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 I undertook the monumental task of deciphering Between the Buried and Me‘s latest release, the immense concept album, The Parallax II: Future Sequence. While I broke over four thousand words in that article, I really only made it through two real songs on the album, and one song from a completely different album! Pretty nuts. In this article I will hopefully make it through the majority of the album, and continue on my path of offering in depth analyses of the songs.
Once again 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.
This is a simple interlude track. Even though we have only heard three songs prior to this track, two of them were pretty intense. So while this may not add anything to the Parallax story, it is a nice little break in the music; it allows the audience to rest their ears before the assault that is ‘Extremophile Elite’.
Before we start the analysis of the song’s lyrics, lets discuss the song title, as I have learned that a lot of people are not familiar with the term ‘extremophile”
An organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth.
This title is obviously referring to the album’s two main characters, the dual Prospects. They have both shown that they are able to survive trying times, and they are both on two separate yet equally dangerous missions, even if we are not completely clued into what these missions happen to be.
This song marks the first time that we encounter Prospect 1 in the album, and he has quite a few things to say to all of us. The song begins in a weird place, as the chronology is a bit off. The track begins with a short monologue from Prospect 1′s point of view, where he discusses how he felt when he finally encountered his walking mirror, Prospect 2.
To see one’s self is hard to explain
Last night was the first notion of this
Once again real life and dreams are whirling amongst one another
Space flight navigator
A walking mirror
To grasp the other hand
To hear the other speak
Carve one’s skin out of their own soil
Sends chills throughout my body
This passage is pretty simple, as it’s just Prospect 1 talking about how he felt when he finally met Prospect 2, which happened a night ago from his point of view. He says that ‘real life and dreams are whirling amongst one another’, as the meeting of one’s own self in a different body is probably a lot to take in, and that the entire experience — and simply thinking about it — gives him chills. After this brief monologue we get to see how the two Prospects actually meet. We are thrown back in time just a bit, as Prospect 1 describes the series of events that led to the first physical encounter between the two Prospects.
Wake up to a dirt covered surrounding
Machines in the distance
Something far too familiar
The world comes to a screeching halt when I cover my ears
Lift off the hands and the claws work again
The machines deafen my ears with such extremity
Constant maze from digging graves
I bury my head in the dirt
It all stops
As I said before this part of the story takes place from Prospect 1′s point of view. We can assume that he is still on the island he landed on during Hypersleep Dialogues, and it doesn’t appear to be that pleasant of a place. The sound of machines in the distant — that are apparently digging graves — is growing so loud that it is causing Prospect 1 a great deal of pain. He tries to cover his ears with his hands, but the sound persists. Doing whatever he can to rid himself of the awful sounds, he buries his head in the ground, and finally he is given some peace.
This sends bliss throughout me
Upside down dreaming
The sound of earth soothes my entire body
Real life and dreams are whirling
(A hand lifts my head out of the dirt)
Pulling hairs from what seems to be my brain
I see him… me… us?
The walking mirror
It feels a little silly to say this but here Prospect 1 is describing how it felt to have his head buried in the ground. He says the sound of the Earth is soothing, and he is given a sense of bliss. But then the phrase ‘Real life and dreams are whirling’ rears its head again, which was used earlier in the song, as well as other precious instances, when Prospect 1 was talking about Prospect 2, and that’s exactly why the line is used again, as an indication that the two Prospects are encountering one another, but this time it is actually in the flesh. At this point in Prospect 1′s story, he feels someone lifting him out of the dirt by his hair, and when he comes out of the ground he sees his walking mirror — Prospect 2 — and fades out, presumably falling asleep.
Eyes slowly open as dust clouds surround me
Speak to me freely
I am listening
And here we are once again, hearing from the perspective of Prospect 2. Last time we heard from him his ship was counting down for an unknown reason, and he was preparing himself for whatever undertaking he was about to impart on. The first line clues us in as to why his ship was counting down and where he was headed, ‘Eyes slowly open as dust clouds surround me’. For those paying attention you will have noticed the fact that this line is extremely familiar to one we just recently heard from Prospect 1, ‘Wake up to a dirt covered surrounding’. From this simple information we can surmise that Prospect 2′s destination at the end of ‘Lay Your Ghosts To Rest’ was Earth, and now he has finally arrived. We do not know his exact motivations for coming to Earth, but I believe he has somehow found a way to hone in on Prospect 1′s location by listening to and interpreting Prospect 1′s thoughts — but maybe not entirely on purpose — which would explain the reoccurring phrase ‘Speak to me freely/ I am listening’. Now that we know Prospect 2 is on Earth, and we know that he is looking for Prospect 1 — even though I do not think he is completely aware of this fact — at this point we will see his side of the same story that Prospect 1 was just talking about.
The clanking of machines scream in the distance
I strain in order to get up
Soon I stumble down a dirt hill and see a buried man
Just his skull is underground
Once again real life and dreams are whirling amongst one another
Walking into a certain state of desperation
(Dig deep into the soil to lift the mans head. It pulls out of the ground with ease.)
All in all, these lyrics are pretty straight forward. There are no metaphors or cryptic messages, it is just a simple explanation of going from point A to point B. The first line mentions the din of the grave sifting machines that were assaulting Prospect 1′s ears, and Prospect 2 says that he is having trouble getting up, possibly because he too cannot handle the monstrous sounds of the machines in the distant. Prospect 2 goes on to say that he stumbled down a hill, and sees a man with his head buried in the ground — who we know to be Prospect 1 as the audience has already heard that side of the story. As Prospect 2 approaches Prospect 1 the familiar line of ‘real life and dreams are whirling amongst one another‘ is heard once more. It would seem by merely glimpsing his walking mirror in person, Prospect 2′s mind starts to feel disoriented and he has began to have a feeling of desperation. Eventually Prospect 2 digs the man out of the ground, apparently coming out quite easily.
Carve one’s skin out of their own soil
Sends chills throughout my body
It is a corpse
Something is buried where his head once lay
A note… my note
My hands shake and I fall to my knees
Slowly read… “please know I love…”
And here is the real climax of the song. We find out that the body of Prospect 1 is “dead” — which we are interpreting as ‘unconscious’, as the audience knows Prospect 1 is still alive, because the first verse of the song takes place after this story took place. We also discover that the body of Prospect 1 contains the note that Prospect 2 mentioned in ‘Lay Your Ghosts to Rest’, ‘(These selfish reasons… the letter is all I left for explaining)/Will it be found?/Will the right hands deliver?/The heartache I left’.
This is a big revelation for the story. Prospect 2′s sole justification for his mission was the hope that his letter would reach the right hands, and be able to explain his actions. I think the fact that Prospect 1 has the letter is proof of two things. First, we have to realize that Prospect 1 and 2, are deeply intertwined, and are nearly identical human beings. Knowing this is key, and explains why Prospect 1 has the letter that Prospect 2 identifies as his own; they are so nearly alike, we can assume that Prospect 1, after leaving his life, wrote a similar to identical letter explaining his reasons for leaving, like Prospect 2 did for his wife. This may not be the same physical letter as the one Prospect 2 wrote — we’ll find out what happened to that one soon enough — but it signifies and illustrates the deep bond these two characters share. The second reason the Prospect 1 has this letter, and why it is so important, is the fact that his letter clearly did not reach those he wrote it for, as it is still on his person. Relating this back to the point I just outlined, about the two being nearly identical people, we can now understand the real point of this revelation, that being the fact that Prospect 2′s letter did not reach the people it was intended for, which happen to be Prospect 2′s loved ones, as is made clear when he begins to read the letter ‘Slowly read… “please know I love…” Once again, Prospect 2′s only remaining reason for continuing on his mission, was the hope that his letter would reach those he wrote it for. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case, and there will be drastic ramifications now that this has been made clear.
Another important aspect of this song is the fact that it marks the first time that the two Prospects have ever physically contacted one anther, and this was actually a huge point of contention among Jimmy (Alkahest) and I. He believed that the two did in fact physically meet, using the lyrics, and a picture from the album’s liner notes of the two shaking hands on the same page as the songs lyrics as proof. I stubbornly disagreed for various reasons, but in the end I conceded and saw it his way
As a whole, I think the point of this song is to illustrate that Prospect 2 really has nothing left, and no real justification for his actions anymore. His planet is gone, his loved ones are dead, and the one piece of himself that he left for consolation, never reached those he wrote it for. We’ve seen him go a bit crazy before, but I think we can infer that this point will have huge ramifications for the rest of the story.
The title track for the album is a simple interlude, with soft ambient music, and spoken word vocals from Amos Williams.
Every time I closed my eyes, I saw my astral body in space
For nights on end I watched myself
I knew our pain was the same
Neither constructed or taken away
We have always known our options
It was the relativity of time and space in our shared conscious which brought us together
Now we are one
Two forces entwined to make a decision
Like the song ‘Goodbye to Everything’ before it, this song makes no indication as to which character is speaking and taking context clues from the lyrics, we can infer that it is both Prospects, not necessarily speaking, but having the same emotional and mental impact from their encounter.
The song gives very little to the audience in terms of story, but it does further solidify the argument that the two Prospects did physically meet. Furthermore, it tells us that the two have now joined forces in order to make a decisions. As of yet, we don’t know what this decision will be, and what kind of impact it will have on our characters, but they are now in unison together, which leads me to my next point. As I was roaming the confines of the Internet I saw a lit of theories stating that thus marks the point where the two Prospects literally become one being; two minds harboring the same body. I think this is a false assumption, and its debunked by the fact that after this song, the two not only have a back and forth conversation, but they actually go on two separate paths, but we will get to that shortly.
The Black Box
This is another song that offers very little in terms of exposition, and once again there is no indication of who is speaking, so we have to use context clues to figure out what is going on.
I see all
I hear all
Build it from nothing
Let fringed wings free
Come soar with me
We build mountains to crush oceans
You’re in danger from our creations
Can you? Will you? Build you?
The lines ‘I see all/ I hear all’ seem a bit familiar, and the reference to fringed wings, and flying makes it pretty clear as to what this song is talking about; The Night Owls. The song doesn’t say what this Black Box is, but we can assume that it was made by the Night Owls for some nefarious purposes, ‘We build mountains to crush oceans/ You’re in danger from our creations’. We have no idea what this Black Box is, but at this point it seems pretty dangerous.
In the liner notes of Future Sequence ‘Telos’ is described as ‘The Decision’. In the song Parallax, the two prospects spoke about being intertwined to make a decision, and this is obviously that decision. Normally I would delve right into the analysis of this song, but luckily for all of us Tommy Rodgers has already described this part of the story in great detail:
This song deals with the part of the story where Prospect 2 is basically deciding he wants to end humankind. He’s speaking his mind to Prospect 1 and trying to convince through domination. Prospect 1 seems to have already decide he is very different from his “Soul Mate” but he decides to keep his mouth shut and leave Prospect 2′s life soon. The “She Writes/Speaks” in the middle section of the song is from the point of view of Prospect 2′s wife whom he left on the Old Planet. The “writes” section is a letter she is writing about how he has hurt her. He didn’t leave a note or any sign of why he has left that she knows about. She feels alone and can’t take life anymore. She then decides to end her life by burning down the house they built together with her inside. This note is what she will bury outside in case he ever comes back. The “speaks” section is her last thoughts while the house is burning down. “Telos” is defined as: an ultimate object or aim.
— Tommy Rogers
As you can see, in depth analysis of this song is not as necessary as the other songs, as we have just been presented with the majority of the information needed to figure out this song. I’ll supply the lyrics to the song as a reminder, but aside from some odds and ends, we know all there is to know about this song.
[The Decision (Prospect 2 speaks):]
Built to destroy
Born to compress
Push it deep down
The blood vessel cover
The skin suit of anxiety
Never speak a word
Just do as you’re told and compete
Compete for success, for health, for sport.
Climb the mountain of limbs
Build the walls around me
A covered land mine
Every smile, every itch
A covered land mine
Push it deep down
Put your head under the ground
Built to destroy
Born to dominate
As I am you
You will never know
Just like all the fools before you
Here is what we must do
I awake to a cold touch. Two arms in four-armed bed. The touch of wind wrapping around me. I’m trying to follow its scent. The scent of isolation. Every door opened, every aspect of our life… gone. Hauling around our memories. Every corner a display of our life. A life I assume will never be the same again. No signs, no clues. A game that I will question until the end. Where have you gone? Was I ever important? The late nights lend ideas, but nothing to gather actual progress.
Years go by. The constant stare. The constant grip inside. Every organ grinding. Every day seems easier until I step back in our box. Boxed in. Surrounded by life, while suffocating inside a poor version of one. Grip the match, set the fire. Don’t save a thing.
Rebirth. Reborn. Now this is progress. The black box will reveal only this. I will sit. Sit and wait until not a breath escapes my body. Burning in our box. What did all of this even mean? More objects to represent a status. One we can’t even prove. Hide behind what we have taken. You have done this. The memory of me will leave with the ash of lost treasures. Goodbye to you. Goodbye to everything.
Was I ever really alive?
Did I stay in his mind?
Goodbye to all I’ve known
I love you
Do as we are built
Machines for the future
Bright eyed and ready for life
The dual gods of our time
Of all time
They will never see us coming
Let’s end it all
Start from scratch
Patch the uniform and let the galaxy form a comfortable replacement
We will not be missed
Goodbye to everything
Doing as one’s told
A puppet through fear
The crossed finger clicking sounds
Inner anxiety with a smile
(Will he even know this? Will she notice? I haven’t even begun telling her the truth, or telling you about her for that matter.)
Why can’t we step back?
Are we really this important?
Just because we can doesn’t mean we should
(Let things happen naturally)
Personal resets through selfish release
At least I will enjoy
The worry slips under the door
(I will never see him or I again)
You won’t see me coming
After finding his letter with Prospect 1, Prospect 2 realizes that he has nothing left from his old life. His letter didn’t reach the ones it was meant for, so his actions weren’t explained to his loved ones — as we can see from the point of view of his wife, as she wanders their house for years, with no answer for his departure, as his letter never reached her — left with nothing in his life, Prospect 2 realizes just how pointless his actions have been, and he finally realizes that the lives he has made are not worthy of continuing on, so he resolves to destroy humanity. He tries to convince Prospect 1 into following, by way of aggression, saying they were built for this ‘Machines for the future’, but towards the end of the song we learn that Prospect 1 doesn’t really want to follow Prospect 2 along his path. He ruminates on whether or not they are really as important as they thought they were, and if they should just let nature take its course, ‘Why can’t we step back?/Are we really this important?/Just because we can doesn’t mean we should’. Then he says that he will never see Prospect 2 again, and leaves his life.
Tommy supplied most of the answers for this one, but you can check the lyrics and see what he meant through his description. Everything in the song will seem much simpler. The point of this song, as already stated, was to make ‘The Decision’ known. We now know what Prospect 2′s main course of action will be throughout the final chapters of this album, and we know that Prospect 1 will do anything to get away from this plan, as he no longer sees eye to eye with his walking mirror.
We still have a few more songs to cover with this album, but we are drawing to a close. The final act is before us, and there is a lot of weird stuff to get through, but it’ll be fun. I really hope these have been informative, and I hope they’ve inspired you all to kick around some theories as well. Be sure to check in the comments and continue the discussion there; we are always open to new ideas. Also, be sure to tune in next week for the finale!