1. Of Two Beginnings
The fragile introduction to “Remedy Lane”, “Of Two Beginnings” introduces us to the dysfunction, sorrow, and titillation of what becomes a rather fractured story. “And there is nothing/ That we’d rather share/ Than that bodily warmth if we’d dare/ But she’s already twelve and I am/ Just a child/ WARM AND SHY”.
Imagine two kids—a boy of ten and girl of twelve—as they experiment in the sexual world for the first time. One of the beginnings mentioned in the title refers to this new sexual beginning wherein a boy becomes a man, but way too early. He just wasn’t ready. “Challenging the concept/ freedom/ and youth/ falling into the undertow”.
So here they are, excusing their age for the emotion and new state of mind they share; exploring freedom and what that actually entails. What they do not yet understand, though, is that freedom has consequences—ones that will destroy them. That is the other beginning mentioned: The second beginning refers to the start of a journey in sorrow, regret, and personal destruction. “Finding out at last that freedom is a state of mind”.
2. Ending Theme
“To be honest, I don’t know what I’m looking for”. Oh goodness, he’s gone and done it again. “Ending Theme” is set at the end of the relationship about which we heard in the first track. That relationship was full of fear, sorrow, and pain, and, so, in desperation, he takes another woman into the same place and same bed, hoping to rediscover what he’s looking for. Except, he doesn’t even know what he wants.
“Worn with rope ends on my mind/ torn with blood scarred in my eyes/ But now I’m back to shake that from my life”. It’s obvious that he has confused sex and love, and so his attempts at creating the “ending theme” for his dying relationship are petty and completely misdirected.
He’s looking for that sense of freedom he once had. He’s searching for his youth, for satisfaction of spirit, and for love. But he doesn’t recognize any of these anymore. “Confusing zest with the joy of being blessed with the bliss of self-escape as we kiss?” Perhaps he’s just depressed? Perhaps there’s really nothing wrong. But the glimpses at blessing and joy he sees in sex are killing him even more now. Rope ends on his mind.
We now come to “Fandango”, a really odd song in both structure and lyrics. It’s obviously a song about the continued perfect dysfunction of his relationship with his girl. Except, there’s so much more here.
“Always being much more human than they wished to be”. I think that’s the key sentence in this entire song. This track is essentially character development. He is a sharp thinker that never wanted to grow up. He’s “innocent” and completely child-like in his understanding of sex and closeness. Too much time in “Tolkien’s grounds” will do that to you, I suppose.
She, however, is the very definition of closeness, warmth, and attraction. She’s fought her whole life to believe that the world is worth loving. She wants realism and tangible love and transparency. And so she lures a slightly immature man into a world of lust and flesh that he cannot even fathom.
Together, though, they are wild and free. They don’t adhere to the mainstream. It’s as if they exist in a different world; not wishing to be human, but painfully aware that they are.
But they have a chance right now to be happy: to be as comfortable in their own skin as they will ever be. “Live that you might find the answers/ You can’t know before you live/ Love and life will give you chances/ From your flaws learn to forgive”.
4. A Trace of Blood
I have to approach this next track with caution. Its meaning is obvious, and it’s like a punch in the gut for anyone who has had this experience. “A Trace of Blood” is unafraid to enter taboo territory to talk about miscarriage.
Their love seemed freeing and simply right. They became pregnant. Next, however, they were seeing blood and sorrow. And that’s all they could feel. “A trace of blood to lead me/ Through roads of agony With blood taste in my mouth/ And clouds before my eyes/ I kneel beside the bed Where my bleeding dryad lies”. His loved one is in anguish, emotionally, and physically. His perfect one does not want to live anymore.
The sight of blood has destroyed him, too. He utters one of the most haunting lyrics in all of music, “I was prepared to be your father How can I ever prepare for that again?” He was ready to be the center of this baby’s world, but now he just feels empty and powerless; stripped bare.
Do you know how that feels? I know all to well. Three times over, in fact. It’s a slap in the face; like tearing out your heart; like an icy dagger to your warmth of soul. My wife has lost three of our precious babes, and it nearly destroyed us. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to help. I’m not sure they even know how to help, honestly. One moment, we were happy, pregnant, and excited about the future, and the next moment we were sullen, regretful, and questioning everything. Is it our fault? Is it my genes? Did we do something to cause this? Will I ever get to see my child’s face? Why should I do anything at all? Why does no one care? Believe me, many an angry prayer was offered.
The pain doesn’t go away either. It just softens. We went through our absolute darkest days during our miscarriages. We hated everyone and our relationship suffered. Everyone was an enemy, especially happy pregnant people. Do you understand? We were robbed of the most basic gift in life!
We believe—no, we KNOW—that we will see our little ones some day. You might think that to be petty sentimentalism, but, to us, it is truth and hope. If you know someone that has been through miscarriage, please hug them today. Better yet, love on anyone who has lost a child, fosters children, or even those that cannot have their own. They will appreciate it more than you know.
5. This Heart of Mine
After the heartbreak of “A Trace of Blood”, how can you really recover? Enter “This Heart of Mine” that switches the focus from the pain of the situation to the feelings of love, attachment, and faith that they feel for one another.
“I pledge to wake you with a smile/ I pledge to hold you when you cry/ I pledge to love you till I die/ Till I die”. As he watches his grieving lover sleep at night, he feels more courageous than ever. He will stay. He will remain. And he pledges to make her life worth living, even in their private hell.
But then he realizes that she is that same thing to him. She is beauty, reason, eternity, and the face of God in his life. He loves her spiritually, physically, emotionally, and so on. His heart, while torn from losing his son or daughter, has found the courage to love through the pain. And he believes his own words, at last.
Most everyone considers “Undertow” to be one of Pain of Salvation‘s greatest tracks, and I do have to agree. It is emotionally stirring. If you aren’t affected by it, you might not be alive.
“Undertow” is in direct contrast to “This Heart of Mine”. Instead of feelings of love and eternity, our protagonist is feeling smothered and lost. He feels pulled under into something he cannot control. It’s obvious that the roller coaster of emotions resulting from the miscarriage are simply too much for his immature self to handle. He’s searching for something. Ever searching. “Let me go/ Let me go/ Let me seek the answer that I need to know/ Let me find a way/ Let me walk away/ Through the Undertow/ Please let me go”.
But it’s not the relationship, is it? It’s his own burning desire and confusion of self that had led to this outburst of freewill and fear. He wants to burn the whole world—break the things he loves—all to find what he needs to know; except, he doesn’t know what that looks like. “Let me break!/ Let me bleed!/ Let me tear myself apart I need to breathe!/ Let me lose my way!/ Let me walk astray!/ Maybe to proceed…/ Just let me bleed!”
Maybe, just maybe, the undertow isn’t being caused by the relationship. Its source is his own heart. He’s yearning to live a life. He wants to make mistakes. He wants to bleed. But he wants to get better, too. Through all this, I feel like he sees that he is objectifying his lover by the end of this song—not as a sex object—but as someone that does not have a will or emotions of her own. He sees her dying of pain and sorrow, but he’s feeling…selfish? How can he be this inhumane? She’s lost so much, but he knows that he’s only thinking of himself. The undertow takes him under again.
7. Rope Ends
“Over!” she cries through rope ends and silk ties/ Beautiful life escaping her young blue eyes/ But life holds her hand, refusing to let go/ Leaving her breathing on the floor.” Have you ever been overwhelmed by sorrow? Grief? Depression? After seeing the hurt in the man’s heart in “Undertow”, we see the undying emptiness and desire for the end in the women’s heart. She is determined to end her life; to end the pain that is clinging so closely.
Yet, life refuses to let her go. She tries shower chains and silk ties, but always wakes up on the floor alive. So, she goes for one last option: a Winnie the Pooh tie. Pain of Salvation‘s ironic sense of humor is incredibly palpable here. “They’re still asleep don’t hear her cry/ And she’s still obsessed with rope ends/ This time she picks a stronger tie/ With Winnie the Pooh and friends”.
Once again, however, she’s not meant to go. The beam in the ceiling breaks and she finds herself a bloodied, breathing mess on the ground. For most of the song, however, she lies in a daze, seeing Winnie the Pooh and friends as they stare knowingly into her dead eyes.
“Seeing guilt has taught her guilt she’s raised on disbelief/ Merely twenty beautiful but with a taste for grief/ She has learnt all that there is to know about helplessness/ Seeing that no caring in this world can ease her stress.” She’s so young, but already has seen some of the worst life has to offer. She’s done with it. As she lies there, she isn’t truly alive, though her body is breathing. She is emotionally numb and spiritually dead. Her innocence and inner beauty—even her very self—are all gone, lost in a sea of helplessness and pain.
8. Chain Sling
“I can feel the pain you have inside/ I see it in your eyes/ Those eyes that used to shine for me/ I can feel the wildness in your heart/ That’s tearing us apart/ My love how can I help if you don’t want me?” As we approach the end of “Remedy Lane”, we start to see the two young souls rabidly attempt to save their relationship. “Chain Sling” is an example of this, as it features both of them finally interacting with each other after what seems like weeks of silence.
As the man pleads with his vacuous lover, she can do nothing but urge him to move on in life. “There is nothing you can do to help me now/ I am lost within myself as so many times before/ There’s nothing you can do to ease my pain/ I am so, so sorry but if you love me you must let go”.
It seems like maybe she is prone to this type of emotional reaction in life, as she admits she has been lost within herself many times. Perhaps that is why she started this relationship in the first place? Little do both of them know, however, that they are walking their own personal remedy lane, if only they can hold on long enough.
9. Dryad Of The Woods
One of my favorite instrumental tracks ever, “Dryad of the Woods” is an ode from the man’s heart to the woman he loves. Yes, it is a wordless love song, as he sees through the pain, violence, and depression to ponder the woman with which he has suffered so much. He knows that he loves her truly now, and that their relationship is much more than merely physical.
In case you were wondering, a dryad is a nymph, mainly one that lives in an oak tree. To me, that signifies beauty, timidity, outward fragility, and inner strength. This man—the one that has been so immature and so childlike through all of this travail—has finally come of age. He has finally looked on his lover with the eyes of a real man; one ready to sacrifice everything for her.
10. Remedy Lane
Wow, this has been a long spotlight, am I right? We finally come to the title track of this wonderful album, and, strangely for a progalbum, it is a short instrumental track that uses synth to revisit various melodies from what we have heard thus far.
Pain of Salvation is a genius band, though. It’s readily obvious that they are getting us ready for the final act of the story, pulling at our heartstrings as we revisit abstractions of the pain, love, and sorrow that we have seen so far. Some of the deepest fears and most explosive emotions, however, are still yet to come.
11. Waking Every God
He goes back to the beginning. Our protagonist goes back to the city where he first began his relationship. Budapest. Only, he’s met another women. And he swears that “through her eyes/ I can see/ what you used to be”. In some strange way, he imagines that he is loving his original lover by spending time with this new woman. It’s obvious that he cannot think straight.
The evidence for this mounts. His childlike tendency to crushes is back, and now he’s “waking every god” to proclaim his love and commitment to this new woman. He wants to be that god. He feels on top of the world! This women, while a refreshing change from the sorrow and dankness of his reality, is nothing more than a puppet in his longing for closure and healing.
He sums it up nicely, “Through my eyes/ she can see/ numb anxiety”. She’s nothing but a painkiller that cannot possibly treat the source of the problem. And her effect is about to wear off…
12. Second Love
Warning! The story in this album is not going to end in any satisfying way! The second to last track on the album is “Second Love“. I struggled with understanding its place in the album, but it makes more sense when you know that it was written in 1987 when Gildenlow was only 14 or 15 years old. So, it’s definitely put in here because he thought it fit. So, why does it fit?
“Year after year/ Tear after tear/ I feel like my heart will break in two/ You came like a wind I couldn’t defend/ You cut my heart so deeply/ The scars won’t mend”. After the energy of “Waking Every God”, it’s obvious that our protagonist is realizing he is full of crap, for lack of a better descriptor. His little love affair with another woman has been nothing but smoke and mirrors, all in an attempt to forget the woman that he knows best through enduring incredible hardship with her.
There’s something about pain and sorrow that brings humans together, and so he knows that he will never fully be happy with anyone else, even if she is a constant reminder of sadness. Now…now all he wants is for her to be his again.
13. Beyond The Pale
“We will always be much more human than we wish to be” We have finally come to end of this (long) journey, but I think the end is worth it, even if it won’t wrap up any concerns we have. “Beyond the Pale” is a much discussed song apparently, and, in the midst of various interpretations, I think the concept is fairly simple: True freedom is like the difference between sex and love.
First of all, the story wraps up vaguely. It’s apparent that the relationship doesn’t end well. She is with yet another man. He is feeling lost and worthless as he once again trades love for sex. But the point, I believe, is that he learned that, even though he felt sex would satisfy him, it never did make him feel anything more than the physical. But he’s always craved more—a deeper satisfaction with whom he is.
You see, he thought he found love in sex, but he was all wrong. He was too young and too immature. But then he found love and companionship in the pain and loss that they felt together. In order to feel that deep satisfaction with whom he is, he had to submit himself to the dangers of real love!!
Blood. Tears. Rope Ends. “Remedy Lane” doesn’t appear to lead anywhere. While he finds out what true freedom of spirit is, it’s too late to reclaim it. All he can do is reminisce.
Sometimes, we need to tend to our spiritual well-being more than our physical urges. I know that our societies have not taught us these things, but living in a purely sensual way only leads to undertow and crippling fear. No stability will be achieved. No real sense of freedom will be felt. And no ultimate satisfaction or knowledge of self will be found. Our world–we as people—are much more than physical. And we will always be far more human than we wish to be.
WONDERFUL post. Thanks so much for this, and I especially appreciate your thoughts on “Trace of Blood.” I remember hearing this album for the first time and was blown away by TOB’s intro and seemingly optimistic and triumphant guitar hook, only to give way to a kind of somber and melancholy groove that sets the tone for the story. And it’s a story of heartbreak, the worst kind. The lyrics mean even more to me now, as a parent. Thank you.
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This review of an album I know all too well from having listened to it countless times, still managed to move me to tears. It also explained something I didn’t think of, yet. Thank you!
And also, having felt what you have felt, there are no words. Just embraces from one wounded soul to another.