that everything will soon change.
Trust us and we will all be safe. We are the new government.
The second stage of the song takes place ‘below the satellites’ presumably on Earth or a similar planet. We learn that a plan has been unfolding for many years, simply described as ‘The outer space takeover’, and despite many warnings, these creatures have been mocked for what they had to say by the inhabitants of the planet below the satellites. The speaker of the song then lets us know that this is okay, because now these creatures control all thought, and all governments have been overthrown. We also learn who set these plans in motion, and they refer to themselves as ‘The Night Owls’, and even though it’s not explicitly stated, we can definitely infer that The Night Owls are the beings of old that came from Cloud Mountain.
The Night Owls make it pretty clear as to what they are doing; taking over the world in order to stop the apocalypse — or at least their apocalypse. They also make clear that they have had great control over the course of history, keeping worlds afloat through their influence. The Night Owls then instruct the populous of this planet to follow the measures laid out in their stations —- think Folder 502 — as their plans and journals will allow for the creation of great machines and weapons, born from seemingly benign objects that the outside world would never have suspected as being dangerous. Then The Night Owls tell the populous to trust them, as they have been watching over humanity for some time, and they know what’s best. The end of this stage simply states that everything will change very soon.
Before the satellites:
In simple times we must take control.
With simple skies we create… more sky.
A simple land we must change… for man… is god.
A simple life we must break… Move forward
How fast we grow…
We must move on.
The third stage of the song is probably the most telling and takes place ‘before the satellites’ which I have taken to mean before the rise of human civilization. At the dawn of humanity we see the beginning of The Night Owl’s plan; not to save humanity, like they would have had the future populous believe, but in order for them, The Night Owls, to grow — they did say they wanted to stop their apocalypse. But how would taking a strangle hold over humanity in its early days,‘ In simple times we must take control’, and influencing their development prevent the destructive of The Night Owls? Well the lyrics say it right out, ‘A simple land we must change… for man… is god/ A simple life we must break… Move forward.’ Here is the reasoning for The Night Owl’s plan. Humanity, if left unchecked and allowed to grow on their own will eventually become gods, and threaten the existence of these creatures. In order for The Night Owls to continue on as a species, probably trying to become gods themselves, they must make sure that humanity suffers.
Now, while ‘Fossil Genera’ is not technically a part of the Parallax world, it does feature tangential information, like ‘Sun of Nothing’ and a few other songs. So it is not too terribly hard to relate this stand alone story to the much larger Parallax concept as a whole. Using what we already know, we can infer a lot about the unfolding story of Future Sequence. We know that a great catastrophe fell upon the populous of Prospect 2′s planet, caused by the actions of the ‘three’ — which included Prospect 2. To counteract this circumstance Prospect 2 left his planet in a machine that rendered him near godlike, giving him the ability to sow life by way of planting souls among the various planets of the universe.
In the song ‘Lay Your Ghosts to Rest’ we learn that this vessel contains one other thing, Folder 502, a failsafe document given to Prospect 2 by The Night Owls. This fact spells out many things for the Parallax story, and I don’t think it is too wild of an assumption to say that a similar situation befell the populous of Prospect 2′s planet as it did to the planet in ‘Fossil Genera’. It seems obvious at this point that Prospect 2′s world was invaded by the Night Owls for their own advancement, to stop the populous from becoming gods. However, with the great power that Prospect 2 now wields we have to ask ourselves, did The Night Owls fail, or is this all a part of their plan? I have money on the latter.
We also know that after Prospect 2 left his planet he soon began to encounter visions of the walking mirror, Prospect 1. A being who, while unknown lengths of time and space apart from Prospect 2, shared a consciousness with him. Being faced with these visions began to disturb both Prospects, but as Prospect 2 was being faced with the annihilation of his planet, these visions seem to be affecting him in a much more adverse manner than Prospect 1. Soon after these visions began, and just before the beginning of Future Sequence, Prospect 2 came to a startling revelation; his planet and home have been destroyed. Was this also the result of the Night Owl’s involvement? It’s a good bet.
Knowing what we now know, we must also relate this information to Prospect 1, a very confused man who is also facing an unknown terror. We know that the two Prospects share many things in common, least of all being a consciousness, so I think we can safely make another assumption; Prospect 1′s planet is also being assaulted by The Night Owls, maybe not as openly as Prospect 2′s was, or at least not yet, but I think a similar fate will fall upon Prospect 1 and Earth unless these two find a way to break The Night Owls cycle of destruction.
Whew, okay, like I said, that’s a lot to take in. Stay tuned-in as I continue to decipher this record. There’s a ton of cool shit about to happen, and I really want to get it out, but for pacing reasons we have to stop here for now, as I’ve already breached four thousand words, but don’t worry, the next installments will be shorter. There’s already a lot to take in from this first article and I’m sure that people will already have a much better understanding of events from this one piece. I bet several of you have already begun figuring out the rest of the concept at this point! Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for part two. Cheers!