This week I’ve decided to cover the story/lyrical content of Haken’s debut album, “Aquarius”. This is one of my favorite albums, and I especially was taken by it after I started to take in the story. It is a bit confusing, yes. There are some parts I’m unclear about for sure. But I’m going to give it my best because, if there were one album I wish were to be made into a film, this album is it.
1. The Point of No Return
“A child is born tonight/ And love has come to life”. This album begins very dimly. In the future, as the ice in the north continues to melt, we meet a family who still has hope for the future. They still await their child with hope and anticipation, even though the world has been decimated. So, on a cold and dreary night, a child is born. This child is a mutant: She is a mermaid. This “circus freak” catches the family off guard. Their love had finally resulted in life, and this is what they get? A freak? The world has gone to hell, and they cannot even have a normal child? They decide they must let her go; letting their emotions get the best of them. They decide that this baby will never be happy or safe on the land with them. They will never be happy knowing she is in peril. The only way for them to love her truly is to let her go where she belongs.
So, they set her free in the waters. You see, the parents are fighting within themselves. They love her infinitely, but know that cannot possibly keep her. She is made for something else. She has a different purpose. So, they free her, but still have to deal with the guilt. “No wonder water is thicker than blood/ Wonder if the storm will come for us?” They seem to realize that there is something special about this mermaid child beyond the obvious. There is something she is made to do, but letting such a creature go—will they be judged? The storm is coming.
“All our souls digressed/ We started as one/ All our journeys will end/ At the same destination”. The mermaid is now free and loving it. She is where she belongs, and has never found such connection or joy; joy in life, living, and community. Yet, there is a dark side here. There is a side of her that she is beginning to discover and understand. She knows that she has a purpose, and that she was created for something bigger than herself. However, she has a choice to make.
As she sees the wreckage of the world around her, she understands her plight: She and she only can save the humans and their world. She alone can save them from their mistakes and the destruction they have leveled upon the world. As the waters rise, she is fine. She is home. However, there is part of her that is human, and she knows that one day she will have to decide between personal happiness and the lives of every one else; between her desires and the existence of every human being on the earth. What would you choose? This is a tough decision. She could just leave them to their self-imputed fate, but that dark, gnawing voice in her mind is ever bothering her. Guilt. Yes, guilt is alive and well in her mind. “Streams of life digress like water running through my veins/ Streams of blood like liquid love is rushing to my brain”.
“Eyes from around the world/ Stare through the glass/ Of my aquarium/ Line up to see the girl/ Blessed by the curse/ Of the aquarius”. In this third track, Haken now introduces us to a nameless fisherman. If that is his profession, we are not told. Yet, on a February day, this hungry man is fishing for dinner in the midst of the watery destruction around him. As the storm approaches, this man is hungry: Not only does he want food, but he is hungry for something to fill his life. He feels empty and useless. The demise of the world around him matches the state of his heart.
Suddenly, he spies something in the water: Could his eyes really be telling the truth? Our fisherman has seen the mermaid, and proceeds to capture her. She is now his “freak” that he puts on display for the world to see—for a price. He can be rich beyond his wildest dreams! This is it! This is the fulfillment he’s been wanting!
The mermaid, however, starts to waste away. She needs her freedom: She needs the wide open sea. She has a plan to save the world, but here she is a captive by one that she seeks to save. She has become a mere sideshow; a freak. She begs and begs for her freedom, and the fisherman actually begins to have pity. He sees her pain and intensity. He pities her in his heart. It’s more than that, though. He also falls in love with this incredible creature. Yes, he has fallen in love with this mermaid of the sea.
4. Eternal Rain
This is where things start to get a little tricky. In “Eternal Rain”, the fisherman knows that he was wrong to capture the poor mermaid. She is almost dead from being away from the waters. She is lying there, frail and limp. The fisherman is beside himself: He knows what he must do. His guilt is whirling in his soul. He decides to act.
He kisses her. In response, she begins to stir and awaken. Rain begins to sprinkle from the sky: The beginning of the storm has arrived. As the water runs down and around the mermaids limp form, it brings her back to life completely, but the fisherman looks on knowing that the time of reckoning is upon him. His guilt and despair are just too great. The time of reckoning is upon the entire earth. So, while the mermaid is being invigorated; the black, angry skies deepen. The storm is upon them.
5. Drowning in the Flood
The storm has come. The day of the skies’ angry reckoning is upon the world, and the fisherman and mermaid are caught in the tempest. The very extinction of mankind is drawing nigh. As corpses float around them and destruction is wrought upon the cities, the mermaid finally sees that this the day she knew would come. She knows her purpose. The fisherman is caught in awe of the intensity of the flood, but he too understands that mankind has brought this upon themselves. A sense of regret fills his lungs, as water will also.
The fisherman looks up and sees the mermaid: They are under the rising waters with little hope, and the fisherman is drowning—he can’t breathe. He sees determination in the mermaid’s lovely eyes, though; and knows that he can do nothing to stop her from fulfilling her purpose. Despite his own imminent death, he loves her too much to allow her to do what he sees in her eyes.
She swims up to him and cuts open her arm. She offers some of her blood to the fisherman: He drinks willingly and suddenly a change begins. He sprouts gills like the mermaid! He can breathe underwater! The mermaid had saved the very man that had held her captive. She had performed the most selfless act the fisherman had ever seen! But, was that enough? Was saving the fisherman enough?
“Goodbye she cries/ As she slowly disappears/ Into light/ She vaporized/ Peacefully.” A true love song in the greatest sense: “Sun” presents us with a very grim scene. The rain has let up, but the world has been massively contorted by the eternal rain. Mankind has finally seen the beginning of the consequences to one of their greatest mistakes. The world lies in watery ruin as the fisherman holds his dear mermaid close to his chest. He must do something that will break his very heart, but he knows he must do it, and he knows it is what she wants. It is her purpose.
He kills her. He murders his love. He literally take her heart from her chest. Yet, she is willing. She willingly gives her life—her magnificent blood—to save humanity. She is willing to die that others might be changed and live; that others may have a home. The remaining humans drink her blood: It is their only pathway to salvation.
The mermaid passes on in her love’s arms. He holds her close and she begins to vaporize into thin air. Death and love have collided: The ice has finally been melted by hot tears of passion and regret. The fisherman cannot live: He cannot live with this guilt. He killed his love to save many, but why is this still wrenching at his heart? Death and love collide. Death and love collide.
7. Celestial Elixir
“Streams of light unite with water/ Running through our veins/ Streams of blood like liquid/ Love is running through our veins”. Here it is: the grand finale. This is one of the most stunning tracks I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear. As the epic wall of sound reaches our ears, the scene is played out for us. The mermaid, messiah to the remaining humans, is gone. Her blood, the celestial elixir capable of rectifying humanity’s problems, is being drunk by the remnants of mankind. As they drink, they develop gills that allow them to live in this new, watery world. Her blood is the single greatest gift any of them have ever received: Her blood was that of an outcast and an enemy, even. Now, she is their savior. She has given herself so that they may become like her, and so that they might live.
And, the fisherman? He wallows in guilt and longing. He can still hear her song and feel her skin. He can still imagine her in his arms as she willingly gives her last breath. His scars run deep: He has always been so empty. So alone. So incredibly hollow. But she: She has given him new life in more than one way! She has given her life that he might live, but not just so that he can breathe and live physically, but also that he can now live with her love as the full satisfaction that he always sought. Her love is what he had always longed after; always mourned over.
This incredible creature, this savior, has changed the fisherman. He now has purpose. He will look for her return. He doesn’t know for sure if she will come back one day, but he has faith she will. Even if she doesn’t, a life spent searching for her is the best life he can imagine. All is calm now. The storms on earth and in the fisherman’s very soul are now quieted and soothed. He will search for her; Yes, he will look for his love. He will always pursue her. He will follow her rainbow until he finds her at the end. The very innocence and light that dwelt within the mermaid are now flowing within his own body. He can breathe. He can live. He can wait forever. He has loved.
Haken’s debut album is stunning musically: That much is certain. The epic song structures, big band influences, and technical brilliance all draw the listener into the experience. However, Haken’s “Aquarius” is genius on another level: It stands head and shoulders above the vast majority of prog in the story and lyrics department. This story is not about an apocalypse, although it is part of the story. It is not even about a mermaid that saves the world, although that is a major part of the story. This album is about a lonely, empty fisherman that discovers something that changes his life. He discovers the love, selflessness, and sacrifice of the most perfect creature ever to grace the planet Earth. This album is about the the satisfaction and fulfillment that one hollow man found in the eyes of a mermaid. He was filled to the brim with love, purpose, and longing for his love. In other words, this album is about us and the emptiness we all feel until we meet our Messiah. Let’s embrace the Savior, and learn to breathe again.