1. Oculus ex Inferni / 2. Set the World on Fire
The eye from hell is upon us. The first two tracks off of Symphony X‘s “Paradise Lost” are really one, as far as I’m concerned. Beginning with a grand, ominous instrumental track, the fear finally moves into “Set the World on Fire”.
“I’m the master of illusion, minister of sin/ Two-faced snake, wicked shedding skin/ I will forsake you, destroy and unmake you/ With all my might, I will take you down”. And so begins Satan’s assault on Earth, the newly-created home of man. In rebellion to
I AM, Satan decides to visit God’s Creation. It seems like he is hellbent on razing the minds of these new beings: mankind. He is so bent on this, in fact, that he evokes the greatest lie of all lies.
And what is that lie? The lie is that there is another way apart from I AM; that one can purposefully walk contrary to the essence of reality and somehow be the better for it. I AM isn’t just a two-bit god. He created the very notion of existence. How could something that exists possibly fight Someone that is higher than the plane of existence?
So Satan strikes out at the very heart of God. “Fly with me forever higher/ And with these wings, we’ll set the world on fire/ Fly with me through scorching skies/ You and I, the lie of lies”. He sets out to burn the Earth through the fires of rebellion, taking aim at all that God loves. Has someone ever been determined to destroy everything that you have invested your blood, sweat, and tears to build and protect? Satan has found a weakness in God’s armor: love.
“A million shattered destinies/ All slowly drowning in tears of flame/ Break the chains around your necks/ Lick your wounds, you dogs of war”. What does Satan really want? He wants “Domination”. That much is clear. But what does that really mean?
He doesn’t just want dominion over the earth: He wants the very destiny of mankind in his grasp. He wants to “break the chains” around their necks, signaling his attempt to convince humanity that the very fabric of reality should be denied. Of course, though, what he will give those “freed” peoples is far from freedom. He will give them pain. He will give them horror. He will give them Hell.
“Rotting from the inside out/ Ripping away at the core/ A million lives unite as one/ Smothering innocence forevermore”. And as millions buy into the lie of all lies, they begin to rot from the inside out. Their innocence is forever destroyed, and what they thought they knew, they now realize is far deeper and far scarier than they ever could have imagined.
Where does pride get us? When we believe that we are somehow more intelligent or that we alone must manage our own fates, what else is the result besides ruin? The lie of lies—that we can somehow live contrary to reality—is the basis upon which Satan founds his kingdom.
“I, with darkest insurrection, victimize/ Hail the horrors. On hell we sanctify/ My domination!”
4. Serpent’s Kiss
“I devour/ I empower, god of pain”. What would you call an opponent of reality? What would you call the enemy of all that is structured and ordered in this universe? The fourth track on “Paradise Lost” is “Serpent’s Kiss”, a track that is obviously about the Fall of man, and the track title is obviously an allusion to the Judas kiss of Christ. Were these two one and the same?
But what would you call a being that seeks to tear down and deceive? “Politician” comes to mind, but it’s something even worse than that. The enemy of reality has to be the god of destruction: “I’m corruption/ I’m destruction, through and through”. Perhaps the old stories have more truth to them than we “advanced” cultures choose to believe. We have been deceived by the god of pain and of ruin: Not a god per se, mind you, but a being that fancies himself as the God, and will not rest while we suspect otherwise.
And, thus, the god of destruction deceived Adam and Eve, as if with a kiss. Seeing himself as a liberator, he has betrayed the very fabric of being. Which side do you choose?
5. Paradise Lost
Hands down, the title track to this Symphony X album is one of my favorite songs ever. It has just about everything I want in a song, and Russell sounds amazing. Additionally, it contains one of my favorite lyrics, “Mystified by her beauty/ Does the hunter pity his prey?/ Under starless skies all/ Love must die and fade away”. But what can this mean?
Keep in mind that most of this album is from Satan’s point of view. It seems as if Satan is watching Adam and Eve’s love for one another, and he has a moment of weakness wherein he pities the beings that he is about to destroy. If he was capable of love, could he actually love these innocent beings? He sees the beauty of God’s Creation that is culminated in these innocent humans, and for a moment he is jealous and also in awe of what he beholds.
Finally, as Satan looks on at this tragic time, he himself looks “Down from ethereal skies/ Silent crystalline tears I cry\ For all who say their last goodbye/ To paradise”. What innocence had been lost? What maturity and new knowledge had been gained? Was this the whole point of the situation in the first place? Why does he feel the need to destroy what is so obviously beautiful and awesome?
But I think this track could also be from Adam’s perspective, too. In a way, he is the one that will “savor the downfall of Paradise”, as he has chosen love over obedience. He has chosen to follow Eve into the unknown because of his heart for her. “My yearning in silence/ By angelic skin of white/ Love conquers all, though heavens fall/ This fateful night”.
6. Eve of Seduction
Quite a word play on Symphony X‘s part, huh? The sixth track on “Paradise Lost” is “Eve of Seduction”, and its lyrical content involves the exact reverse of those words.
Yes, this is about the seduction of Eve by Satan. Remember that Satan, god of destruction, desires to unravel the makeup of reality. And he knows his best shot is with the feeble but extraordinary beings that God created.
“Taste the night/ Just close your eyes – it just takes one bite”. He’s offering the whole world—and more—if Eve will just turn against her Creator. It’s often discussed how silly the forbidden fruit rule would have been; so, therefore, it must not be true. I personally think we are dealing with forces here that we do not understand, and we are talking about a story we cannot fathom. Whatever this tree was, it represented more than just a piece of fruit: It represented a decision that could be freely made, but not without consequences. Turning against the reality of the universe always has consequences.
There is a certain lust aspect to this seduction of Eve, too. “Can it be true?/ Why can’t you see/ I’m burning for you/ There’s no disguise in my desires/ What can I do?” Satan wants her heart, but is she willing to give it?
7. The Walls of Babylon
The seventh track on Symphony X‘s epic “Paradise Lost” is called “The Walls of Babylon”. Satan has taken his battle against reality and, thus, humanity to a whole new level. “So here I stand, beyond apocalypse/ God of pain, in lethal stealth/ Casualty of pride, I will never be denied/ A lord of war, at war with myself”.
Much of the track says things like “War hammer of the gods/ Bring down the walls of Babylon” and other super macho things. However, it’s the above quote that grabs me. Satan recognizes the futility of his was against God. He also understands that, by being at war with God and so reality, he is actually at war with himself and the being that holds all things together. Yet, his pride will not let him back down from the fight. What will happen if he prevails?
And, so, “Skies of red-winged thunder/ Breathing lightning fire/ Flesh churning, blood burning/ The gears of war ever turning with conviction”; or, in short, Satan unleashes war and hell upon God’s creation because he simply can’t come to grips with reality. Is it possible to pity Satan?
Satan strikes at the heart of God’s Creation in “Seven”; or, rather, we get to see the aftermath. Satan’s “web of conceit” has forced mankind to come to a decision: a choice between living in harmony with the universe or in pursuing their own way.
They choose their own way. “More… wanting much more/ Grasping with Envious Eyes/ Dark desires lead to words/ That cut like knives”. Desiring more than they were meant to know or have, Adam and Eve abandon reality to find their own way.
“It’s Fire and Ice – make the Sacrifice/ No one there to catch you when you Fall/ It’s Shadows and Sin – Enemies within/ You’ll be fine, so cross the line and / Damn it all”. Mankind is left with nothing to catch them: No safety net for the rift they put in reality. They didn’t choose their enemies wisely, and crossed the line into a completely new, unsatisfying existence: They have crossed the line into Satan’s realm.
9. The Sacrifice
“The Sacrifice” is my second favorite track on “Paradise Lost”. It’s also an interesting conundrum, too, as I bet many of us can relate to Adam’s actions therein.
“With every fleeting breath I take/ Maybe our love was a mistake/ Eternal life I traded for/ One moment beside you”. If you know the story, you know that Satan tempted Eve, but then Eve in turn went to Adam to give him some of the forbidden fruit. Adam had a decision to make at that point: He could remain sinless but be alone, or he could make a sacrifice to be with Eve forever. Adam chose wrongly. Or did he?
“When the stars lose their fire/ And night steals the morning away/ Forever and a day/ I will stay – I will stay here with you/ My love”. Can the choice to sin—to deny reality—truly be, well, romantic? According to Milton’s classic, Adam loved Eve so much that he gave up eternity and even God for her. He was willing to face the tempest of judgment just for one more moment beside her. I like to think that God smiled a little on the inside when he saw the love they shared.
Perhaps God didn’t condemn them directly; but, rather, simply informed them what the natural consequences of their actions would be. Of course, he immediately set off his own plan to make his own ultimate sacrifice for the creatures he loved so much. He saw a little bit of Himself within Adam’s decision, I am convinced. He wanted to redeem them from their own self-destruction.
We’ve reached the end of this wonderful album from Symphony X. Of course, they leave us with an incredible song “Revelation”, their own take on the ending to Milton’s classic tale (and a prequel to one of their early albums). In this track, we see Satan gloating about the Fall of Man, but there’s something deeper, as well.
“Wounds of hate that pierce so deep/ They never die/ Oh, my revenge is bitter sweet”. Satan’s attack on mankind was a result of his perceived wounding at God’s hand, yet Satan throughout this album finds himself pitying and wondering at the humans even as he sets out to condemn them all. Again, Satan feels a twinge of real guilt and maybe even love.
Perhaps he fancied himself a hero? Satan seems to try to convince himself that he was setting mankind free from God’s shackles; but now, he’s not so sure. “Savior or fool? The mystery/ Fades into the cruel shade night/ The broken disguise, cannot comprehend/ What was and will be/ Until the very end”. He also realizes that the humans now hate and fear him, and so his supposed attempt at freeing them has backfired in a big way. He feels nothing now but regret.
Satan is and always will be perceived as evil incarnate. It’s interesting to explore these events from a different perspective, especially the motives that led to the Fall of Mankind. Is there any greater sorrow than realizing your actions—your vengeance—has hurt an entirely innocent party? How does regret taste when you see that your selfishness has permanently marred someone else? Are motives all that important when your actions have such lasting effect? In the end, perhaps the revelation isn’t just about feelings; but, rather, an epiphany about our own greed and selfishness. Take that as you will.