Behind the Music of The Demon Haunted World
PROVIDENCE's debut album, The Demon Haunted World is a concept album.
The story opens with track "Alpha", which heralds the evolution of man and his creations and achievements, both good, and some less so. We follow the species as it rises from tribal beginnings to space bound creatures possessing technologies that can both benefit humankind and destroy it.
"Alpha" was composed as soundscape with Basil overlaying Ebowed guitar notes. The sound bites capture some of history's defining moments.
"The Ascent Of Man" follows humankind's insatiable need to explore, learn, and push boundaries, sometimes without considering the consequences of those actions. "Out of the fire and into the pan, then back to where we began" is the story we keep repeating, as we behave like recidivist infants on the continuum of time. We make great steps forward, and sleepwalk back again.
"Ascent Of Man" features an amazing bass line that Bob composed, and it showcases his ability to simultaneously sing, play keyboards, and perform complex melodies.
"Bobblehead Jesus" looks satirically at those who cynically make millions "preaching" absurdity, whether it's New Age pseudoscience, religion, or some conspiracy theory nonsense, and those gullible many who eagerly consume it. The song is replete with musical puns and easter eggs if you listen carefully.
This song was to be the "pop song" on the album, PROVIDENCE style.
"Crash" segues "Cryonaut" which is a song written about something we all know very well in Winnipeg: our very cold winters. The song also took on a more metaphorical meaning in the context of the album in that it describes a freezing of empathy and understanding toward one another. We have witnessed the ugliness of extreme partisan politics, the rise of fascists and racists. The song tells of a storm coming, as it passes, our hearts and minds numb, we slide into darkness.
Even exploring these themes, the band's sense of humour shines through, especially with the song's movement subtitles. A nod to progressive rock albums of decades past, Cryonaut includes "March of the hexapodal Snow Goons", "On the inadvisability of licking flag poles", and, "Got the wind knocked out of you, eh?"
"Mutual Assured Destruction" is what inevitably happens when you give "any one species too much rope". Nuclear York is a PROVIDENCE fan favourite, especially live. The very high energy piece showcases the band's ability to slide time signatures around, starting the song in 13/8 and then rocketing forward in a powerful 7/4 beat. The song showcases Basil's complex song compositions and the band's synergy.
"Omega" takes the listener centuries further into a future of a new Dark Age, to the shore, or perhaps the figurative shores of consciousness. "Sunken City (The Dream)". A man sleeps a deep cryogenic dream. A dream of mythical creatures and places. Is it a dream, or is this real?
"Sunken City" is an ethereal piece in 7/4 time. It has a great feel and some very interesting guitar and bass interactive arpeggios.
In "Syncrete", we follow an Explorer, walking ocean shores, and along a stream, where a cave entrance is discovered. In the cave, our Explorer finds ancient machinery; centuries old cryostasis tubes with a lone Cryonaut inside. The machines switch on by the Explorer's presence in the cryo-chamber. The sleeper begins to awaken in "Temporal Stasis", and the realization of his past deeds, and the time which had elapsed since then, dawns on him. The technology that kept him alive for centuries fails; the Explorer is too primitive to understand how to repair the machinery, and the Cryonaut's life functions terminate.
The feel of "Temporal Stasis" is wonderfully dreamy, and builds to an energetic and fluid slide guitar solo.
With "Time and Again" we are lead to "The Way". Humankind has a bad habit of repeating history. We learn lessons and ignore them as we confidently shove our way ahead with great hubris. The message of "The Way" is very clear.
The gloomy-doom feel of "The Way" was meant to sound like an angry dirge. It is a requiem for rationality, critical thinking, and empathy to others. Dialogue is always preferable to "pressing the button".
"Wetware" conjures notions of technology and communication, and the randomness in the notes suggests something is awry.
"The Wheel" begins with the squeaking of a pet rat's wheel, slowly rotating as the rat goes nowhere.
The song speaks about an uncaring society, the one percenters and their wage-slaves. The Ones maintain their control by infecting the wage-slaves with the consumerism disease. The more they need to have, the more enslaved they become. "Who controls their eyes, controls their minds" Timothy Leary warned us at a lecture at University Of Manitoba some decades ago. This can be observed by the proliferation of highly biased news broadcasters, misinformation campaigns, and the mass consumption of worthless consumer goods.
"The Wheel" has several interesting musical parts which work together nicely. The varied bits each tell another piece of the story of a tribe that figuratively eats its young.
Now, more than ever, Carl Sagan's book entitled "The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark" should be required reading in schools and universities. Critical and rational thinking, coupled with a solid and well rounded knowledge of science is of paramount importance in a world full of high technology. There needs to be in our society a balance between technology and those who fully understand it and the science behind it.