Haken’s “Aquarius” proved to be even deeper than I had ever thought. That album means so much more to me than ever before, and I think “Visions” will follow suit. We begin with “Premonition”, a simply incredible instrumental piece (and also the first Haken track I ever heard).
To understand the purpose of this track, we need to understand the foundation of the story. This album is based on a premonition that Ross Jennings had of his own death. From there, he developed a story for this album. So, this first track is an introduction and a foundation (an overture of sorts) for the story of a boy that experiences a premonition of his own death. There are some mysteries ahead, to be sure, though. Things are not as simple as they may appear.
2. Nocturnal Conspiracy
“Nocturnal Conspiracy” starts off the wild story of “Visions”. Yes, this story is complicated, but I really feel that the payoff is worth the time. You see, in this second track, we meet a young and innocent boy. He is having nightmares: predictions of his own death at the hand of a murderer. This cannot be! He’s so innocent! The boy’s world begins to close around him as a shadowy world of conspiracy against him has seemingly been revealed through his dreams.
“Moon rises/ I shiver, confiding in the mirror/ My ghost in the reflection/ Just witnessed the resurrection”. This young boy awakes in cold sweat and anxiety. He is convinced that his death has been shown to him by some greater power, and now every shadow and every noise terrify him. He will be murdered, he is certain.
He just can’t understand why he must die. “Calling no witnesses to the stand/ Clearing my name with no evidence/ Knowing this could be my final chance/ No one is coming to my defense.” He is so innocent and powerless, why must he be killed? He pleads before the court of his mind, before the jury of the great powers that be. He is convicted, however. No one comes to defend this young boy. His sentence has been issued. However, there is a deeper, darker side to all of this. There are secrets and sins of the past that are being suppressed. This young boy is not as innocent as he believes.
“Dying to get back to sleep again/ I lie in my bed but I’ve seen the end/ My days are numbered/ In death I discover/ Insomnia.” This third track welcomes us to the boy’s waking nightmare. His fear of his own death has become an obsession, consuming his days and prolonging his sleepless nights. He can’t get back to sleep, but all he can see is the vision when he closes his eyes.
He imagines all these different scenarios to escape his predicted demise, but nothing works. His death gets closer and closer, and he gets even more paranoid and more obsessed. He is sick in both mind and spirit. His soul is wasting away to nothingness. He has become nothing more than a shell of person, for his death has become the focus of his life. In death, he has found insomnia.
4. The Mind’s Eye
“Lost inside your mind/ In the dead of night/ Nowhere else to hide/ Playing with fire is burning my reality.” Hold on, folks, the ride gets bumpier here. Years have passed as this boy with knowledge of his own death has now become a man. Yet, he is still obsessed and consumed with preventing his own murder. The insomnia and the hyper concentration are driving him insane, and he begins to have crazy ideas.
One such idea appears in this track, “The Mind’s Eye”. Since he was able to view his own death through his dreams, he becomes riveted with the idea of possibly using his dreams to travel through portals (of a sort) into other people’s dreams. He thinks that if he can experience others’ dreams, he may be able to see through their eyes and understand what they think of him. He thinks that he can experience himself through their eyes. In this way, he believes he can find his killer by understanding why someone would want to kill him in the first place! Through this all, he should be able to predict his own future because he will have access to others’ thoughts and dreams about him.
“When you are dreaming/ I am wide awake/ Believe when you see me/ In the mind’s eye I wait/ While you are sleeping”. You see, he is, as the lyrics state, playing with fire. He is tampering with powers and ideas outside of his control, and he certainly will find and see things he wished he hadn’t. So, as his friends and family are asleep, he is busy at work invading their minds. This is his idea, anyways, and he is about to put his plan into action.
This fifth track (second track of the Portals trilogy) on “Visions” is an instrumental masterwork. It does serve a purpose in the story, however, as it represents the application of the paranoid man’s ideas. Again, his idea is to use his dreams to invade other people’s dreams and minds, all with the goal of understanding how others feel about him. He wants to track down his killer once and for all.
So, his idea has now come to fruition. The music winds is a spellbinding fashion, and I feel this lends itself to the idea of traveling through portals of the mind. He is now invading other minds, and he has no idea what he will find.
“Dance into the masquerade/ I am the only man who has a face/ In this land of no identity/ Who leads your secret society?” The final track of the Portals trilogy blasts us into a new world of abstraction and psychedelia. The man has accomplished what he set out to do: He begins invading others’ minds to find his killer.
As he dances in this masquerade ball of anonymity, faces become distorted and people fade and meld together. He searches and searches his friends and family, and even discovers that his sister has strange gifts similar to his own prophetic talents. Friends and family mean nothing here, though, as he invades their subconscious thoughts unwittingly and imprudently.
This is a dangerous game. The emotions and feelings he experiences are vague and often misunderstood. He finds blood lust and greed in places he didn’t expect, but he never finds quite what he’s looking for: his own killer. He’s uncovering a myriad of secrets, but never the one he wants. His fiddling with God’s science has proven fruitless, and now he has a world of knowledge that is ultimately meaningless to him. His obsession only increases as he begins to get more and more desperate.
The seventh track on “Visions” is possibly my favorite on the album. Why? This track is impossibly emotive, and that really captures my imagination. So, we’ve been following a young boy that has had a premonition of his death. He has become obsessed, and as he gets older and older, this obsession only gets worse and his mind becomes consumed. He had decided to use his dreams to invade other people’s minds and dreams to try to discover his killer: All of this has been to no avail, however. He is no closer to finding the person, and he has worn himself and his mind to the brink of collapse.
With this in mind, “Deathless” seems pretty appropriate. “No will to live/ I’m tempting fate/ I feel most alive/ Confronting death.” The boy, now a man, has little reason to live. He has run his race, and has done absolutely nothing with his life but chase shadows and pursue demons. He hasn’t made anything of himself, and has done little to help his friends and family. He collapses in a suicidal exhaustion: an exhaustion felt to his very soul. In an attempt to protect his life, he forgot to live it.
Yet, he knows how his death will occur! He can’t kill himself because his death has been predetermined, and he knows how it will happen. Imagine that: a desperately suicidal man that has no power to kill himself. To end it all. To end the pain. He tries and he tries, but it never works. He, therefore, falls into an even more hopeless state of doubting eternity and hating life itself. The time has come. It’s time for this to end.
“Now the moment’s finally here/ And it feels just like before/ Only now I face the truth/ I will have to wait no more”. The moment is finally here: The end has come. This young boy has spent his entire life searching and searching for the one that will kill him. His own blood lust is on the rise as he seeks revenge for something that hasn’t been committed yet. He demands absolute control over his end, but control has never been his at all.
This boy, now a man, stalks the streets looking for the moment that he has seen for many years. He knows the moment he has been dreaming about for years is now finally here. He is at the right place at the right time. Armed and dangerous, he is out for blood because he still believes he can stop this from happening.
A strange silhouette appears in his peripheral vision—aha!—the killer is finally upon him!! He turns and fires his gun at the would-be killer: striking the person in the chest multiple times. Yet, as the smoke clears, he finds that he has killed a young boy; a sweet, innocent child. His mind goes haywire as he is pulled into a spiral of memories and guilt.
But he hasn’t killed just any boy. Indeed, he has just killed himself. The killer had always been him. The boy. The man. His entire search had been fruitless because he himself was the killer for whom he searched. He had spent so much time violating others that he never dreamed that the killer could be himself. In all his travels through mind and space, he ended up in the right time and the right place, and his obsession caused him to kill himself.
Tears flow, but there is hope, he thinks. The boy will wake up! He will wake up troubled and disturbed by this experience, and maybe—just maybe—he will prevent this from happening again. But the man knows better. All those visions, memories, and flashes of light were no coincidence: He has been here before: He has killed this boy another time. It begins to set in on him now. Deja vu. Deja vu all over again. This boy/man is locked in a never-ending cycle of obsession and murder, searching and dying. He will never break free unless he faces himself someday. His chains will never fall until he can unmask the shadowy figure of himself.
The boy wakes. He just had this horrible premonition of his own death. However, he will vows that he will never allow that to happen: He will track down his killer before it can happen. No matter what it takes, he will change his fate. The vicious cycle begins again.
“Visions” has been an amazing journey, as I love the sci-fi approach. But, as Ross Jennings stated, the listener must be left alone to decide what an album means. This is a very personal, subjective process; as everyone has different perspectives and experiences with the music
So, for me, this album is not necessarily about a boy that has dreams about his own death. I think this album represents so much more. This young boy is actually coming face-to-face with his own depravity: his own mental brokenness. In other words, he is encountering the man he truly is! As a boy, he sees the evil in his own heart. As a man, he sees inside himself the little boy that never grew up; that has always been searching for something more.
He has seen what he deserves (“sex and secrets will tear us to pieces in time”), and it will rip out his heart: Yet, he decides to run away from this truth his entire life. Well, at least until that one fateful day when he is forced to confront himself: to face judgment. The sentence of death is carried out because he had never turned around to face his fears, sins, and depravity. This life of paranoia has rooted him firmly in the psychotic, and he is slowly driving himself mad. Always running. Always denying.
This young boy is much as we are. We cannot run from who we truly are; and, only when we accept our true state, will we be able to begin rebuilding our lives and fixing our faults. If we run and hide: If we fall into depression or lose ourselves in addictions, we are only confirming the sentence issued against us. And nobody—no one—will come to our defense. Don’t run from your guilt and your past. Don’t run from the person you truly are. It will consume you if you do.
Though in Nocturnal Conspiracy, why does he sing about being a killer?
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In this story, he is both killer and prey. It’s a crazy, circular story of sadness and self-defeat.
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