*prognotes – Slice the Cake’s Odyssey to the West – Part II

*prognotes breaks down and analyses your favourite metal and progressive concept albums lyrically and musically. Read other entries in this series here.

Welcome back to our *prognotes on Slice the Cake’s Odyssey to the West. For those that missed it, you can read the first half of our analysis here. Today we will be looking at the second half of the album, encompassing Act II.

Act II

Unending Waltz

In which the Pilgrim meets The Oracle, who berates him for his melancholy

Act II begins in a similar enough fashion to its predecessor, spoken word vocals placed atop mellow, melodic guitars. The way the track slowly builds in intensity and utilises musical repetition means that, instrumentally and structurally, it somewhat resembles a post-rock song. The Pilgrim’s nostalgic musings from the end of Act I are taken to their logical conclusion here as he begins to lose his Way:

“There is a hollowness: shape without form.
Hallowed and concentric circles splayed against a canvas
Deep red, veins in hand with epitomes and documents of what has ceased to be.
What was leased to me…?
A dying light in fragile arms?
…Amidst our spiritual disease as our shadows stretch across the land?”

The Pilgrim’s resolve is crumbling once more as he questions his purpose, and whether he is truly on the right Path. He feels hollow, the light of God dying and leaving him empty inside, just as he was before he embarked on his pilgrimage. He recognises that his form as the Man of Papyrus Limbs could only be temporary, that he was leasing it from God, and wonders at what he has achieved. He has poured blood, sweat, and tears into his writings, and yet what use do his fragile limbs now serve as the light dies around him, as the darkness of his past self and shadow “stretch[es] across the land”? By this stage, his words have turned to roars and screams, his tortured soul appearing to revert back to his old ways, the fight with his Lover leaving him a broken man.

“This is the twilight of my very oeuvre, or so I fear.
I fear the end is near, as though time itself were befit by grace to crawl and to walk,
To seethe as fit with entropy.
But, surely this is but a heinous vision?”

The Pilgrim’s role in God’s plan, his apparent destiny, was to write of his journey and share it with others, to help them find the Way. Yet, he is now fearful that his writings have been in vain. He fears that what he has written may not be properly understood by those who read it. He fears that he is losing his own Way, and so his writings will be of no help. He fears that they may only describe the ramblings of a man who is lost and unable to find himself. That they may describe a man who is going insane.

“I feel as though I’ve fallen short…
The myriad of misanthropes I’ve slain and had reborn,
The rising tide of shedded skin that by my hands was wrought,
The countless names and faces of a destitute and witless being all discarded by the Way.”

The Pilgrim looks back on the journey he has undertaken and how he has changed throughout it. The misanthropes, the countless names and countless faces, the destitute and witless beings; they are all the Pilgrim, or at the very least a facet of his personality. They are facets he has killed off at one time or another, only for them to be reborn and return to haunt him once again. He has shed his skin numerous times, just like a snake. And therein lies the problem. A snake sheds its skin and leaves behind what it had once looked like and what it had once been perceived as, but it is only the surface layer which has changed. The core of who the snake is still remains, and so it is with the Pilgrim. He continues to flick back and forth between the pious devotee and cynical sinner, moving from one skin to another without knowing which one represents who he truly is. And no matter how many times you shed your skin, your shadow will still follow you, ever-present.

The Pilgrim is then met by the angel-voiced Oracle, voiced by Laura Vine, who chastises him for his thoughts and actions. She queries whether he really thought he would complete his pilgrimage without having to overcome trials and tribulations, accusing him of cowardice with his “writhing and… self-dismay”. She questions what it is that he is looking for, and wonders:

“Are you a man, are you a mouse?
Or are you but a foolish child
Who’s come to cry out in the middle of the night?
Or is it that you’re divine?
Born to live and born to die as the waxing and the waning of the tides?”

Looking past her mocking tone, the comment about being divine harks back to Act I, where it alluded that the Pilgrim may, in fact, be trapped in an ongoing cycle of life and death. Just as the Horned God comes and goes with the seasons, the high and low tides live and die on a daily basis, bound to return to us later this day or the next. Despite her words, the Pilgrim remains:

“Blind and weary, [as] perspective seems so out of reach.

O’, what are the chances
That I would come to keep a realisation held so near and deep for more than a day?
I might find balance.
I might find ecstasy.
But I won’t.”

This last line marks a return to harsh vocals, the style which will remain for the rest of the song as musically we finally reach the crescendo, the Pilgrim still no clearer as to what he is doing with his life. He still seems to act without hope, but despite all of his fears and his misgivings he decides to go “the only way I know”, and that is onwards towards the Holy Mountain. The track then ends with a sample of water dripping into a pool of some sort.

Ash and Rust I – From Shell to Shell

In which the Pilgrim fathoms his endlessness.

A spectral xylophone opens proceedings next, water samples occupying the background of the mix and giving us the impression that we’re submerged under water. Frighteningly eerie screeches and samples swirl around us as the Pilgrim whispers, his voice betraying that perhaps his madness has returned.

“I enter darkened waters.
I lose my body beneath the waves, seeing visions of what could’ve been.

It’s so strange…
I see my body floating before me,
A strange and empty vessel, tied down but weightless.

The tides take me away.”

Perhaps it isn’t coincidence that water has become such a key motif so soon after The Oracle’s references to tides and the cycle of reincarnation they could represent. The Pilgrim seems to be in some sort of intermediary realm, one in between heaven and earth. He can see his own body, as if his soul has departed the flesh and observes it as an outsider, leaving the vessel of his body empty. He sees visions of possible outcomes to his life, though whether these are glimpses of what could have been or flashbacks at what has occurred in potential past lives is up for debate.

“Take me away…

I have been here before.
Yes, I have…

Oh, I have been here before.”

Harsh vocals dominate as the music erupts into disconcerting and heavy riffing, whilst the Pilgrim’s words suggests one of two things. They could lend major support to the reincarnation hypothesis, with the familiar surroundings lending credence to the possibility that he has lived a thousand lives, and that he is eternally bound to seek out the Holy Mountain and battle his demons. Otherwise, the Pilgrim’s insanity may be getting the better of him, the wild extremes of his emotions driving him to the point of delusion and hallucinations.

“Sewn from void to form.
Sewn from shell to shell.

I prayed the night might take me
And so it did.”

Lyrical motifs resurface here as we have references to three previous songs. The sewing of shells here is similar to the shedding of skins in ‘Unending Waltz’. As the Man of Papyrus Limbs the Pilgrim was literally “sewn from void to form”, and it was in ‘Westward Bound – The Lantern’ that he prayed for the night to take him. At the time we had suspected that prayers were unlikely to end well, and it appears we were right as the Pilgrim’s mental state looks to be caught in a downwards spiral, just as the music descends into brutal riffing once more.

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Ash and Rust II – The Dark Carnival

In which the Pilgrim becomes the adversary.

This track takes it up a notch from its predecessor, down-tuned riffs and blast beats accompanying the Pilgrim’s screams. The lyrics are an immediate continuation of where we left off:

“And just as it does,
Must the Sun rise in bitterness and mourning of what came before;
Luna’s lament still dawning in spite of His song.”

The religious and mythological references of Act I return in abundance here, and so too does vocalist Gareth Mason’s penchant for including homonyms in his lyrics. Just as the night takes him and he begins to drown amidst the darkness, the sun, a symbol of God, returns. It rises in the morning to dispel the darkness. It rises in mourning at what has become of its disciple, at what has become of our once-devout Pilgrim. Switching back to pagan mythology, Luna was the ancient Roman goddess of the moon, yet she also helps link together aspects of Wicca and Christianity we’ve hitherto encountered. Like the Wiccan Goddess, Luna is sometimes referred to as an aspect of a Triple Goddess (along with Proserpina and Hecate), whilst she is often depicted with horns, which links back to the Horned God once more. Finally, she also has a polar opposite, yet complementing masculine counterpart in Sol (the sun), and in Christianity the Sun is associated with God, Jesus, and all of the saints (think about it, what do halos look like?).

“O’, weary yet strong must the Father’s Sun carry on with his torment
Like a lamb to the slaughter.
And for what?”

Just as the Pilgrim associated his Lover with the Virgin Mary way back in the first song of the album, here he now describes himself as Jesus Christ. He is “the Father’s Sun”, or son, and he is destined to suffer whilst he is led “like a lamb to the slaughter.” Just as Jesus, the Lamb of God, had to undertake the Passion of Christ, leading to his crucifixion and death. Yet, unlike Jesus our Pilgrim is anything but a martyr, anything but an accepting and willing participant in this game:

“O’, God!
Where is your honour?

A Son born of Pilgrim blood sent to the Gallows and for what?
To teach a lesson born of suffering?
Is this what comes of surrender to your chaotic order?
A fool ill be no more before your eyes,
Before your hands!”

The Pilgrim is transitioning into a new form, if not physically, then certainly mentally. Just as he was the sinful man, the maddened devotee, the Man of Papyrus Limbs and the conflicted, tortured journeyman, he now becomes the Adversary. The Adversary to whom? An adversary to who he had just been. An adversary to God. He refuses to accept God’s will, and he has lost his faith in God’s order, for there is only chaos. Despite his earlier arrogance he has indeed been made a fool, and he intends to rectify this by refusing to follow God’s path and by refusing to accept his destiny.

“No longer shall I stand idly by,
Content to live my life as a sculpture in your image.

As above, so below.
As I create, do I destroy,
I’m reminded of a time
There was a bitterness at heart and I enjoyed it.”

The Pilgrim refuses to be Jesus, instead looking more like Lucifer. He was favoured by God, he was given a privileged position and he was a Chosen One. Yet, instead of fulfilling his work as the Man of Papyrus Limbs, instead of being the Bringer of Light (a literal translation for Lucifer), he fell into darkness and decided to become a destroyer, decided to embrace sin. The Bible even refers to a Babylonian king as Lucifer, so the parallels are there to be found. The song then takes a sharp twist, the crushingly heavy opening making way for a creepy, circus-themed style of instrumentation. The Adversary called himself a fool, and perhaps he meant it in an old-fashioned way. He was a jester, a clown, a mockery subject to the whims of an almighty Lord, and so he is at home in his twisted, demented circus. In his ‘Dark Carnival’. Spoken word vocals return, Mason’s voice highly theatrical:

“And it really shouldn’t come as a surprise, dear Pilgrims.
All too long I’ve seethed in the darkness,
I’ve bled for the Son in us all
Convinced of my purpose and light, did I smother my sight.
O’, what a paradox…
For I thought I’d seen it all.

For martyrs one and all
Before pride, there comes the fall,
So would it not seem there is a precedent?”

The Luciferian parable gets stronger as we go, the lyrics referencing Lucifer’s place as the Morning Star. He spends so much time in darkness, waiting to herald the new morning in his role as the Bringer of Light. Despite his lofty place at God’s side he felt smothered and blinded, and thus followed The Fall. The fall of Lucifer from Heaven, into the depths of Hell where he became Satan. If nothing else, it is certainly an interesting role model that the Adversary has chosen for himself. However, despite his fall, his cynicism, and his sliding back into egregious old habits, the Adversary continues to write. It’s as if, no matter his mental state and no matter his beliefs, he cannot avoid his fate, he cannot change his destiny. The reasons behind why he writes may change, but the writings persist nonetheless:

“Pray tell you understand what drives a man to spill his secrets
Onto a page so bare and meek before his craft.
His pen filled with blood and ink to scrawl unto the paper
A heaven sent and egotistic diatribe of concepts.

And so this is why I will spill myself romantically
As a Pilgrim born of terror and of dignity.
Even if only for accountability will I finish speaking my truth.”

Ash and Rust III – The Torn Thread

In which the Pilgrim frees himself from puppetry.

This track is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the album, beginning with a bass riff, percussion, and acoustic guitar before distorted guitars explode onto the scene. They mirror the bass with one of the best deathcore riffs you’re likely to hear, alongside huge drums and ferocious harsh vocals.

“Now that the thread is torn, a Pilgrim I’ll be no more.

I have fallen out of love with this ancient and decrepit construct.
Bounds of obligation conspire to keep my hands so firmly tied
As I search for growth and I search for life
I grow so fucking tired of those spiral tales.”

The guise our protagonist had worn, that of the Pilgrim, is dead. It has been cast off and left behind, leaving us with the Adversary. It is also on this track that the controversies surrounding this album begin coming to the fore. Let it be said that we do not bring this topic up to try and garner publicity or to drag any of the band members through the mud. We bring it up because it’s relevant to our task at hand, and that is to unpack the concepts of this record. The reason it’s relevant is because here, more so than in any of the preceding tracks, it becomes clear that there is another narrative within this album. The lyrics can be interpreted as a metaphor in which Slice the Cake (STC) are represented by the City, primary songwriter and composer Jack Magero Richardson is God, vocalist/lyricist Gareth Mason is the Pilgrim, and the process of making this album is his pilgrimage.

In order to fully understand the context of this metaphor, it’s necessary to delve into the band’s history. STC were an international three-piece band. Australian Jack Magero wrote the lion’s share of the music, with the rest coming from his friend and compatriot Jake Howsam Lowe of The Helix Nebula, though Jake was not an official member. The music was then sent to Jonas Johansson in Sweden, who would record all of the instruments and produce the album. Finally, Englishman Gareth Mason would write lyrics and record vocals. Magero finished writing the songs years ago, Jonas put the instrumentals to tape and then they waited for Gareth’s lyrics and vocals. The vocals took around two years to be completed, and in this time the relationship between Magero and Gareth completely broke down. Magero was frustrated and fuming at the delays and lack of progress, whilst Gareth felt unappreciated, and hurtful things were said from both sides. Towards the end of this period Magero wanted to take the music over to a new project with Jonas and a new vocalist. Instead, Gareth ended up finishing his parts, and then he and Jonas released the album without Magero’s knowledge or consent. Unsurprisingly, Magero was furious that music he had written and composed had been released without his consent in a form he claims he is unhappy with, and so STC disintegrated. As much as it pains us to see such events befall a band of such talents, this history needed to be covered in order for us to continue.

Before continuing on with this song, let us use the benefit of hindsight to look back on what’s happened in the album thus far through the lens of this new metaphor. All of this is with the important disclaimer that none of this should be interpreted as an official stance from myself or Heavy Blog about the situation surrounding Slice the Cake, but merely a statement of details as have been made available to us and with interpreting the lyrics here as Gareth’s personal interpretation of those details. Deathcore is one of the stalest genres within metal, its propensity for mindless chugging, generic breakdowns and predictable cookie cutter vocals bringing it into widespread disrepute. There is a place for it, of that there is no doubt, but too often one can say after two songs of a deathcore album that they’ve heard the whole album (or, in some cases, discography). STC are one of the rare bands of the genre with consistently interesting compositions which can hold your attention for a sustained period of time. This trait has seen their releases garner critical acclaim and so they could be seen as the personification of Babylon.

Thus, it was the sins of the three band members (Babylon’s citizens) which would eventually lead to the band’s (City’s) destruction, with Magero’s (God’s) wrath bringing the whole thing crashing down. Gareth’s (the Pilgrim’s) relationship with Magero (God) is also a strained one, and this is seen time and time again throughout the songwriting process (the pilgrimage). There are times when the Pilgrim loves God, where he is empowered by him, and there are other times when he hates him. Yet through it all he continues his writings, he continues his pilgrimage. And so now we’re back in the present, and you can fill in these alternate roles yourself as we go along, so that you can follow both the fictional and metaphorical narratives.

“For in pilgrimage there is an injury.
And there is despair that so readily one would see the other dredge up imagery so biblically,
Flagellating lyrically my sense of self for your petty entertainment.

And as the words become more strained,
I’ve come to find and appreciate the quality of journey’s end
Even if only for its own sake.”

The Adversary does not write for God anymore, even if it was God that gave him the ability to write in the first place, even if it was God that made him the Man of Papyrus Limbs. But despite this, and despite his Fall, the Adversary still wants to write for himself, if only to document what has transpired. In particular, the vocal emphasis on the third line quoted above is absolutely scathing, and one can’t help but think it’s an extremely personal one.

“I mean, after all, such arduous and fitful ways into the deep
Would be wasted if I did not summarise and elucidate
This curious circle that began so long ago.

It matters not who it’s for,
Or who it benefits.”

The Adversary thus reflects on his entire journey thus far and all that has transpired. All the time it has taken. All the work that has gone into it. And he doesn’t want to see it wasted, he doesn’t want to see it all come to nothing. So he decides to finish what he started, regardless of what God wants, regardless of what his fate is, and regardless of what others think about the final outcome.

“But once the thread is torn, there can be no going back.
May the bridges burnt light the way forwards.
Might the thread, once torn, transmute lead into gold.

For the betterment of my soul,
A Pilgrim I’ll be no more.”

The Adversary confirms that he will never again be a Pilgrim, that he will never again follow God’s path. There can be no reconciliation there. However, he hopes that this opens up a Way before him in which he can be the author of his own fate, rather than an agent of faith. And he hopes that the final product, the writings into which he has poured his blood, sweat, and tears, will be greater than the sum of its parts.

slice-the-cake-odyssey-exile

Ash and Rust IV – Nameless, Faceless

In which the Pilgrim rejects the circle and becomes a man with no face.

The track opens with foreboding, atonal guitars before erupting into blast beats and harsh vocals, the Adversary wanting to put an end to the circle of reincarnation:

“Pray, let me be free!
Pray, let me be free!
Pray, by the circle complete!
Pray, let me be free!”

The Adversary no longer wants to attain some kind of spiritual salvation, lest it traps him into this continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth, a life of continuous struggle. Instead, he wants to be nameless and faceless, not the Chosen One, but just a regular person like everybody else. Needless to say, the vocals here sound completely deranged, emotions running hot, a hint of madness continuing to permeate the air. The Horned God’s prophecy appears to have been fulfilled as the Adversary seeks to become “the Face that is not a Face.”

“For both your sake and mine,
I hope you see.

Nameless and Faceless!
Nameless and Faceless!

LET ME BE FREE.”

Destiny’s Fool

In which the Pilgrim embraces his agency as the Author of his fate

After the brutality of ‘Ash and Rust’ we arrive at the closest thing Act II has to a ballad. Whilst not as soft as ‘Castle in the Sky’, we are met by prominent acoustic guitars and largely clean vocals. With a few exceptions, for the most part of this song our protagonist sounds rational and in control. He is free of the Holy Madness God had imbued him with. He is free of the sinful actions which saw us liken him to Lucifer. Now he is just a man.

“Sewn from void to form,
This mask an old home,
It is infinite, it is destiny’s fool.

A fool am I…
A fool have I been.”

Our protagonist, who we will now call the Author, thinks back on his previous forms and recognises them for what they were. Masks. Guises. It is through these masks that he became subjected to the infinite cycles of reincarnation, that he became a slave of fate, destiny’s fool. Again, we think back to his arrogance at the beginning of the journey, the way he boasted he would not have himself be made to look like a fool, only for such hubris to be his undoing. Whilst he has surely learned from his mistakes, to a certain extent the Author also implies that he regrets some of his previous actions.

“So tell me what you think,
Do you see a Pilgrim or a human being?
Or just another dancing monkey whose songs you want to sing?

So tell me what you think,
What you think my reasoning to be
As to why my ego runs so unrestrained and rampant in my verse for all to see.”

The Author reveals that he has felt inferior, like less than a man, and so he asks how it is that he is now perceived? Now that he has seemingly found his place, is he still cast into some specific role, is he still only useful for a specific purpose? He then asks us, the listeners and readers, to judge him. He acknowledges that he has let his ego run riot within his writings, that it is at times extremely melodramatic and pretentious, and that he has not always acted in the manner he should have. But he wants to know what we think about why he did what he did, and whether we can find any justification within such reasons.

“Oh, what have I to gain?
I’ve grown so tired of these games.
My humanity, I’ll reclaim in the end if I just let it be.

A fool am I.
A fool have I been.

No more, no more.”

Lyrically the stage is thus nicely set for the album’s final track, the Author appearing level-headed and with a newfound maturity as he prepares for the final leg of his journey, determined to do so as a new man. Musically it is the same, the track building in intensity and preparing us for a grand finale, only for the track to end before we can reach the crescendo.

The Holy Mountain

In which the Author finds truth and reconciliation.

The crescendo duly hits from the moment the final song begins as we encounter blast beats and hard-hitting riffs, harsh vocals marking their return although, it must be said, they don’t seem as insane in tone as they once had:

“There is a weight upon me, still;
The quivering stench of the incomplete,
Looming, terrible

I can barely breathe…
This isn’t what I thought this would be…”

Changed or not, the Author’s journey still seems far from complete as he struggles with the final hurdle, the obstacles perhaps greater than he had anticipated given all that he had already overcome. He carries on, determined to see his task through to its completion, if only so that he can attain true freedom afterward.

“I’m sorry, O’, God!
I’m sorry!
I left you there…
O’ God, I left you there…

Might this be my atonement, might my sacrifice be done.
I will die here on this Mountain.

I bid thy circle’s closing.
I bid Thee end this Pilgrim’s Path.”

The Author wants an end to it all, though his apology to God is strange. Is he apologising for the way he has acted in the past, suddenly awestruck once more by his powers now that he is at this holiest of sites? Is he sorry for leaving him behind to become the Adversary, and later the Author? Or is he apologising for what he is about to do, for the fact that he will leave God behind on the Mountain? It’s worth mentioning here that a mountain in and of itself has numerous symbolic interpretations, many of which bearing particular relevance here. They can be seen as obstacles and as ways of reaching Enlightenment or a higher spiritual state, due to the difficulties associated with scaling them. Similarly, their height and strength see them inherit strong religious connotations, as places near to God. Paradoxically, their relative seclusion means they can also represent loneliness and isolation, especially if one is not disposed to feeling the presence of God.

“And so it is done. So mote it be.
So I pray for peace amidst the madness.
Be free, be without pain,
And receive thy Holy Mountain.”

This verse is the climax of the song, the instrumentation and harsh vocals peaking as the Author has a realisation. He has received the Holy Mountain, the gift of truth and peace. When we first met him he responded to adversity with arrogance. When inflicted with the Holy Madness he would lash out with vicious, furious assaults. When questioning his purpose and becoming the Adversary he would retreat inwards with cynicism and hopelessness. And now, as the Author, he responds with peace, and as such he is greeted by peace. The song then slows down and transitions to spoken word vocals which ring with a confidence and clarity which was missing for much of the record. More than ever it feels like we’re being addressed by Gareth directly, rather than by the fictional protagonist who we’ve followed throughout this journey, as he explains that this tale has been written and released:

“Because even if it’s no longer relevant to me, it’s still relevant to someone,
And a story once told will speak to those still headlong in the storm,
Still torn asunder and dashed against the rocks.”

He hopes that it can be of help to others, that it can aid others on arduous, existential journeys and help them find hope, truth and inner peace. In this way, the record’s concept is just his take on the tried-and-true metaphorical clichè of a journey full of adversity which (hopefully) leads to a successful outcome, one which readers/listeners can seek to apply to a multitude of scenarios in their own lives. Still, despite such high hopes, he is cognisant of the fact that his account should not be fully trusted. It is only one side of the story, and it comes from a human being, an imperfect being:

“With that said I refuse to let a human being hang on my every waking word
When I cannot extend the same courtesy to myself.
To do so would be a fallacy when I recognise the error of my own ways”

Finally, he addresses the nature of the pilgrimage itself, what he expected it to be like and what it ended up becoming:

“I got lost along the way,
Gripped within the murk of my own poetry and beheld by my mistakes.
See, the intention was for healing but what I’ve found is not the same.
See, this path is fraught with anger and the Way is fraught with rage
Beheld towards the ignorant and simple minds who’d see us to decay.
And I refuse to be a martyr and I refuse to be a saint,
But so they say…

This is what happens in the mountains.”

The music has a strong post-rock vibe to it throughout this spoken word section, a beautiful, high-pitched tremolo weaving its way through the song and building it up towards its conclusion. The Author speaks candidly of his own mistakes and weaknesses, and how even good intentions led only to anger and rage. That he refuses to be a martyr or a saint, two titles which are acquired posthumously, suggests that perhaps he is fated to die on the Mountain, just as he has completed his quest.

“I have come so far from home only to find I must return,
And I am sorry,
This is what happens in the mountains.

I have come so far from home only to find I must return,
And I am sorry.
But I have nothing else to say.”

The final words of the record are full of ambiguity. Has the Author decided that, upon completing this odyssey, it is time to return home to Babylon? Has he decided to embark on a return journey, and he just doesn’t want to speak any further? Or is it truly the case that he is set to die upon this Mountain, having to return home through yet another cycle of reincarnation. That even when becoming the Author of his own fate, he managed to follow the life that was fated for him, the life which would lead to a continuation of the circle? Ultimately that is for us to decide. Finally, we’d like to stress one last time just how good the music is on this album. Just like the lyrics tell us their tale, the music is full of intertwining and recurring motifs which are reprised time and again. In particular, the multi-part songs such as ‘Stone and Silver’ and ‘Ash and Rust’ are full of unifying themes which help us unpack this dense narrative, and so credit is due to the composer for the quality of songwriting on display.

And there we have it, ladies and gentleman, we’ve reached the end of this epic journey. If you’ve made it this far, then we thank you for your patience through what has been an enormous undertaking and hope you found it worthwhile. As always, we’d love to hear what you think about the concept. If you have something to add, be it your own interpretation or opinion, an agreement, or a disagreement with certain sections – we love hearing about it. Catch you next time.

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Karlo is an aspiring author in fantasy/historical fiction with a passion for music, literature and history.