TPM Top Lyrics/Concepts of 2018


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The Prog Mind was founded on the idea that lyrics and concepts in progressive music are vital and worth exploring.  In the progressive community, I find the lyrics and concepts are the deepest, the most expansive, and the most emotional of any of the genres.  Last year presented several albums that fit that bill perfectly.  Check out my top 10 lyrics/concepts of 2018.

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10. Paul K – “The Fermi Paradox”

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Paul K’s latest explores the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence and the high probability estimates for the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations.  So, basically, we know there should be aliens, but why do we have no evidence of aliens?  The album is so much more than that, though.  It uses this paradox as a means to fluster us about our own inward gaze.  It aims to contrast the great silence and endless possibilities of the universe up against the confined and shortsighted behaviors we humans have, such as our focus on social media, our tendencies to war and isolation, and our unexplainable hatred for people just like us.  It’s contrasting what could be, and what actually is.  It tries to encourage us to look to the stars; to look for the potential in our future.

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9. Jet Black Sea – “The Overview Effect”

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If you are not aware, the overview effect is that moment when astronauts see the fragility and insignificance of our blue planet from space, and all the fears, conflicts, and problems of our world rush away because they feel so inconsequential and small.  Thus, the album starts with this feeling of energy and exploration, but falls into this bright awareness of the human plight, and then ends with a new appreciation for who we are, why we’re here, and what we should be doing.  The journey can definitely feel lonely, vulnerable, and cold; but the album ends with feelings of lush greenery, nostalgia, and homeliness.  It’s quite a trip.

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8. Saul Blease – “The Great War”

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“The Great War” bristles with torment and sorrow.  It covers World War II, offering lyrics that view the war from the fighter’s perspective, as the great war machines thundered towards them, These men were forced into acts of brutality and darkness, as they fought through literal hell just to survive.  It is an emotional journey, for sure, but it by nature is going to leave you with a hole in your stomach as you experience the gloom of that war.  Combined with the raw nature of the music, these lyrics paint a dim picture of humanity and the horrors of what we do to each other.

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7. Borealis – “The Offering”

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Borealis surprised me this year with an imaginative and deep concept.  “The Offering” is about a  group of people who start a cult where they perform child sacrifice.  These people truly believe that these sacrifices will save the world, but all the time they were sacrificing the very thing that can indeed change and save the world: children.  There’s something of a poltergeist or divine being that they inadvertently create during their rituals, and that is where the meat of the story lies.  I love the political, spiritual, and practical ramifications of this story, and I think it is well told and written.

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6. Amorphis – “Queen of Time”

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Renowned lyricist Pekka Kainulainen wrote the lyrics for Amorphis’ grand new album.  I’m going to be completely honest and admit that I have no idea what “Queen of Time” is really about lyrically, but the epic words relating the human condition to the honey bee are absolutely fantastic.  There seems to be this theme of human struggle for light and truth; a struggle that is often extinguished by hate and historical amnesia.  It’s about humanity emerging from the amber again and again as they constantly find truth, and then lose it.  At least, that is my interpretation. 

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5. John Holden – “Capture Light”

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“Capture Light” is a wonderful tapestry of beautiful stories that celebrate the human spirit.  These stories are mostly historical in nature, from the greedy conquistadors to Venetian artists (capturing light) to James Cleveland Owens showing up Hitler at the 1936 Olympics.  Other tracks have more abstract themes, such as a return to nature or the origins behind the Native American dreamcatcher.  It really is a fascinating set of themes, and they all seem to connect to this search for truth, wisdom, and earnest humanity.

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4. Riverside – “Wasteland”

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“Wasteland” tells a post-apocalyptic story with cinematic and nostalgic elements.  Although I don’t know the details fully yet, the story is meant to reflect survival after tragedy.  Piotr’s death, as well as some other major events in Mariusz’s life, all play into this.  This album will make you cry.  It will make connect you with the band in a way you might not have done thus far.

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3. Echoes of Giants – “The Way to Us”

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This album features three sections, each of which contains a complete story.  The stories are separate, but all seem to be an expression of our human desire for wholeness, completeness, and love, especially transposed against human fears; such as ruin, disappointment, loss, and loneliness.  The first story strikes deeply into my own personal experience, and I know the deep darkness and loss therein.  It’s definitely not an album that will want to hear that often, just because of the emotional weight to be found.  It is a masterwork, just the same.

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2. A Perfect Circle – “Eat the Elephant”

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The latest from APC forces us to the eat many elephants; makes us face many issues in our modern times.  From the fake Christian Right to social media addiction to obsession with celebrities,  the album is like one punch in the gut after another.  I absolutely love the lyrics here, full of grit and power; and I think they may be the most timely lyrics on any album this year.  You can read my full lyrical spotlight here.

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1. Riversea – “The Tide”

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“A love that embraces the all / where the river meets the sea”.  These lyrics offer a glimpse into the light and grace available on this album. “The Tide” dives deeply into an earthly consideration of the human condition.  We are a truly troubled race, always spiraling towards self-destruction, and much of that comes with the name of God on our lips.  This album is an uprising against that destructive way of life, and the lyrics have affected me emotionally and spiritually.  Yes, the tone is quite somber, but can also be worshipful and spiritual, begging us to consider what is being said.  It offers absolute tranquility in a way that I really haven’t heard from other artists.  That is the Riversea touch.

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