1. Beyond the Eyelids
Riverside’s “Rapid Eye Movement” crawls to an ethereal start. The first track, “Beyond the Eyelids”, is an especially eerie and scary look into the mind of our confused and lost protagonist. Or is he the protagonist? It seems to me that he can’t make up his own mind on that one.
You see, he’s no better than he was in “Second Life Syndrome”, possibly worse. In that last album, he held this false sense of new life, accomplishment, and direction. Yet, within himself, he was still as lost as ever. So, as this album begins, we see him struggling at night. He doesn’t want to experience the world beyond his eyelids anymore. In his mind, his dreams are an opportunity to create new realities where he is loved, or, rather, where he loves himself.
“If I still believed in me/ I would lie/ If I had another chance I would try/ If I lost my dreams I would blame myself again/ If I were myself I would be someone else”. Who are we really? Are we the people that we see ourselves as in our dreams? Or are we the failures that live in the real world? Our protagonist has decided that the person he IS is not the person that everyone else sees. This inner turmoil led him to leave his somewhat overbearing lover, and this battle led him to retract from reality.
“And this day/ New life raced through my mind/ So with all that’s mine/ I need to look back inside”. He has new life, yes. However, he’s finally starting to realize that a new way of life does not start in changing physical circumstances, but in changing your own heart.
2. Rainbow Box
“Medication Time/ My favorite part/ Hello Rainbow Box/ Need you to survive”. Knowing and doing are two very different things. Our protagonist knows that he needs to win the battle for his mind and heart, but, in the track “Rainbow Box”, he dives head first into a sea of pills, denial, and apathy.
He’s almost gleeful about it. “White is for my health/ Blue for happiness/ Thanks to Red I die and live/ With a shade of smile on my face”. He knows what this medication is doing to his physical and mental states, but he doesn’t care. He’s given up. He’s lost himself completely.
As his days melt into one another, he barely notices. As his dependency on the pills increases, he accepts it willingly. What can he do? How can he escape this self-made cage?
3. 02 Panic Room
“Cover up my twisted thoughts/ Shattered all around/ Muffled sounds/ Recurring dreams/ Melatonin smile”. As our protagonist swirls deeper and deeper into his artificial, drug-induced world, he begins to feel vulnerable and insecure. He thinks he’s safe, but his thoughts constantly betray the lies he tells himself.
He misses her. HER. She used to be the one he ran to in the bad times. She used to be the one that protected him. He lived vicariously through her, experiencing reality through her eyes. Now, he’s all alone, and he has no clue where to go or how to act. He’s truly bitten the hand that feeds him. “I was feeding on your life/ Peering through the hole/ And it scared me out/ Someday/ You would knock on my door”. This dependence on her is both a revelation and a sickening punch to the gut.
One of my favorite lyrics ever: “I’ve tried to make self-portraits before/ Through my eyes/ Just see myself/ Now I know/ I’m not in denial/ That I need someone else/ To see me”. Do you know how this feels? If you don’t, then you’ll never understand it. Looking in the mirror, introspecting your own soul and mind: These things can be scary. What if you don’t like the person you find? The self-loathing, the feelings of worthlessness, and the weight of the world seem to drag you down into a miserable heap. Sometimes, though, you need someone else. You need someone else to reassure you, to pick you up, and to love you. Our protagonist is beginning to understand this.
4. Schizophrenic Prayer
“In your arms/ Feels like a better us/ In your arms”. At last, in the fourth track on the third album of the Reality Dream Trilogy, we get a clear glimpse of what it wrong with our protagonist. He’s schizophrenic. It’s that simple. But, is that really simple? His multiple personalities are at war with each other, taking turns longing for love and recoiling into a state of irreality. This man’s mind is a battlefield of love and hate, fear and arrogance, insecurity and impotence.
Yet, all sides of him are beginning to recognize their need for their lover. In her arms, all of them feel better. “Hypnos give us your hand/ We are so tire of this life/ Need to rest and finally disappear”. Rest. They want rest from the constant battles and turmoil. Rest in her arms, that is what they do desire. He, or they, are beginning to awaken.
On the fifth track of “Rapid Eye Movement”, we fall fully into the understanding of this man’s plight. We’ve discovered that he is schizophrenic, yes; but he is getting worse. His life is a nightmare that he had always feared, unaware that it was reality the whole time. His dreams: They were real. What he thought was behind his eyelids is actually happening. “Lost the light of day/ Lost my picture of you/ This nightmare I was afraid of/ Just becoming the truth”.
There is another side to him that he never knew. He scares himself. When he wakes up, he tries again and again to remember when he had switched. He can’t remember at all. He isn’t himself anymore. It’s no one’s fault, either. He used to blame his lover. He used to blame the world. Now, he realizes that this is all his own responsibility. “I need to find a way/ To bring you back again”.
6. Through the Other Side
One of my first loves on this album, the sixth track on “Rapid Eye Movement” is a subtle and delicate track called “Through the Other Side”. “The moon began to split in half/ And the darkness could be touched/ Blindfolded/ You’re trying to find a way/ To the bottom of your soul”. Floating in the blackness, weightlessly pondering. The protagonist has found a gateway outside of himself, out of the real him. He can see himself as he really is. He can see his lover as she really is. Colors have texture. Smells have sounds. Every breath is full of coldness and wonder.
“And to hear your voice again/ And to feel your touch this way/ Before it gets too late”. He cannot feel his emotions anymore. He’s found a space in his consciousness where he can be objective. Yet, one emotion does come through, and that is his longing for his love. He wants to touch her again, in this state, before he returns to his reality of confusion. He loves her, and he can see all the ways he’s hurt her. He sees that she is worth fighting himself for.
“I miss what we had/ I miss someplace that was just mine/ And nobody else’s/ Just mine/ Place for me to hide/ Inside of me”. Following directly from “Through the Other Side”, the seventh track, “Embryonic”, displays the same attitude and ambiance. In this state of mind, floating through his reality, our protagonist is at peace. He can see his problems, and the ones he’s caused, too. He’s scared on what he sees.
He’s still divided. He wants to be forever in his lover’s embrace, but he wants to recoil and disappear inside himself, too. He wants a place that is his alone, one where he can hide. This feeling is so relatable, I think, as we all feel this need for privacy, but also for intimacy. It takes so much work to force ourselves to give ourselves fully to someone else.
“For you/ I will be/ For you/ I will escape again/ Want to see in your eyes/ That you want us back/ That there’s hope for us”. He does just that. He starts to give himself. He begins to place her above himself. He starts to heal. He begins to mature. I feel that this is something that happens with all of us, especially men.
8. Cybernetic Pillow
As the end of this saga draws near, our protagonist is nearing the end of his lucid, ethereal experience. He doesn’t want to leave the comfort of his inner space, a place where he can be anyone and he can make his lover be like anything he wishes. It’s a place where his true heart is revealed, and he can manipulate to his heart’s content.
“But if this is only a dream/ Does it follow/ One day must we wake up?/ But if this is only a dream/ I can just/ Soon I’m cold”. He doesn’t want to leave his space. But he must. He is so beautifully numb inside himself, but soon he’ll be back to the cold and confusion of reality. Is there a way to bring the comforts of irreality into his reality? Can he make believe inside real life?
9. Ultimate Trip
“I’m your better life/ Hidden desire/ Never Neverland/ Unclose your mind”. Why, my friends, is this Reality Trilogy from Riverside so relatable? Why can we see ourselves in the words, and bow our heads in agreement with the emotions? Riverside seems to turn everything around in the final track of “Rapid Eye Movement”. You see, this protagonist that we’ve been following? He is US. You and me. Humanity in general. An “everyman”.
What does that mean, though? The lyrics are pretty clear: We need to open our minds. We need to stop dreaming of better lives and paradise, and we need to live in the real world now. But we don’t, and we never will on our own. “We could be so good/ Broken looking-glass/ So much left unsaid”. We could live such wonderful lives, but we cannot even begin to see our problems. Sure, we brood. We hide. We dig at ourselves. Yet, we never seem to change. Our images of ourselves are not accurate, and it’s leaving us drenched in the mire.
Who are you? Who am I? We are more than this. We truly are. I believe we are created in the image of a God that loves and cares and maintains us. Yet, as creations in His image, we are autonomous to a point, and so we can wander. We can become lost. We can disappear into fantasy lands of our own making. Is this what we are? Or are we noble creatures with the capability to defeat our demons, love each other, and leave our problems in the dust?
“Even if I had my life to live (over again)/ Even if I had my life to live (over again)/ I would keep coming back to the same place/ Waiting on the shore for me to return”. This doesn’t have to be our fate. We don’t have to languish in life, never making any headway in our inner battles, in love, or in overcoming our fears. We have the ability, if we would only recognize the One that cares more than any other.