1. A Touch of Blessing
“Climbing walls of an endless circle/ Walking paths you’ve never heard of/ Struggling in an endless battle/ Searching for a higher purpose”. Evergrey’s “The Inner Circle” slowly fades in with strong spiritual desire. This first track, “A Touch of Blessing”, follows a desperately empty person. He feels lost in his own life, retreading familiar ground over and over until his life becomes a meaningless cage. He is searching, ever searching, for that one epiphany of hope that will somehow shine a light in the darkness that encumbers him.
It’s in this state that he stumbles upon a cult. Yes, the primary story line of this album centers around a person that joins a cult that seems to offer him everything he’s ever wanted. Even so, his mind is warning him. He knows that something isn’t right about this. “Mislead by beauty/ One you rarely find/ So loving and friendly/ It’s one of a kind”.
He finds a prophet of sorts that promises to provide blessing, answers, and comfort from life’s betrayals and pains. “Drowning in betrayals river/ The freezing cold will make you shiver/ Join the world of greater learning/ Crown me king and be my servants”. He claims to provide a greater plateau of living that will change everything. He provides light for those in darkness. Those weak and lost: They are welcome to come and follow him. Those hurt and confused: They will find care and love in him. This man towers above him, and he just seems so wonderful. The warning bells in our protagonist’s mind seem to fade.
“Scattering all dark thoughts wandering/ I shatter all doubts surfacing/ This is my rescue and salvation/ Undivided and blessed vision”. This is it. This is what he’s been searching for his whole life. A family. Someone to follow. In this second track of “The Inner Circle”, our protagonist falls head over heels in love with this new found salvation.
“I am/ Light to cast away shadows/ The Spirit, Holy Ghost, and even Jesus/ God walking earth/ Ambassador”. The prophet says all the right things. He seems so damn trustworthy. There is an aura of truth and holiness around him, as he claims to be sent directly by God Himself. His is the power. His is the glory. He sets even the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ to shame, as this ambassador is the true holy one of God.
How could he not follow this man from God? How could he not devote himself to these new teachings? “Let me be your hand of guidance/ No more solitude/ No more independence”. Our protagonist gives up so much out of faith in this man. He gives up his very life and freedom in search for the answers this supposed ambassador of God promises. But he hasn’t found the truth: He’s lost himself.
3. In the Wake of the Weary
In this third track of “The Inner Circle”, the viewpoint switches to that of someone close to our protagonist, a wife perhaps. This happens to be one of my favorite songs ever, let alone on this album. This is not only because of the music, but also because of the sheer amount of emotion shown here.
“So high on believing/ Not seeing your changing/ I carry the weight and I’m weary/ We’re wounded severely”. Our protagonist has his head in the clouds. He’s been so concentrated on this newly found belief system that he has been neglecting everything else. He’s been changing, but not for the better. He’s becoming someone else, but not someone good.
“We’re wounded severely/ Should see it so clearly/ And I can’t take it no more/ A life in a lie where I scream and I cry/ But she won’t lie no more”. Their relationship is strained. Scars are starting to appear. They aren’t healthy. They aren’t united anymore. Obsession has taken him into something else. Something too dark to be light, too hidden to be truth. Everything seems so out of control.
4. Harmless Wishes
“Defenseless and smiling/ Her innocence is shining/ His own flesh and own blood/ His words were so convincing/ Delightful so beautiful/ Can’t stop what he’s been told/ She’s three years old”. Things aren’t always what they appear. Evil can be shrouded by good. Dark can appear as light. This is a lesson that the protagonist of “The Inner Circle” begins to learn on this track.
The ambassador seemed so holy. So righteous. So perfect. How could he ever teach anything that is false? Yet, here he is. He’s ordering the sacrifice of a three-year-old girl. Three. Years. Old. How can this be right? He thought these teachings were about right and good and unity and peace. How could someone that teaches good justify unrestrained evil? But this situation is far worse than we know initially. This little girl: She’s our protagonist’s daughter. He is literally sacrificing his daughter at the altar of error. He has given her up, and it’s out of his hands now.
This is nothing but confusion. What is good? What is evil? “No more dawning days/ Only whispers of darkened ways/ Forever falling tears/ Lands in the hands of somber fate”. What has he done? What has he done for the sake of his leader? How could he have been so fooled? The days don’t shine as brightly anymore. The nights last an eternity. Darkness creeps into his mind as he tries to come to grips with his actions. How could this have happened? How could he have murdered the innocent to please a man?
5. Waking Up Blind
“Left behind we are stranded not free/ In silence I cry what went wrong was it me/ Led to believe in a truth that was false/ Truth built on greed and the faith of the weak”. In this soft, pleasant ballad, our protagonist’s wife speaks again. She begs. She gets on her knees to beg him to think; think for just a second. She begins to question her own actions. Was she not good enough? Was she not enough? She is desperate to have her man back. He’s fallen into a pit of deceit and is lost in a fog of extremist ideals.
He really is lost. Living life in a haze, one day he simply woke up blind to the truth; blind to the evil right before his eyes. How could he allow the abuse of these little ones? How could he allow even this holy ambassador to do such a thing? His instincts are correct. His gumption is missing. “Waking up blind and blind you must be/ So stupid of me to believe in your hypocrisy/ Gave it all up for life in a dream/ So foolish of me to not stop your infidelity”. He’s a fool. And even worse, he knows it, but still does nothing. This political spirituality that seeks to use the weak has destroyed the true spirituality in his heart.
6. More than Ever
“Time for a breather let it all sink in/ A pause from the deceiver and to reach deep within”. Finally, our protagonist is on a crossroads. He’s actually beginning to think for himself right now, and he’s come to the conclusion that this ambassador, this deceiver of the weak, is nothing but a fraud. Light cannot begat darkness. Good cannot utilize evil for its purpose. He decides that good cannot destroy innocence. His daughter is representative of the real truth that he should believe. He should have followed his heart, rather than letting us head get caught in the clouds.
Yet, there’s something more that I detect here. While he has uncovered the fraud, his belief is still strong. He still has faith, but not in the deceiver. He has learned to think for himself, and to separate the messenger from the message. “Waiting for the waves to break/ Hoping for the tide to change/ Embracing the awaiting aim/ Believing more than ever/ Believing more than ever”.
“Every road has its end”. His faith in this man has come to a decisive end. He is no longer a slave in mind to this man. He’s done following the system and the machine. He’s done clinging to the interpretations of those in charge. Now, he’s following his gut. He’s following his heart.
7. The Essence of Conviction
And here we come to the infamous tracking that contains the screaming baby. It’s chilling, to say the least. “Undressed to nothing and held to the sky/ Her smile is gone and she starts to cry/ Desperately seeking her father’s eyes/ But he sees nothing/ He’s blind.” Our protagonist is wrestling in his heart. He’s seen through the charade, but he will forever be haunted by the fact that he gave up his little girl for a monster’s wishes. How could he have been so deceived? There’s nothing he can do for her. The situation is out of hand.
The little girl searches for the big, strong man that has held her close so many times. But he’s not protecting her now. He’s the one hurting her. Tears of eternal guilt stream down his face now. There’s nothing he can do to get her back: Her screams will be forever ingrained into his consciousness.
What is belief? What is that conviction that leads us really to “know” something? “Their trust is won and fate is conquered/ The essence of conviction”. Conviction, then, is nothing more than active trust, perhaps. Even the evil in this world can gain that. It’s a scary reality, and it’s happened far too many times. Innocence taken. Spirituality ruined. Lives ended. The vicious cycle of man’s history is a cruel mistress.
8. Where All Good Sleep
“Chained to a world where all good sleep/ This is where pain and sorrow meets”. As we approach the end of “The Inner Circle”, the lyrics take some interesting turns. “Where All Good Sleep” is a track with which I can relate somewhat. It is a monologue of desperation. The protagonist is in the pits of hell because of his actions and his faulty beliefs. He can barely describe what he’s feeling.
Yet, this track is about frustration, too. He’s disappointed that good doesn’t take a stand. It seems like good is sleeping, and evil has taken over even those institutions that were supposed to be light. He’s feels responsible and utterly sorrowful for what he’s done, and he can’t seem to find light or peace anywhere. So he hides. He hides from what he’s done. He denies it ever happened. “I’m doubting still denying/ The truth was more than shocking/ I’m doubting I’m hiding, hiding/ I’m running knowing they’re watching/ I’m still in disbelief from what I’ve seen/ Where I’m hiding… hiding”. Pining about good, he runs and hides from his own depravity.
9. Faith Restored
“Time to start over/ I’m given a new chance/ And time to discover”. You can be free. You can drop the shackles of guilt and hopelessness. You can be free. In this, the last song on “The Inner Circle” that features the protagonist, he comes to peace with his sins and actions. He’s seen the hand of the One that can truly heal him. He understands true spirituality now.
“And when it all came to clarity/ There was no perfection/ Dreams where shattered/ Hope was washed away”. He’s recognized the myth that is perfection. Striving to be perfect in and of yourself only leads to frustration and despair. You can have no hope if you if expect perfection from yourself. He sees that now, and his faith in God and in true spirituality—one that is not tainted by corporate, political desires—has been strengthened once again. His past is just that, and he can now look to the future once again.
10. When the Walls Go Down
“Where’s the tears?/ Where’s the mourning?/ Where’s the confessing?/ The love of Christ?” The final track on “The Inner Circle” is one of the most powerful tracks that has ever been crafted. “When the Walls Go Down” is a monologue or prayer coming from the ambassador/cult leader himself. It is an exercise in self-destruction, self-loathing, epiphany, and confession. He wallows before God in agony over what he has done. I like to think this takes place as he lifts the metaphorical knife over the body of the little girl, so he never goes through with it. That’s just me, though.
“I was feeling God’s pain and I’ve never had anything that’s been any worth to God,/ In my fifty years that wasn’t born in agony, never, never…/Dead..empty…” His ego melts away. His arrogant claims about God and himself are gone now. The pain in his heart is killing him, leaving him worthless and sorrowful unto death. “When the walls go down/ and ruin sets in…” His whole artificial world has come down around him, and he has been laid bare. His system—his machine—has crumbled to nothingness.
“The Inner Circle” is not anti-Christian. It is not anti-spiritual. It is not atheistic. It is also not necessarily deistic, either. That’s not the point of any of this. This album is, however, strongly anti-religion, as defined by man-made systems based on the opinions and rules of man. These systems are detrimental to true spirituality and a true connection with God. They often assert themselves, bend the rules, justify evil, and proclaim wars in the name of God; but their hearts couldn’t be further from him. You see, these religious systems lie in a realm of actions and Pharisees; but God, He just wants our hearts.