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Vagary of narrator in song represented by written context

Posted 10 Months ago by galbraith

Message on a screen before me
Caught a glimpse of the ending to our story
"I'm sorry I haven't called you recently."

It's from the track "The Architect", by the UK prog metal band Haken. Besides how directly poignant it is, I also find how they used quotation marks very interesting. I thought of the lines as all originating from the same character when listening to the track initially. It wasn't until reading the lyrics that I realized that the narrator is quoting the message mentioned previously. This kind of layered meaning, with one character speaking to another in audition revealed to be the opposite way upon seeing the lyrics on the page, is extremely intriguing to me. There's only one other example of it that I know of, though.

In the track "Strange Brew" by Opeth, the setting is established thusly:

An afternoon walk through the park
I keep to the shadows until it's dark

I am not educated nor free of sin
I carry thoughts of giving in

There is a void surrounding me
No sound, and in the black I can not see
There is a chasm between you and me
You have no face, no body, no words to speak

Given the context of Opeth's (generally) most famous album Blackwater Park being a concept album about the titular location being a gathering place of the people we have lost, it is easy to think of this verse communicating that a living person is wandering the park in despair and longing, searching for some shade of someone that they've lost. However, it's more complex than that, as we see from the outro couplet:

A voice through the rain tells me I'm here
A glance from a veil brings me to tears

In my initial listen, I heard "tells me you're here" instead of "tells me I'm here". After reading the lyrics, I had to go back and listen to how it was actually pronounced. The vocalist actually elides most of the penultimate word - he sings something like "tells me-ah-here". In practical listening, it could be perceived either way.

In addition, I've also seen the text version written as both "tells me I'm here" and "tells me 'I'm here'", which adds another layer to it.

The second line adds yet another layer due to multiple interpretations of "veil". The narrator could be referring to the veil of a grieving person or to the idea of the "veil between worlds" that separates the living and the dead.

The narrator could be someone seeking out a "thin place in the veil" (this park) in order to possibly catch a glimpse of someone they've lost, but they could just as easily be someone who has been lost and who has been waiting here for a grieving person to seek out their shade. In addition, whichever narrator it is supposed to be could be speaking in the sense that they have finally arrived at the relevant place, or that whoever they are seeking has been here for however long, or the inverse of either. Beyond that, there could easily be additional meaning outside of this dichotomous framework.

In other words, this deceptively simple couplet is steeped in several interpretations.

P.S. Curiously enough, Haken was partially influenced by Opeth. They go so far as to give homage to Opeth on "The Architect" by referencing a guitar motif that Opeth used on Blackwater Park.

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