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About two weeks ago, I started writing a Song of the Moment entry about ‘Brothers in Arms’, but unfortunately that moment was subverted by nearly unbearable work pressure. Today, I am so taken with a newer song that I’m afraid Mark Knopfler’s masterpiece will have to wait.
I have recently been blessed with a veritable deluge of breathtaking music, courtesy of a new compatriot at my day job. Although I have many favourites from this fresh collection, ‘Welcome Home’ is the one composition that has arrested my imagination most aggressively.
In many ways, this is a song of contradictions. For example, the relentless onslaught of the musical arrangement is wildly original, while also carrying distinct hallmarks of Led Zeppelin -- in terms of its Wermacht-scale monumentality as much as Claudio Sanchez’s nonpareil vocal performance.
The tempestuous gale of wailing split harmonics gives the guitar work unearthly and demonic overtones, at the same time as evoking an impression of nature’s fury unleashed. Lyrically, the sentiments oscillate between the violent reprisal of a lover spurned, and a poignant lament about unrequited adoration. Even the dynamics and structure of the song fluctuate from rage to tenderness and back again, yet at no moment is there the slightest digression from a consistent overall integrity.
This song comes from an album entitled Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness -- and while my love of verbosity is not something I would attempt to conceal, it is the firestorm of imagination compressed into this title that I respond to most strongly. And I’m not even going to start ranting about the fact that this is a concept album and ‘Welcome Home’ is only one of the scenes that comprise its narrative.
Although the abstractions in the lyrics are not quite so intensely non-sequitur, I have always been deeply moved by writers who are capable of building a cohesive whole from seemingly unrelated and often quite surreal montages of imagery. Jim Morrison and T. S. Eliot are among my favourite poets largely for this reason, and in my opinion -- whether this is through words, sculpture, cinematography or any other form of expression -- the ability to elicit a powerful aesthetic response with such disparate flashes of thought, is the purest form of art.
There is much more to the words in this song than merely an ability to create order from randomness. Lines such as “You stormed off to scar the armada” or “With truth on the shores of compassion” indicate a real talent for wordsmithing, and convey a clear visual impression despite their independence from literal interpretation.
Lexical agility notwithstanding, the overwhelming ethos of the lyric is as exorbitant and overstated as the music. The sheer conviction with which Sanchez spits out, “Now get in the ground” and “Like Jesus ... I’ll drill through your hands” is equal parts caricaturish and sinister. It’s not unlike when a person one doesn’t know very well throws down a distinctly ludicrous threat that is nevertheless within their power to follow through on, and their deadpan delivery makes one uncertain as to whether or not they are really joking.
For me, there is great richness in music -- as well as in other forms of art -- that is confronting to some degree, I find it more stimulating and engaging than what I would describe as things that are easy to absorb. ‘Welcome Home’ represents a listening experience that is unnerving to say the least, but it is also a conflagration of incredibly intense creativity whose terrible beauty must be heard to be appreciated.
Check it out on YouTube