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 literature. 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.

Part I | Part II

So the time is upon us. The last part of the analysis of this monster of an album. Let’s dig right into it!

The first track of the last part is the dark, heavy, odd track ‘Velocity‘.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAPpXcvGpps]

This song was also one that stumped me for a while. After I started searching for passages in the book that this song might refer to, I found a section that takes place in Autumn. Autumn is where everything begins. The passage is as follows:

I feel better here in this little, old vale. Autumn cannot take too much away from it. It keeps the warmth of the sun better and could even make us believe that times were still good. Here the fragrant thyme is still pushing through and intensifies our memory; in the meadow lilies [die Zeidose] have already been swaying for some time, their light blue suggesting the pale color of remembrance, where everything finally disappears. It is supposed to be a poisonous plant. That is where everything finishes, and whatever nature had at the beginning must, indeed, be revealed at the end. Nature, too, seems to have a secret, consuming poison within herself; but why does she share it with her children, so that even they become consumed by it?

Looking at the lyrics for ‘Velocity’:

This is the end, where everything finishes
What will be revealed in silence
This is the end, where each secret disappears
Fragrance of the dead, redemption of the weak

Those who arise despite ourselves
Where the left hand path begins
A fragment is pushing through, enforces my memory
My mind has been swaying for some time

Your sign, suggesting a pale remembrance
Where everything finally disappears

This is the end, where everything finishes
What will be revealed in silence
This is the end, where each secret disappears
Fragrance of the dead, redemption of the weak

Between the worlds, where the one merge with the other through them
Where the growth of an external world amalgamate into a spirit truth
Where a transition occurs within death and salvation
You’ll see the whole, the whole of the undivided one

At a stage where you’ll lead delightful
The one that is fallen awaits frightful

There are also references to other passages, for example “arise despite ourselves” refers to the divinity of love. The passage above occurs when Clara is talking about how Nature is a destructive force and how everything decays in Nature. The doctor then disagrees with her, saying that it’s people who are destructive, Nature is a creative force. Does this seem all too familiar to you? I already mentioned this point of view in the first part of this series. He says that nature mourns those who pass, and Clara mentions she can smell the sorrow in the fragrance of the flowers. Hence the “fragrance of the dead” line in the song. So this song is clearly referring to that passage. But there is more to it. As the doctor continues to argue that Nature is in contrast to the Spirit world, and man is the turning point between these two worlds, he says:

Shouldn’t we suppose that a divine law prescribed that nature should rise up first to man in order to find within him the point at which the two worlds are unified; that afterwards the one should immediately merge with the other through him, the growth of the external world continuing uninterrupted into the inner or spirit world? For, indeed, a transition also occurs now with everything, or at least man when he dies, going over into the spirit world. But this transition happens only indirectly through death and through a complete separation from nature, so that neither the former nor the latter life is able to call itself a whole, for each is only a side of the whole or of the undivided one.

As you can see, a lot of what the doctor says here is clearly driving many of the songs on this record. In the end, Velocity is about the destructive forces, initially thought to be of Nature, but near the end of the song it becomes clear Mankind is the destructive force, forming a whole with Nature and Spirit.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEsgYzK7q4A]

The penultimate track is ‘A Transcendental Serenade’, which is mostly instrumental except for the following passage:

In deepest depths, at the dark side of a burning star.
By the dully shining black sun — the dance of the dead.

This has no relation to Schelling’s work. But we should not immediately dismiss it. The Black Sun is an occult symbol from Germany, used by the Nazis, and nowadays used by Germanic Neo-Pagans. Note that it does not carry nazi or racist connotations.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/ff/Black_Sun.svg

The interesting thing about this belief system is that they believe that the soul is composed of multiple parts of physical and metaphysical nature. This seems to tie in to Schelling’s work. The burning star/black sun can be interpreted as referring to the Cyclic Model of the universe again, where deaths of stars would signify the end of a cycle and the “death” of the universe, hence the dance of the dead (stars).

Finally, we have the last song on the album, ‘Aevum.’ Before we delve into lyrics and Schelling, let’s take a look at what the song title means. Aevum is the “mode of existence experienced by angles and saints in heaven.” It is supposed to be a level between the eternity of God and the finite-ness of mortality.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6Cb001n2s8]

Here come the lyrics:

Where profound souls shy away from self fulfillment
We stroll in silence through this universe
Where abysmal pansophy wallows in deepness
To enjoy the bliss of a fractional existence

The holiest necessity of inner being is not a law for nature
In nature even divine necessity takes on the bleach animosity
To keep our inner being free of this contradiction
With the irresistible force fore of a terrible necessity once present

Those who are ashamed to start from the earth
To climb up from the creature mankind
To draw those thoughts that are beyond
Earth, fire, water, and air

Void Dimension – as man stands here on earth
Void Dimension – as flash of eternity

As man stands here on earth in this life
As flash of eternity that enlighten this gloominess
Portraying this progeny of their soul as enigma
Devoured by its own will, unbounded, inevitable

Wherever one thing reaches into the other
Neither of the others can leave
Each requires the other

Followed by a relevant batch of passages from Clara (wall of text incoming):

 A wonderful depth of feeling that could enter right into her way of thinking betrayed itself in some conversations; however, what she lacked was the ability to unpack her thoughts and thereby clarify them. I know what an agreeable effect ordering one’s own thoughts into a precise framework has; the soul is happy when it can have what it felt inwardly, as if by inspiration or through some divine thought, expressly worked out in the understanding, too, as if looking in a mirror. Profound souls shy away from this development, which they see as one in which they have to come out of themselves. They always want to go back into their own depths and to continue to enjoy the bliss of the center.

[…]

The holiest necessity of my inner being is not a law for nature. In nature even divine necessity takes on the color and appearance of chance, and what was initially accidental operates with the irresistible force of a terrible necessity once present. If only it were at least possible to keep our inner being free of this contradiction! But just there the contradiction manifests its greatest power. It forces us to mistrust our heart’s tenderest feelings. We are beings who do not love without being punished; and, in contrast, the law of our inner being would be capable of requiring actions that any human, feeling heart would surely have to abhor. I see enough even within the simplest, elementary, and most irrefutable things to verify my feeling that not only do and will terrible things occur, they must do so. It is our duty, the doctor said, to recognize just this. Looking away or closing your eyes just to avoid seeing this condition doesn’t help. As humans we may like to complain about the downfall of the most beautiful and lovely things in the world; but at the same time we should consider each such fall with a kind of quiet joy, because it holds a confirmation of the view that we must have of this world and is our most immediate reference to another, higher world. How much happier most people would be, how much pointless longing would come to an end, how much easier would life be borne and relinquished, if everyone continually kept in mind that here anything divine is only appearance and not reality, that even whatever is most spiritual isn’t free, but arises only conditionally—that it is the blossom and here and there even the fruit, but not the trunk and the roots.

Yet most, or even all, people do say that, Clara responded.

They certainly say that, he replied, but they think it could be otherwise and blame man, and for this reason they would also like to sever all man’s connections to nature. Their systems and views thereby get just as confused as their moral doctrines. They start with what is most general and spiritual and are thereby never able to come down to reality or particulars. They are ashamed to start from the earth, to climb up from the creature as if from a rung on a ladder, to draw those thoughts that are beyond the senses first from earth, fire, water, and air. And so they don’t get anywhere, either: their webs of thought are plants without roots, they don’t hang onto anything, like spiders’ webs do on shrubs or walls; instead, they float in the air and the sky like these delicate threads here in front of us. And yet they believe they can strengthen man thereby, even help advance the age that nevertheless suffers by the very fact that while one part has indeed sunk completely into the mud, the other has presumed to climb so high that it can no longer find the ground beneath it. If we want everything that is spiritual to be in this world, what do we have left for a future one? And it seems to me as man stood here on earth in this life, with his strong, firm bones, in bygone times he had a completely different and far more definite idea about that other life. Only he who already knows his opposite through and through can look the spiritual right in the eye; just as only he is to be called “free” who knows what is necessary and the conditions under which he can prevail. Man must first develop and grow even to get to freedom; and even freedom rises up in this world from necessity’s obscurity, bursting forth only in its last appearance as inexplicable, divine, as a flash of eternity that splits up the darkness of this world, but that is also immediately devoured by its very own effect.

What does this all mean? Well, first of all, the overarching theme of separation between Spirit and Nature that is only bridged by Man upon Death is present as usual. This part comes soon after the part in Velocity where the doctor explains to Clara how Nature isn’t destructive, humans are. The doctor tells Clara to accept, despite her own nature, the finite and frail quality of this world, of Nature. He tells her to see the beauty in it. He says that the divine, the beautiful, the Spirit only arises from the frailty of Nature and its frailty is proof of this. He says that one shouldn’t seek spirituality in this world (Nature), lest there won’t be anything left for the next (Spirit).

So, the song is about, again, transcending from this world into the next. It still paints these references on a cosmic background, making the analogy of man’s spiritual journey using the universe’s cyclical nature. The last words of the song sum not only the song, but the album itself up perfectly:

Wherever one thing reaches into the other
Neither of the others can leave
Each requires the other

Essentially, Spirit and Nature are essential components of each other, intertwined. Through death we transcend from one to the other. And that is the beauty of the universe.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Obscura’s Omnivium is available now on Relapse Records.

Part I | Part II

-N

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