Haken’s The Mountain: An Analysis

Pareidolia is the phenomenon where our minds try to find patterns and try to make sense of things, making something not-so-significant extremely significant. Hmmm.

Well, this is ironic.

Haken’s third album, a must-listen for all prog fans

This is not a “new thing” I’ll be doing. I honestly have better things to do than analyze every album I listen to. I mean, not every album is worth analyzing. This album is different.

Haken‘s The Mountain is, undeniably, the best release of 2013. It is well-integrated, very emotional, crazy at times and engages you from start to finish. Looking at the lyrics last night, I found several things that I had previously never noticed about the album. Call me unnecessarily deep and extremely bored, but here I shall share my analysis. Maybe no one will care. After all, who would bother searching “haken the mountain analysis” on Google (other than myself)? Well, when I searched that exact phrase, I found nothing. So I decided to take the initiative.

I guess I shall start in Lit Essay fashion. What are the themes of this album? Well, the most obvious theme is ascendence followed by downfall. This can be seen in Falling Back To Earth and several other songs. Honestly, this does not really interest me that much. But the second theme is much more interesting.

The Mountain talks about the natural progression of life and death.

From what I can see, the “Path” refers to this natural progression. The first song The Path states how life is a “gift that we receive”. We can infer that the “Path” starts with birth, the beginning of life. The “Path” is something that we ourselves make. However, while things seem positive at the start, as life progresses, the path has more and more obstacles, and there is a hint of pessimism when the motif appears again in Because It’s There, with the diction of words such as “Broken” and “Defeat”. The song ends with a monologue that starts with “I wish I could be someone.” During life, we have ambitions and goals that we set ourselves so that we can do something useful with our lives. The irony is that life itself gives us obstacles to drag us down.

But how does the “Path” end? The “Path” appears for the final time in The Path Unbeaten. Here, the “Path” of the individual has ended. The “Path” might twist and turn however the individual desires it, but eventually, all paths lead to one thing: Death. In the song, there are no lyrics. This could signify the silence that comes along with death. The title of the song states a universal truth: Death remains unbeaten.

So how about the rest of the songs? Atlas Stone, Cockroach King, Falling Back to Earth, Somebody and Nobody are all about ambition and life after birth, the process of walking the path leading to death as our ultimate destination. The songs are about ambition as it reflects our inherent human nature to progress and be superior to others. This is where the motif of flight comes in, with constant references to flying higher and all that awesome stuff.

Atlas Stone is about how life burdens us and yet we try our best to fulfill our goals and ambitions, rising “to the challenge (we) set (ourselves).” The chorus is very interesting:

“Carry the weight of the world
On my shoulders
Rise to the challenge I set myself”

Okay, so we can obviously infer the meaning that life is a burden (“weight”) that we all have to endure “carry”. But there is a second interpretation, an interpretation that will link all the songs on the album.

Delusion.

What does Atlas do? He carries the celestial sphere (sky, Uranus). NOT the world. The contradiction here reflects the delusional mind of the individual. Also, “carry” can also mean support. Here, the individual feels that he himself can change the world with his ambition, again showing how delusional he is. As this individual is a representative of all humanity, it shows how all of us are delusional and oftentimes escape rational thought.

The underlying theme of delusion is found throughout the album, although it can be a little extreme. A “cockroach king”? “Soaring through the sky”? “I will be dancing on your grave”? What messed up visions does the individual have?! Not only are these images metaphorical, but they are also signs of our delusion. This theme climaxes in Pareidolia. This is my second favorite song on the album, and lyrically, it is the most space-y and isolation-y. (Great choice of words there…)

In Pareidolia, there are constant delusions about places like “desert”, “Universe” and “ocean” as well as material (perhaps even living) manifestations of things such as “fear” and “dreams”. The places I mentioned above are places of mystery and the lack of life. Saying that “fear” and “dreams” are “drowning in the Ocean” is basically saying that these places of mystery destroy life and its two extremes of pessimism and hope. Or basically, our natural delusions bring our lives to a halt.

So okay, Pareidolia is a criticism and exposition on the way nature has made us, in that our very lives lead us to death. What else is there in the song? The second message can be found in the title, and the chorus:

“Be the moon and sun
Be the wind and cross the storm
See the stars begin to swarm
Read the writings in the stone”

Yes, there is obviously some delusional stuff right here, but there is something else as well. “See the stars begin to swarm” could be a reference to how the ancients found patterns in stars and made constellations. “Read the writings in the stone” is something I am not really sure about, but we can infer that it is about analyzing things that are not even there, making it unnecessarily significant. These two lines refer to the title, Pareidolia, whose definition I have stated in the introduction. So what’s the significance?

It reflects humanity’s attempts to understand things that we never may be able to understand, or, we never can cause a change in. We try to find patterns and link up things, forming constellations, religion and science, all of which are incomplete and, to a certain extent, futile. There is still no Theory of Everything, after all.

So I guess that is it for this analysis. Somebody and Nobody are interesting songs, which have their own meaning, but this post is getting long enough as it is. Besides, I have already covered what I had wanted to say. If any of you have still not listened to this album, I highly recommend you do.

So why is this under both categories of Life and Metal? Well, isn’t it Metal about Life?

Bye everybody, and if you actually read the entire thing, thank you.

~~~

For the full lyrics of the album, visit this site.

~~~

[Update (20/01/14, 7:44pm): This post has, in less than a day, become my most viewed post yet. To all those who read it and shared it on social networks, thank you very much! I can’t really express how grateful I am to all you amazing readers! And I’m being legit. No fake emotions here.] 

[Update (21/01/14, 8:16am): …You guys are insane. To the reddit community (especially r/progmetal), thank you very much. Two-record breaking days in a row feels amazing. I think I will go back on what I previously said; when I find and album worth analyzing, I will analyze and share it for all you people.]

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8 thoughts on “Haken’s The Mountain: An Analysis

    1. Haha well I actually haven’t listened to that album yet. But who knows? If I like an album and I find some depth in it that is worth sharing because of how mind-blowing it is, I think I will post my analysis here, judging how popular my first one is. Coal may be one of them, but I’ll have to listen to it, like it and find something meaningful in it first. 🙂

  1. Brilliant analysis. I was quite surprised to have found this when I typed “haken the mountain analysis” into Google, and gave a little chuckle when you mentioned it in your analysis.

    I agree with most of what you said, and I guess like most art it’s down to the beholder (listener) to have their own subjective interpretation of the content. As you’ve mentioned, one of the most prominent themes in the album is the theme of life, the progression thereof, and death. I felt like you misplaced your analysis of songs like “Cockroach King” though.

    The term indigo gets thrown around a lot these days, and as much as I hate using the term, I feel that it’s efficient enough to describe something as above normal – mother nature’s countermeasure against mindless, empty individuals who destroy the planet with their greed.

    These guys and their music is definitely indigo stuff. It shouldn’t be hard for anybody to deduce that these guys have a very different outlook on life, the world, and the universe we live in.

    The song Cockroach King tells me a story of a young man entering the real life for the first time. He finished his studies, followed the path that has been layed out before him, and now starts climbing the corporate ladder (or whatever relevant job-related pursuit).

    “Tantalized by the cockroach and its promise
    I fantasized about soaring with golden wings”

    “Vacantly I was gazing at the mirage
    I yearned to be an apostle of the self-made man”

    The young man sees all the riches of the world and what he can achieve. He sees big-shots with lots of money and he fantasizes about becoming like them. He wants to become integrated into the system of this world, becoming a self-made man.

    “I blindly wandered down the golden path
    In pursuit of a misbegotten dream
    The Great Gatsby whispered in my ears
    The road from rags to riches leads nowhere”

    He starts following the path of becoming part of the system, but he starts to realizes that material wealth and money don’t really mean anything. Just like Nick in The Great Gatsby, he realizes that these people are corrupted by money and dishonesty, and that the American dream of happiness and individualism has disintegrated into the mere pursuit of wealth and greed.

    “The grand illusion faded”
    “The mirage melts away”

    He is becoming aware of the trap that is the rat race that so many have fallen in.

    “Lured by a treasure that was fit for fools
    Lost in this labyrinth in search of the truth
    Trapped in your kingdom built on greed and guile
    Only to find the insects have multiplied”

    He realizes that in this system he is only a number, and that he will be abused by those seeking the same wealth that lured him there in the first place.

    “I longed to be a disciple of the cockroach
    I was hopelessly choking on the roach of fallacy
    Thankfully when the mirage finally melted,
    the impurity of the cockroach was revealed to me”

    His eyes are being opened to the lies – self-explanatory.

    Now that he’s liberated himself from the clutches of the system, he has a new outlook on life.

    All the songs preceding this song fit into this context fairly well. The story just continues as he forges a new path to liberate himself from the clutches of the system… But maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

    Heh… Pareidolia.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! I really appreciate it. 🙂 Also, thank you for the insight on Cockroach King. I feel that the song deals with things that are not really repeated that much in the rest of the album, like wealth. The transition in the persona’s viewpoint that you mentioned gels in better with the natural progression of life and death… Delusion is probably the most subtle thing I picked out and it’s scattered around the album. I found it to be a really nice touch by Haken. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the article! I too searched for analysis of this album on google 🙂

    I think one of the reasons that not all the songs seem to fit the same theme is that the lyrical duties were split among the band members for this album, so although there is definitely some coherence, each member could explore topics that particularly interested them.

    Another thing I’d like to point out is that The Path Unbeaten and Nobody are bonus tracks, so in my opinion they should not be included in the analysis of the album arc. The fact that they still fit the themes does not surprise me, but this is probably because they are both reworked versions of previous tracks (The Path and Somebody).

    Something I was hoping you would touch on is the motif of Greek mythology throughout the album. The most obvious is Atlas, who “carries the weight of the world on his shoulders”, but also Icarus whose ambition leads him to fly too close to the sun. This motif is heavily present in Falling Back to Earth, which is quite literally about flying too high and then falling. This is also referred to in Because It’s There (“Climb, find your way / Scale high, don’t look back”), and similarly Cockroach King is all about ambition that has gone too far, which is expanded upon in Johnny’s brilliant analysis of the song.

    But the one I’m surprised no analysis I’ve seen (yet) has mentioned is the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who “was punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.” (Wikipedia)

    This again touches the theme of striving too high with your ambitions only to be pushed back down… down to earth… down The Mountain… etc. The dangers of “chronic deceitfulness” is also hearkened to in Cockroach King, while In Memoriam asks “Is the truth too hard for us to swallow?”. But I think what’s most surprising is that I never noticed until recently that Sisyphus is actually on the cover of the album, on the bottom left corner, slowly pushing a boulder up the mountain for all eternity.

    The rest of the album art found on the inside sleeve and pamphlet also attests intrigues me. There are several illustrations of the character on the cover carrying the boulder over his shoulders, drawing a comparison between Sisyphus and Atlas. Additionally, the first page of the pamphlet depicts an ape investigating a large egg, the middle pages show Sisyphus/Atlas carrying the boulder, and the last page shows the Sisyphus character evolved from a caveman-looking being to a modern human, but this time he is pushing a giant ball of trash instead of a boulder, and he’s pushing it over the edge of a cliff while a polluted post-apocalyptic city lies in the background.

    I would love to here your analysis of this art and how it may further relate to the musical and lyrical themes. To me it seems clear that the Ape becomes the Caveman becomes the Modern Man, and the Egg becomes the Boulder becomes the Trash, but I’m not sure how all of that relates to the rest of the analysis. And are Haken actually trying to push some sort of environmental agenda, with the final art depicting the ball of trash? I would love to here your thoughts on all of this.

    Thanks again for the great post!

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