Post-Jordanism: noun- The artistic (cultural?) movement which began in late 2011. Works within this deal with themes of existential crisis, identity crisis, posttraumatic stress disorder, the state of being broken, intrusive thoughts of (non)existent(?) memory, the morbid preoccupation with suicide, grief, uncontrollable emotion, and darkness as a simple abstract concept. ex. 1: "Kill me."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In Which I Attempt to Analyze The Parallax II: Future Sequence (Between the Buried and Me)

First of all, note that this is an outdated picture of the cover art; it's been changed from "Part 2" to simply "II," a decision I didn't like at first but have since warmed up to.

Between the Buried and Me are a.. well, they're a band. They make music. They happen to be my favourite band at the moment. This is because they are more than just a band; they're storytellers, rather surreal storytellers primed in the stream-of-consciousness prose-poetry hybrid they call lyrics. When they released The Parallax II, I was stoked to see what an album-wide story by these guys would end up like. The predecessor/first part to The Parallax, an EP labelled Hypersleep Dialogues, provided a rich look into the two protagonists of the story, simply referred to as "Prospect #1" and "Prospect #2." Now, rather than spend time analyzing the lyrics of Hypersleep Dialogues, I'll just link you to an incredibly handy and commendable two blog posts I read on Heavy Blog Is Heavy. Here's the first part, and here's the second. These two posts explain and make sense of the EP's story far more than I possibly could have, and I will be using this analysis as the basis for my own.

The key information to keep in mind, though, is that Prospect #1 is the protagonist from Between the Buried and Me's earlier song "Swim to the Moon," off of The Great Misdirect, and Prospect #2 is a character mentioned in the two-part song "Lost Perfection," off of The Silent Circus. In "Swim to the Moon," a businessman gets tired of his stressful daily life and goes off to the beach, lies on his back on the water, and floats off. The song details his thoughts during three days out at sea. "Lost Perfection" talks about the end of the world as brought on by three lovers (who happen to be expanded upon in "Prequel to the Sequel" off of Colors, where we're treated to an allegorical tale about how their world ends), Prospect #2 turning out to be one of these three characters.

And to sum up Hypersleep Dialogues, Prospect #1 finds land, sends a signal, and is found and taken back to civilization. Meanwhile, Prospect #2 sets out in a spaceship on a mission to start new life out in the stars, developing a Godlike complex at having survived the end of his world, and coming to terms with the fact that his world is gone.

So, then! Let's dive into Future Sequence. My information will be a mixture of the lyrics that came with the album, anything I can vaguely remember the band disclosing about the album, and speculation based on all kinds of things including the art that came in the album's liner notes.

"Goodbye to Everything"

I wonder if I'm alive
Breathe slowly
Open your eyes

Can you hear me?
Look at what's in front of you
An endless journey
Our end
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

From what I have gathered in my research of this album, I at least know "Goodbye to Everything" serves as a sort of in medias res introduction; this actually takes place at the end of the story. The art accompanying the lyrics in the booklet consists of a spaceship flying through space.

My interpretation of this is that the first three lines are Prospect #1's inner monologue, while the rest is Prospect #2 speaking to him. By this point, both Prospects have ended pretty much everything and are floating off into space (or the sun, hard to tell).

"Astral Body"

Prospect 2:
Analyze my own matter from above
Blacked out eyes in an existence overgrown
Never fall back down
Trapped in myself

Sold my hands
Envy them
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

Speak to me freely
I am listening

Accompanying art is that of Prospect #2 with a surreal disembodied hand touching him from above. And also a surreal disembodied eyeball looking at the hand. ..I think.

Right. So we've left the end of the story, yeah? Let's call this a direct continuation of Hypersleep Dialogues; Prospect #2 has just come to the cold realization that his world is forever gone. He doesn't seem to be taking it very well ("I know the devastation I have caused upon myself and this world"). The 'chorus' of the song ("Speak to me freely, I am listening"), I take to be an attempt at humility by subverting Prospect #2's "Lost Perfection" title of the man who talks too much. Here, he shows signs of wanting to change his ways.

Of course, there's a notable sci-fi element to this (aside from the whole "THE WORLD HAS ENDED AND YOU ARE IN A SPACESHIP" part, I mean) in that Prospect #2 has the ability to observe himself in a sort of out-of-body experience, his "astral body." In fact, I'm willing to bet he reaches his astral body by entering hypersleep, a vague subject mentioned in Hypersleep Dialogues. This would explain his "blacked out eyes." The line directly following that, "Never fall back down, trapped in myself," seems to suggest that he might be stuck in hypersleep.

What does Prospect #2 do with his astral body? Well, from the looks of it, he analyzes himself and cuts pieces from his body. My speculation is that he wants to see if there's some fundamental part of his body that makes him terrible in his eyes (it's worth mentioning that Between the Buried and Me songs do often deal with the less appealing aspects of human nature, so this would fit in with that).

"Lay Your Ghosts to Rest"

Prospect 2:
Under it all
A new world
A new world made with the hands of madness
These hands
They will always do the cutting
Piece by piece the pain gets worse
If only I could see myself right now

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 have left for explaining)

Will it be found?
Will the right hands deliver?
The heartache I left

Cut until all that is left is new material
Day in, day out
Deep down I know what I must do

So much happens behind closed doors
So much happens behind our closed doors
This key will open them
Expose us all

Crusty-eyed symphony
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

Folder 502:
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
Weak minds
Weak life

(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.)
.fade out.

I wake to my own whimper
Ship is counting down
Must regroup myself

The end starts now

The accompanying art is a sort of ship diagnostic reading, and I quote,

12h 51m 26.282s +27(degrees) 07 42.01 [J2000] (192.859508, 27.128336)

17h 45m 37.224s -28(degrees) 56 10.23 [J2000] (266.405100, -28.936175)



So, where to begin analyzing all this. It seems like Prospect #2 has taken to cutting himself almost entirely, trying to make new humans using pieces of himself. ..maybe. Actually, no, let me tell you what my exact interpretation is.

"Folder 502" seems to be something Prospect #2 did not write, whatever it says. I'm betting it was written by the Night Owls, a cryptic race of aliens from The Great Misdirect's "Fossil Genera (A Feed From Cloud Mountain)." Considering they're mentioned by name in this song's lyrics, I don't think it's that farfetched. (It's worth mentioning that, in Hypersleep Dialogues, Prospect #2 frequently mentions a drive for "moving forward." At the end of "Fossil Genera," it's hinted that humanity's drive to keep moving on left it wide open to be taken over by the Night Owls.) If I had to guess, I'd say Folder 502 basically says "Fly into the black hole at the center of the galaxy. End it all, it's the only way to be sure." They're referred to as "precaution documents," after all.

So with that in mind, let's break down that particular lyrical segment.

Folder 502:
The precaution documents
The failsafe way back "home" (Considering Prospect #2's home is now silence and nothingness, this can probably be seen as a metaphor.)
Should I end it right here and now? (I take this as him asking if he should just stick with killing himself alone.)
That would be far too selfish (And then realizing that that only solves his problems rather than that of humanity's, which would be selfish.)
I shall end what I've begun (He had set out on a mission: Create new life.)
The creation of more
More of us (At first, I thought this could have meant, by "end what I've begun," seeing it through to the end. But then the next lines came in.)
The skin and bones of destruction
An army of weak souls
Weak minds
Weak life (If I'm right, this would be Prospect #2 revealing his contempt for humanity's flaws. If he created new life, it would just be, to him, an army of weak life. This works well with a line from Hypersleep Dialogues, "They let these people recreate. Maybe I should have ended it all. Too late?" Which would be him reflecting on the humanity he once knew. When we consider all this, Prospect #2 "ending what [he has] begun" would be ending new life before it just ruins another planet again.)

So what we have here is a masochistic space-traveling protagonist with a God complex, probably following orders from Night Owls.
I admit, what "The Night Owls always send me back. Seems to be in their DNA" could mean, I don't know.

There's also the curious line "the letter is all I left for explaining." My first thought of this was that Prospect #2 had written a sort of explanation note on his home planet for anyone to read, but if that's the case, it's never mentioned again. My second thought, which I developed much later in the album, is that this is the same letter as a letter integral to Prospect #1's story. But we'll talk more about this one when we get there. Just.. keep the letter in mind for now.

To wrap this up, let's recap. Prospect #2 wakes up from hypersleep/his astral body ("Crusty-eyed symphony awakened by my grunts and moans/I wake to my own whimper") to find that his ship is flying towards the center of the galaxy/wherever Folder 502 is telling his ship to go.


This is a short instrumental track acting as an ambient interlude, with the sounds of space and alien noises (according to the album credits, at least). The accompanying art is of two planets crashing into each other.

As much as I don't want to admit it, I don't think any story happens here.

"Extremophile Elite"

Prospect 1:
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
Galaxy drifter
Entwined together
To grasp the other hand
To hear the other speak
Carve one's skin out of their own soil
Sends chills throughout my body

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
Digging graves
Deeper graves
The machines deafen my ears with such extremity
Constant maze from digging graves
I bury my head in the dirt
It all stops

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
.fade out.

Prospect 2:
Eyes slowly open as dust clouds surround me
Speak to me freely
I am listening

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 man's head. It pulls out of the ground with ease.)

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..."

Accompanying art is of both Prospects, looking fairly identical, reaching out to shake each other's hand.

Here, the events are told twice, once through each Prospect's eyes. Do note that the only context we have had since Hypersleep Dialogues is of Prospect #2; Prospect #1 has context that is still to come. The basic events of this song are Prospect #2 finding a man with his head buried in the ground, pulling him out of the ground to discover it's Prospect #1.

Prospect #1's perspective: He had dreamed the previous night of meeting Prospect #2 ("To see one's self is hard to explain, Last night was the first notion of this"), and in his dream saw the whole cutting-up-pieces-from-his-body deal ("Carve one's skin out of their own soil, Sends chills throughout my body"). ...I think. He wakes up in a graveyard of sorts where nearby machines are digging new graves, and the noise fills Prospect #1 with such anxiety that he buries his head in the dirt to get away from it all. And then he's pulled out to meet his mirror.

Prospect #2's perspective: He wakes up, vowing to keep his humility going ("Speak to me freely, I am listening," though the way the line is sung in the song makes me vaguely believe it's more of a cynical application of sarcasm), noticing he is now on a new planet (his ship had probably landed by this point). He finds Prospect #1, digs him up, and then sees a note that he says is his note. ..the end.

The note is the most confusing part for me. The most likely option is that it's the note he left for explaining that he mentioned in "Lay Your Ghosts to Rest," but then why would it be buried on Prospect #1's planet? As I mentioned earlier, Prospect #1 does have a letter that is integral to his arc, but  Prospect #2 shows no sign of it being that letter in question. So this part is a bit of a mystery.

OH BUT I HAVE SPECULATION ON IT: Perhaps Prospect #2's letter was a suicide one, left on his planet to inform whoever may find it that he has gone and will never return. Perhaps, leading off this, Prospect #1's letter was also a suicide letter, written exactly the same. Prospect #2 sees it and mistakes it as his own, then coming to the realization that both Prospects parallel each other. This works well when considering it's the transition to the following song.


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 nor 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 intwined to make a decision

Art is same as "Extremophile Elite's."

So this is basically Prospect #2 explaining that both Prospects share a lot of the same beliefs and pains.

"The Black Box"

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?

Accompanying art is of an ominous owl perched atop a mini planet.

Admittedly, this is another fairly difficult song to analyze, at least when we're not fully certain what the context is. If we're leading off my analysis so far, this would be Prospect #2 proposing that Prospect #1 join him. The "We build mountains to crush oceans, You're in danger from our creations" bit would be him speaking of humanity as a whole, pointing out the inevitable danger of humanity's growing ambitions. After all, Prospect #2 was one of the people who ended his own planet; he knows what he's talking about here.


The Decision (Prospect 2 speaks):
Built to destroy
Born to compress
Every worry
Every idea
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
Worm discussion

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

She Writes:
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 into 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.

She Speaks:
Was I ever really alive?
Did I stay in his mind?

Goodbye to all I've known
I love you

Prospect 2:
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

Prospect 1:
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

Art is of an asteroid belt.

Okay, so clearly a lot happens here. Before I talk about the Prospects, let me discuss that big prose section labelled "She Writes." My interpretation of this is that this is the lover of Prospect #1. "Swim to the Moon" consisted of Prospect #1 going out to sea for a few days, but then Hypersleep Dialogues contained this bit when he was being taken back to civilization:

Many days and fewer nights... so I'm told.
I've lost my time years ago... so I'm told. (This could be taken as saying that the people who found him told him that he had been gone for much longer than he'd assumed.)
The explaining. The whispered words. (Whispered words, almost like they're trying to hide something from him.)
This will be the hardest part... so I'm told. (The hardest part would be, in this case, breaking the news to Prospect #1 that his wife had killed herself.)

..because yes, that's my interpretation: Prospect #1's wife killed herself because her life lost its meaning without her lover. He left without letting anyone know, just so he could selfishly escape from his daily stresses. So, after years ("I've lost my time years ago"), she decides to set their entire house on fire and burn to death with all her memories. Either that or she literally stepped into a box and set it on fire. But I'm pretty sure it's the house.

There are only two parts of this I'm not sure of: "Rebirth, reborn," and whether or not Prospect #1 actually knows his wife is dead by this point. "Rebirth" makes me think there's more I'm missing, though it could just be a poetic end to her life. As for the second point, Prospect #1 mentions a "her" in his lyrics, but the events of "Melting City" later on lead me to believe he either doesn't yet know she's dead or is repressing the knowledge. ..actually, it could very easily be repression; that would give him a parallel with Prospect #2 coming to terms with the loss of his world in Hypersleep Dialogues.

So then! Let's now take a look at what happens with the Prospects during "Telos." The basic summary is both Prospects discuss what they must do.

Prospect #2's decision: Basically, Prospect #2 talks a lot about his views on human nature that he'd been hinting at before. Anxiety controls us and drives us down the wrong paths, fueling us as a species and surely bringing us to nowhere but destruction. The line "You will never know, Just like all the fools before you" would refer to Prospect #2's foreknowledge of his humanity ending their world, and Prospect #1's humanity heading in the same direction. So he proposes that they, the "dual gods of our time" (more of that Godlike complex), end not just their lives but the lives of all humanity. "Let the galaxy form a comfortable replacement. We will not be missed" sums it up fairly well.

Prospect #1's reply: Okay, this is where I start really speculating and might very well be wrong. Let me give a breakdown:

Doing as one's told
A puppet through fear (Could either be an agreement with Prospect #2's thesis on human nature, or as I speculate, realizing that he doesn't know if he wants to be Prospect #2's 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.) (The way he speaks about "her" implies that he doesn't know she's dead yet.)
Why can't we step back? ("Why should we jump straight to suicide?")
Are we really this important? (A denial of the God complex.)
Just because we can doesn't mean we should
(Let things happen naturally)
Personal resets through selfish release (I speculate this refers to the events of "Swim to the Moon," resetting his life and selfishly taking him out of his life. My theory is that this is Prospect #1 secretly saying he intends on running away from Prospect #2, shirking the responsibility #2 claims #1 has so that #1 can be content in isolation, or with his wife if he doesn't yet know of her death.)
At least I will enjoy
The worry slips under the door
(I will never see him or I again) (This seems to support my theory.)
You won't see me coming

So, to recap: The Prospects have met. Prospect #2 views humanity cynically and proposes they end it all. Prospect #1 is unsure, intends on running off in the face of this anxiety #2 is presenting (the fact that Prospect #1 was found with his head in the ground, which Prospect #2 mentions as an anxiety coping mechanism, shows that Prospect #1 does not know how to cope well under pressure, especially when you add his "Swim to the Moon" escapade). In the middle of all this, we're given the life and death of Prospect #1's wife.


Get down here and sing the songs we sing
In bloom we come
Tentacles swing with the water's breeze
In bloom we...

Crowd around
Drift down slowly
Get rid of your undesirable oxygen
Just drift on down with us
In bloom we grow
Together as one
This underwater village
Bebop skippity tippity tap those toes

Queen Sea will take you in
This is your new home now
Ignore the laughter
We will not hurt you
Your last wishes
Queen Sea will take you in

In bloom we know what life is all about
With not a worry in the world
Let the water move you
Move to the sweet sway of nutrition
Move to the sweet sway of melody

Queen Sea will give back life
We used you
Your purpose is clear
We never knew

Floating back to the surface

(Tentacle hearse transportation...
Actual happenings or the distant mind?)

Accompanying art is of an underwater nude woman with dozens of blooming tentacles entangled around her (probably coming out of her). There are also what seem to be jellyfish surrounding her.

Ah, this song. One of my two favourite songs on this whole album, my god. Just plain beautiful, practically one big Big Lipped Alligator Moment in both music and lyric. But let's try to make sense of it.

So, either when Prospect #1 was floating over the course of "Swim to the Moon," or at this current point in the story if Prospect #1 reacted to his anxiety by simply going to the ocean again, he is pulled down underwater/asked to come down underwater to meet the cryptic Queen Sea character. Though this could very easily just be a dream sequence, with Queen Sea being a metaphor for Prospect #1's desire to drown. The last line ("Actual happenings or the distant mind?") makes it clear it probably isn't meant to be clear whether it happened or not.

..personally, I would love it if it turned out "Bloom" really happened. Maybe I just love Between the Buried and Me's disturbing antagonist characters, which is why I also love the Night Owls.

"Melting City"

The Black Mask:
Creep in
Before the rise of the sun
Execute a story never told
Do not think
Just do
No human emotion
Who says I am even human at this point?
A poor example of life
No morals
Just a huge display of direction
Hear, then do
Sneak in the box before the rise of the sun
A four-handed bed occupied by only two
The window is yawning

Faceless in a sea of space
My propulsion from their pain

In, out
Why would they need me for a simple confession?
Collect, then destroy
Collect, then destroy
Before the rise of the sun

Faceless in a sea of space
My propulsion from their pain

Years Later:
Frantic writing
Not meant for my eyes
Why did I keep this? What inside forced me to see the ink?
Smoothed out, then in pieces.
I can't live with this
I must let her know

A valley of smiling despair
Self doubt would be my first guess
Confusion, sadness, the other half
But lost through selfish measures
I can't live with this
I must let her know

(One heart in a two-heart bed. She woke to nothing. Because of me, she woke up to nothing.)

The robot has stepped out of his box
Foreigner in my own land
No profit
For once no profit
Walk in
After the rise of the sun
Conclude a story never read
A burning smell creeps up my nostrils (the box is gone)
A trapdoor locked from the inside
Incomplete me
Impossible conclusion

Faceless in a sea of space
My propulsion from their pain

Accompanying art is of a sci-fi planet landscape with mountains. There is a house on a mountain with smoke coming out of its windows.

Okay, so I came up with another interpretation of "Bloom" while transcribing those lyrics there. According to this new interpretation, one I will use for the remainder of this analysis, it would have been a dream Prospect #1 had years ago that led him to go out to sea in the first place. The lyrics call him to the ocean, after all, and they also mention that they "used" him.

So directly after Prospect #1 has this dream, "Melting City" happens. While we're still going with this interpretation, the Black Mask would be Prospect #1 himself. He sneaks into the box (his house) "before the rise of the sun," before his wife wakes up. He takes whatever he needs and gets going.

Then, years later, we see the current point in the story; the "Black Mask," Prospect #1, returns to his home. He sees the note his wife wrote for him ("Frantic writing, Not meant for my eyes"). He has to let his wife know he's here, but he smells smoke and finds her dead.

The chorus ("Faceless in a sea of space, My propulsion from their pain") is cryptic, I admit. A lot of parts of this song are. I have the feeling this song is the point where probably everyone's theories on the album get muddled, as this song seems to introduce so many new elements, including a new character name (The Black Mask). But I'm willing to bet that Between the Buried and Me stuck to general writing conventions and made sure not to introduce a new essential character this far into the story (ignore the fact that Prospect #1's wife wasn't even mentioned until "Telos;" technically speaking that's just about the halfway point for the album, so it could pass). I think this song is about Prospect #1 because-- well okay because it seems to deal with his wife's death, so he's a good contender for the song focus. But aside from that! Aside from that, it's the three-chorus song structure, the epic metal feel, and the constant wordplay and metaphors. I feel like this song can be compared to the general feel of "Swim to the Moon," which would work considering this is basically what happens before and after the song.

"Silent Flight Parliament"

Prospect 2:
I know what I must do
I'm coming home

Fixed socket threat
Binocular vision
I see all
I hear all
Superior intellect
I'm the night owl
Built by the alien gods
A necessity to the existence of all life
Fixed socket threat
Binocular vision
I see all
I hear all
I'm the night owl

I return in the day but you won't ever see me
Only my eyes
The blaring yellow sphere
A sharp distortion
The TV screen you stare at night after night
Over and over

You are staring into me
Cut the wires and cut your ties
You aren't what you think
An experiment
They will send us to warn, but that's part of the game as well
Fucking weaklings

Prospect 2:
I still know what my mind tells you to do
Cut out pieces to form new

Am I me?
What is he?

It's come to the point of opening the box
Carved in the side are the words: Property of the Night Owls
Smash to unlock the desperate measures

Am I me?
What is he?

He is found and I will drag him to his end
It's not selfish if it's what's right
He knows I'm looking for him
This thievery is for the bettering of all humankind
So it seems

Creep in
Before the rise of the sun
They are sleeping
Holding each other like it's the last...
And it is
Open the valve
Fill the room
Say goodbye to everything

Am I me?

Seek the day
Never again
Weightless in a sea of space

Prospect 1:
Eyes open to the sound of laughter
Like a mighty God casting his spells on the world below
The man is me

Jet propulsion disengage
Dancing towards our future
A future of nothing
A future towards nothing
Goodbye to everything

Accompanying art is of the silhouette of a crumbling asteroid.

..okay so there's even more confusing stuff here. We're presented with monologues from "Strigiformes," which Google tells me is the fancy name for owls, so this is basically the part where the long-discussed Night Owls finally come into play. ..uh. Where to begin.

Let me tell you what my interpretation is of the Night Owls in this song. The way I see it, that large Strigiformes section translates to a description of how evolved the Night Owls are, as well as a reveal that all of humanity (or at least just the Prospects) has just been an experiment, a game. They're basically the masterminds behind everything. And then I also have this interpretation that the world Prospect #1 lived in was also the same world of "Fossil Genera," but then that's more of my theory that all of The Great Misdirect is a dystopian view of a dying world, and that's for another day!

As for Prospect #2's part in the song, I see it as him deciding, with absolute determination, on ending everything one way or another. So he makes it to the burning house of Prospect #1 (ominously stamped "Property of the Night Owls," possibly supporting my wilder theory of #1's world) and finds #1 sleeping with his dead wife. ...but wait, it says they're "holding each other," and she wouldn't be able to hold him back if she were dead. Unless it's just metaphorical, which is fairly likely. Hell, I don't even know if #1 and his wife truly are the "They" the song speaks of. It's very hard to tell! And then the bit about the "Open the valve, Fill the room," goodness. No idea what the hell that might mean. So for the purpose of my interpretation, I'll simply.. assume it to be very metaphorical.

Then the Night Owls laugh over the Prospects being weightless in a sea of space, because by this point Prospect #2 will have taken #1 back to his ship. Or somethWAIT GOT IT

THE VALVE BIT will have been Prospect #2 working on killing the humans on Prospect #1's world. .....let's stick with the metaphorical interpretation, at least it made sense.

The point is that the Night Owls are laughing because their plan went well and Prospect #2 went and did it in the end anyway.

Then Prospect #1 wakes up just in time to see it all end. Or at least for Prospect #2 to disengage the jet propulsion so the two can dance towards their future of nothing (FLOATING TOWARDS THE SUN, THE SUN OF NOTHING).

What I'm trying to say here is that, by this point, I don't think definitive conjecture is possible without the band themselves giving us more context. Whether they will or if they'll expand upon characters or themes in later albums (I would love to see more Night Owl focus, or for it to turn out Queen Sea was real), I don't know, but as it stands Future Sequence's lyrics make it incredibly hard to even come up with an accurate hypothesis.

..oh yeah, and

"Goodbye to Everything Reprise"

Goodbye to everything!

There, album's over. The booklet ends with a picture of stars saying "Goodbye to everything," a picture of Prospect #2's disembodied astral body hand, and a picture of a Night Owl (or at least of an owl).

So, to wrap up my interpretation, the Prospects have either ended human life or at least just ended their own lives, either by flying into a black hole/a sun or into the emptiness of space forever. "Goodbye to everything," and all that. Only it turns out it was all planned all along by the Night Owls. Because those guys are freaking awesome. And Prospect #1 has nothing to live for now that he knows for sure his wife is dead or whatever it turns out to be, and Prospect #2 has had nothing to live for ever since Hypersleep Dialogues but at least now he has company and can bask in his Godlike complex until his death. Whenever that will be.

Thus ends the tales of "Lost Perfection," "Prequel to the Sequel," "Fossil Genera (A Feed From Cloud Mountain)," and "Swim to the Moon" as I have attempted to interpret them! ...well, probably the end. I doubt Between the Buried and Me will make The Parallax III. Or even a small song on a future album giving an epilogue, though that would be pretty neat.

..so yeah. Thank you for reading along, whoever decided to read this. All lyrics and the music I refer to is written and performed by Between the Buried and Me. And the art I refer to is.. credited in the lyric booklet somewhere.

The end!

Now go home.


  1. You know what open the valve, fill the room reminds me of? It reminds me of that scene from Alien Resurrection where Ripley opens that hatch somehow and the mother alien is sucked out piece by piece. Don't know why just does.

  2. I think I have an idea of the black box thing. Maybe it's the Night owls speaking in sort. Folder 502, its maybe the signification of folder 502

  3. just think about fossil genera idea of night owl controling all life and reprents a kind of god. so in the message of prospect #1's wife there is a link with the black box

  4. i thought the black mask might be someone else who is with prospect 1's wife.

  5. the last one thing I undestand is about bloom. the song i s a reference in swim to the moon chorus I think. Just decorticate the song swim to the moon and there is an explanation for bloom

  6. Regarding "Bloom" and "Swim to the Moon:" After checking the lyrics to "Swim to the Moon," I'm even more sure that "Bloom" was probably why Prospect #1 went out to sea in the first place. It works with the chorus's "Become one with the sea," and he mentions having reasons for coming to the ocean. Until any further breakthroughs or official word, this is as far as I can really get.

    Regarding the Black Mask being someone having an affair with Prospect #1's wife: THAT IS A REALLY GOOD IDEA. Though it raises the questions of "What point would this serve in the story" and "Why does the 'Years Later' section seem almost exactly like it was written by Prospect #1?" Plus it would mean Prospect #1 appears very little in the overall album, while I think we'd see a bit more of him than that, but this one isn't definitive evidence.

    Regarding Prospect #1's wife: I actually also recently came up with another theory. What if she didn't kill herself, but simply burned all her possessions? Burned the house down? It would explain how Prospect #1 can be sleeping with her in "Silent Flight Parliament," though it raises the question of why such a big fuss was raised in "Melting City" over her unless it was all a misunderstanding or, as hypothesized above, the Black Mask is someone else entirely. But for this, I defer to Occam's Razor and say my initial theory was probably the most accurate. It was at least the simplest I could come up with with the given context.

    Same with the Black Box being related to the Night Owls and Folder 502, it's possible, but the simplest explanation that accounts for as much of the lyrics as possible is, I think, my analysis in the post. Besides, I did account that the Black Box might have been related to them, in that my interpretation of the Black Box is it's Prospect #1's home and he lives in the world of "Fossil Genera" so his home would be labelled "Property of the Night Owls."

    These are all fascinating ideas, though! That's what I love about Between the Buried and Me: their lyrics are so cryptic yet so tightly woven, they can allow for so many different theories. And then their music kicks so much ass on top of this.

    1. the only reason i thought black mask would have to be someone else, like someone having an affair with his wife, is why would they change his name in the middle also? to me that makes less sense than introducing another character. maybe it is showing what actually happened with his wife behind prospect 1's back.
      i agree though that is also why i love this band.

  7. I think autumn is when prospect 2 finally lands on prospects 1's world thus "there worlds are colliding" in the album art....also i think black box could be the night owls talking..reference to the first two lines are the same as when the strigiformes speak in silent flight parliament. possibly talking to prospect 2 because they seem to have some sort of tie and maybe "come soar with me" is them telling him to come home again?....finally the note that comes up could maybe be prospect 1 suicide note to his wife..he might not have remembered he had it until he saw it again which could mean he was the "black mask" and for some reason went back into his home and took it?

  8. Personally I view the Parallax Saga/BTBAM's discography to be the most amazing artistic accomplishment I am aware of. The absolute depth of the lyrics is astounding and the planning that must have gone into this is something that leaves me in awe.

    At this point I'm trying to work on my own interpretation (long way to go until a written analysis) and being aware of the story going all the way back to their self titled is a daunting task.

    One of the things I most respect about the obfuscation present in the story, is how There seems to be very few (I haven't seen anyone online) who acknowledge the span of it. Another being how many times major plot points must be reconsidered with the discover of new detail (something that tormented me when I previously did try to do a written analysis).

    It all seems very self-referential, see Backwards Marathon, Aesthetic, and Autodidact. This along with the shifting lyrical style (Camillia Rhodes to Mordecai, Alaska to Croakies And Boat Shoes) make it difficult to recognize that there is relation between all of their songs, and even harder to fully understand it.

    What are your thoughts on continuity through the whole discography?





    1. I've made a lot of advancements in my interpretations of their songs, both in The Parallax and overall. This might sound a bit cynical, but I believe most of their music was not created with a plan in mind for the future; it wasn't until at least The Great Misdirect when such ideas would have really been taken into consideration, as "Swim to the Moon" was said to be the start of a story that might keep going even shortly after its release.

      "Shevanel Take 2," for instance, is literally just a second "take" on a very personal subject matter to Tommy, a second attempt to convey how he feels. And of course, "Prequel to the Sequel" was deliberately connected to "Lost Perfection."
      ..I'd may as well also throw in there that "White Walls" mentions the Camilla of "Camilla Rhodes" because the name is a reference to Mulholland Drive, a brilliant film that influenced the band greatly.

      Hm, right, what other examples of continuity are there. ..y'know, besides The Parallax (which goes without saying as it's a rock opera), there really aren't any significant connections between songs. xD

      I should also mention that the band released a book explaining the story behind The Parallax. Turns out I was pretty wrong in various points in my analysis. The Black Mask was a killer hired by the Night Owls to do something strange: Destroy a letter (Prospect #2 had left a letter for his wife and wondered for the first half of the album whether or not she got it, only to find it miraculously with Prospect #1 in "Extremophile Elite"). He steals it but for some reason never destroys it, only reading it years later, feeling emotion for once, and desperately hoping he can return it in time before damage is done-- but it is, of course, too late. Then "Bloom" is a flashback to the events after "Swim to the Moon--" Prospect #1 is dying, Queen Sea takes him in and operates on him then returns him to the surface. And "Silent Flight Parliament" is pretty self-explanatory here: Prospect #2 finds Prospect #1 holding his wife, because #1's wife is not the one who killed herself. Then #2 gases them both and everybody dies and the Night Owls laugh.

    2. Another thing to mention: The SIlent Circus's liner notes explain what each song is about. The Colors_Live DVD has a bonus feature that does the same for Colors. Through these, Tommy pretty much explains that most of the songs are standalone things about certain subjects, usually to do with either achieving personal happiness (the "Shevanel" songs, "Mordecai," most of Colors [especially "Ants of the Sky"]) or with condemning society ("Croakies and Boatshoes" is a jab at a certain culture predominant in North Carolina, "Destructo Spin" is a fuck-you to George W. Bush, "The Need for Repetition" attacks the churches that hide their child-raping priests, "Informal Gluttony" is an attack on the food industry). Or with music and the music industry ("Alaska" is about writer's block and the strange philosophical roads it takes Tommy down, "Ad a dglgmut" is about their general musical philosophy in finding beauty in chaos, "Aesthetic" is an ode to the band on the Titanic who played until the moment they died because they loved music so much, and "White Walls" is literally about the music industry itself).

      ..so after all of this, I don't think all (or even many) of Between the Buried and Me's songs are connected. Many lines and motifs come up a lot, such as sleeping and dreaming, or the mind and the tricks it plays on us, or personal happiness, or dealing with anxiety-- but that's simply because Tommy is human, and humans end up writing about what they are interested in and/or what is personal to them.
      Plus Tommy seems to dabble predominantly in Surrealism, most blatantly tipped off by his stream-of-consciousness lyrical style. And that basically means he writes his thoughts. It's a wonderful style he's fine-tuned this into, and it always gives me much to think about, but it helps to remember it means the *plot* of all the songs is not interconnected although the *themes and motifs* of them often are.

      Oh, and the final nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that all their songs are a part of a greater story: Tommy has outright said (during a Reddit Ask Me Anything interview) that The Parallax is only a continuation of specific songs. Their discography is not, for the most part, interconnected.

      But don't get me wrong-- what *is* interconnected is remarkable and very well done. While it's not one of my favourite stories of all time, it's one of the most striking and better-written stories told in music of such a scale-- at least that I've ever seen. It's certainly better executed than Coheed & Cambria's discography, where the story might be outright Shakespeare for all I care, but the music is only a companion to it and not a satisfactory medium for telling the story. ...except The Afterman, which is a huge step in the right direction.

      ..note that I am half-asleep right now so this wound up being a very rambly post.