Hello everyone and welcome back to this, the second part of our most recent *prognotes feature. In case you missed it, we kicked off yesterday by looking at the first chapter of Remedy Lane, one of Pain of Salvation‘s best and most important albums. We explored the initial set of characters, their motivations and issues and the problems facing them. We stopped right after the tragic “A Trace of Blood”, shedding light on the tragedy that underpins the whole story. Let’s jump in into the initially more uplifting Chapter II below. As always, don’t forget to jam the album in the background for the added connection and context. Let’s get started!
This chapter opens with the complete anti-thesis, both musically and thematically, of what “A Trace of Blood” was. “This Heart of Mine (I Pledge)” is one of the sweetest, most innocent tracks that Pain of Salvation had written up to that point and, arguably, have written since. It obviously depicts the grace period that our hero and his original love had and the depths and heights that their love had attained during that time. Perhaps underneath the surface, irony covers the writer’s hands as no such lofty love can ever truly survive or exist in the first place. Take a look at the hyperbole found near the end of the track, a moving passage that exemplifies the vocal powerhouse that is Daniel Gildenlow:
I believe this heart of mine when it tells my eyes
That this is beauty
I believe this heart of mine when it tells my mind
That this is reason
I believe this heart of mine when it cries at time
That this is forever
I believe this heart of mine when it tells the skies
That this is the face of God
The next track, skipping the Japanese bonus track “Thorn Clown”, is a companion to this one; “Undertow” is the state of their love not as it was in the glory days but as it was right before our hero left for his exile. It sheds more light on what the writer means when he said that in the wake of the miscarriage, the relationship was drained of meaning. “Undertow” depicts our hero as kept away, for his own safety supposedly, from his depression and madness that is somehow inherit in him. He begs his love to let him go, to let him go crazy and sink into the depravity of his self-hate and anger:
Let me run
Let me run
Let me ride the crest of chance into the sun
You were always there
But you may lose me here
Now love me if you dare
And let me run
Let me drain!
Let me die!
Let me break the things I love, I need to cry!
Let me burn it all!
Let me take my fall!
Through the cleansing fire!
Now let me die!
Let me die…
In its own ridiculous hyperbole, and the repeating song structure which harks back to “This Heart of Mine”, “Undertow” is the mirror image of the previous track and thus nails home the message of cause and effect, of insane, impossible love and its undeniable product: suffocation, imprisonment, insanity. And nor is our hero alone in suffering; for the first time, we get to see his first love’s perspective in “Rope Ends”.
This is, without a doubt in my mind, the best track on the album; it contains the ferocity we talked about, the musical complexity that Pain of Salvation pull off so well and lyrics that will shatter any heart that is listening. We are in the past again now, right before our hero leaves for his exile and several years since the miscarriage have gone by. Speaking again to the youth of all of our acting characters, his love is now twenty and she has two children. Not only that, but they are from two different fathers; one of them should be his, we believe, perhaps a second birth after that disastrous first one? The second is a mystery; there are hints in the tracks to come but nothing definite. We can be sure however that she has cheated on our hero, and now bears the weight of the loveless shell that their relationship has become:
Another day of emptiness
This life is wearing her down
The room around her is a mess
Her children safe with her mom
She is still young but feeling old
Two children with different fathers
She sits on the bathroom floor alone
The shower chain broke
Her neck hurts
So, we sadly understand, she has tried to kill herself. Nor does too much time pass before she tries again. Gildenlow weaves her attempts into the stories of Winnie the Pooh, accentuating the domestic life and innocence that she is leaving behind. Finally, she succeeds, hanging herself with the same silk ties she had helped her husband choose in the beginning of the track, symbolizing once again the neglect she had learned to know:
Breathing she cries for rope ends and silk ties
Beautiful eyes, Piglet stands shy behind
Broken she lies undead and unblind
Beautiful crying young eyes
Blackened and bruised, learning how to see
Staring at her tooth – crimsoned ivory
Hours they pass this broken china soul
Red stains on porcelain
And she’s not there at all…
This is the break then, this is what causes our hero to flee to Budapest (both the woman and the city). Perhaps he wasn’t at fault at all, but he blames himself for her death. In the wake of that, he can’t deal any more and he runs. “Chain Sling” gives us a glimpse into what he feels when he understands that his love is dead; not only that though, it also gives us more insight into his love’s own feelings and what drove her to suicide finally. Get your tissues ready:
“Please let me be yours, please never leave
Please stay here close to me
All the love we shared, where is it now?
Please let me be better than I was
Please don’t give up on us
The thought of leaving you – I don’t know how”
“I can feel the pain you have inside
I see it in your eyes
Those eyes that used to shine for me
I can feel the wildness in your heart
That’s tearing us apart
My love how can I help if you don’t want me?”
Heart-breakingly, we understand that our hero was not the only one trapped; his own distance and introversion prevented his love from helping him, made her feel guilty that he was gone, since it is her who speaks in the passage above. But, she couldn’t leave him, since the memories of what they had once had chained her to him. “Chain Sling”. In an ugly inversion of “Fandango”, shining through to the music in this passage and in its words, the couple are now locked in a dance that’s very different:
Two young souls in the dance of a chain sling
Love once born from the ink of Solitude
Bidding to dance in the swing of a rope end
Walking their Remedy Lane
through this interlude of pain
Who will be there now?
When I lose my one true love?
(When I lose my love)
I am falling now
Darkness below and above
And thus, our hero flees her death. The next track, “Dryad of the Woods”, is instrumental but the booklet has a great passage attached to it. I’ll let you explore it yourself; it adds more information and depth to our hero’s character and how he perceived his love when they were young. So ends the heart breaking Chapter II, chronicling the fall of our hero’s love and his descent into madness. Chapter III still awaits us, with its mind-altering crescendos and emotional peaks. However, if you’re expecting respite or even catharsis, you’re looking in the wrong place. Read on below for the final chapter!
The opening track of the chapter is the self titled “Remedy Lane”. It’s an instrumental track as well, albeit a much weirder one, and this time I’d like to quote from the booklet. It contains that image I lauded in the beginning of this, the confluence between the woman and the city:
I am in love
I wanted to
or with what?
to love to a city
to the flesh
to the past
to the laugh
to myself again
and suddenly I know
that this is dangerous”
A hesitant remark from our hero, perhaps realizing the full weight of the psychological state he is in and which led him to his night of mischief in/with Budapest and we dive fully into this chapter which is all about losing oneself. “Waking Every God” speaks well to the extensive philosophical education that Gildenlow enjoy and utilizes in his writing: it plays a handy and all too accurate trick, equating sexual desire with the ego and its desire to be larger than it is, as large as it can be. It begins with our hero speaking to Buda (the city in its woman form) about how he felt yesterday and why he pursued her:
Standing here in Buda trying to explain
To myself and to the girl beside
Why I feel so weightless and free from all my pain
Telling yourself that you’re here inside
For the wind is in my hair as we are on this sun hot roof
And far below the Danube passes as we talk
And I’d like to think that this is what you wanted me to find
This happiness could help us rebuild what we’ve lost
So, our hero imagines his lost love inside him, goading him to find happiness. Hold on tight though, because it’s about to take a much darker twist; if all our hero would be doing is attempting to find happiness after his tragedy, to live once more, where would all the repressed sexuality, darkness and dilemmas he had used to describe his current situation come from? “Waking Every God”, by playing a two part move with the concept, explains that perfectly, in true Freudian fashion. First, the hero sees in her the path to being better; from his deficiency, from his fear, he is intoxicated with the feeling of conquering her:
Wishing I was stronger – wishing I was whole
Wishing I was someone that I’m not
And I wish that I could linger to the faith I used to have
Wishing of myself to be a god
I’m wishing to be a god!
A god, and nothing else. This intoxication, this feeling of superiority and power, is indeed dangerous. But where does it come from? Why is Buda eliciting such a response in our hero? We’re Freudian right now, remember that, and unlike what many would like to believe, it’s not all about your mother. No, instead we see the classic anxiety of facing yourself, of coming face to face not only with what you are but more importantly with how you see yourself as being:
Calling – waking every god
Falling – love is in my blood
Breathing – love is life unbound
Kneeling – let me tread its ground
Through her eyes I can see who I used to be
Through my eyes she can see
And so, in this moment of ultimate ecstasy, of “life unbound”, our hero comes face to face with himself, who he was, what he had done, to what lengths had he driven himself and his true love. In that moment of shattering, in the breaking apart and the shaking of ecstasy, our hero comes to face how he really feels; what had truly caused the drift between him and his true love. The booklet is once again necessary:
“We are eleven and she is the love of my life
But one week from now she will turn her back on me
Four years from now she will give me hope, then sleep with my best friend
Five years from now it is the two of us but by then there is nothing
left of this aching love and this soaring love.
So. Betrayal and at a much earlier date than what we would have imagined. Was the child that was miscarried even theirs? If so, who is the second child that his love has before she kills herself? These are open questions. But what we know now is that our hero has come to the end point. He has nothing left to him; Budapest, representing carnal pleasures and the ecstasy of the flesh, doesn’t satisfy him, only leads him in a circle into himself. His true love is dead and even when she was alive, she had betrayed him. What is left for a man that has had everything pulled from under him only to find that he is at fault for everything?
Why, going insane. And this is exactly what the last track, “Beyond the Pale”, is all about. Now, I could write a *prognotes post just about this track. It contains all the themes of the album, brought together to one maddening thread. This state of mind, of having nowhere to run, of being broken, of longing for unity with others but unable to reach out, can be found in the middle part of the track. The lyrics are just too beautiful and complex to describe, so read them for yourself:
SOMEONE still this hunger (it’s in my blood) always growing stronger (ticking)
BUDAPEST I’m learning, Budapest you’re burning me
This is not who I wanted to be, this is not what I wanted to see
She’s so young so why don’t I feel free now that she is here under me?
Naked – Touching – Soft – Clutching
And then after all it leads me here to wake up again
Seeking a love that might make me feel free in myself but then it proves to be
Something that hurts inside when we touch, so I move on, I lose my way
Astray, I’m trying too much to feel unchained, to burn out this sense of feeling cold
And every day I seek my prey: someone to taste and to hold
I feel alive during the split second when they smile and meet my eyes
But I could cry ’cause I feel broken inside!
From sexual hunger and the flesh to the longing for connection and company and back to the shattered self, unable to face himself and make sense of his life. Not only that, but by bringing the threads back together, Gildenlow once again revisits the relationship between our hero and his true love; in the light of such sexual hunger, of the need to repress himself for so long, her betrayal stings deeper:
And we were always much more human than we wished to be…
And I remember when you said you’ve been UNDER him – I was surprised to feel such pain
And all those years of being faithful to YOU despite the hunger flowing through my veins
And I have always tried to calm things down – SWALLOW down swallow down
“It’s just another small THORN in my crown”
But suddenly one day there was too much blood in my eyes, and I had to take this WALK down
REMEDY LANE of whens and whys…
Imagine carrying that load within you, that inescapable hunger, fighting against it only to find that the one you love most had succumbed long ago. The pain from that revelation would shatter any man, not to mention someone as troubled and frayed as our hero. And so it does; there is no hope for our hero so if you were looking for a happy ending you’d best look away now. What is left to him now? Budapest is no real answer. His true love has died. He is left with himself and the weight of what he has done, the weight of his never-ending appetites, of his memories of first loves and peaks of emotion. Indeed, Budapest herself leaves eventually and our hero is alone:
SOMEONE still this hunger (possessing my mind) always growing stronger (craving)
BUDAPEST I’m learning, Budapest I’m burning me
This is not who I wanted to be, this is not what I wanted to see
She’s so young so why I don’t feel free now that she’s under me?
In the morning she’s going away in a Budapest taxi I’ve paid
Seeking freedom I touched the untouched – it’s too much – I’m BEYOND THE PALE
Note the The Perfect Element reference in the second line (“I set myself on fire, to breed the perfect element”). How can I summarize such a story? What to say in the face of this denial, rejection and disfigurement of getting better, of the chance that at the end of Remedy Lane, so reminiscent of memory lane of course, there is no hope, no cure and no catharsis? That in the end, diving into our deepest pain has no more result than simply…making us hurt, that there is no peace to be found by draining the wound. I can only leave you with the words of Gildenlow himself, the words which close the album:
Pre-maturity is the story of both you and me, and we were always much more human than we wished to be
Pre-maturity is truly the story of both you and me, and we were always much more human than we wished to be
We were always much more human than we wished to be – we were always much more human than we wished to be
We will always be more human then we wish to be
WE WILL ALWAYS BE SO MUCH MORE HUMAN THAN WE WISH TO BE