In my review yesterday of Schooltree’s brilliant new album, Heterotopia, I focused primarily on its unexpectedly incredible music, and I didn’t really get into the album’s fascinating mythical storyline, which is reminiscent of the classics (e.g., compare Suzi to Genesis’s Rael, or Enantiodromia to Rush’s Cygnus).
But to give you an idea of just how terrific this fully conceived concept album is, I wanted to offer below an overview of the plot. Here’s the summary of Act I, courtesy of the band’s press kit. (I will place Act II in a separate post.) Use this as your guide to listen to Act I, if you have not yet tuned into this magnificent prog opera.
A Rock Opera from Schooltree
(Prologue) Suzi is a modern underachiever, clinging to yesteryear’s now-defunct dreams of rock-n-roll stardom. Her life became progressively darker as she found ways to support herself outside of the fame and fortune she thought was her destiny. And easier money came with a high cost. (Rocksinger)
A disillusioned Suzi reflects on the bullshit of contemporary life. In her despondence she sees having a soul in these empty times as her biggest problem, and makes a wish – someone please take it away. (The Big Slide)
Moping around the city one night, she sees a strange shadow, which is revealed to be a stray cat with a hundred legs. Disgusted and fascinated, she follows it through the streets. When it slips down a manhole, she falls in after it. Instead of falling into the sewer, however, she finds herself spiraling into an abyss of nothingness, where she experiences the dissolution of her ego in the face of the existential insignificance one usually goes through when tumbling through a seemingly infinite abyss. (Cat Centipede, The Abyss)
She awakens at home, apparently having dreamt it all. But something is weird – she just walked through a wall. She sees herself outside herself and realizes she’s having some kind of out-of-body experience, her body walking around on its own like some kind of zombie. She calls out to someone, anyone, but no one can hear her from the other side – no one except her zombie body, who, seeing her in the mirror, antagonizes her, driving her out and claiming her body for itself. (Radio, Walk You Through)
Exiled to the streets, the world is still concrete and traffic, but superimposed upon it is a strange, psychedelic, surreal world of nightmares – the edge of a dream of a madman. Her senses are deranged; she sees sounds, falls down into the sky, shadows get up and walk off the walls. Suzi sees people “stuck in time,” subject to all kinds of horrific things of which they’re not the least bit aware. Disoriented and freaked out, she refuses to believe what she’s experiencing is real. (Edge of a Dream)
Metanoia, a leitmaiden, appears and explains that Suzi is in the garden of the archetype – a place of pure ideas, outside time – where all dreams conjoin. But this world is troubled; she warns Suzi of the shadows around her, and that the longer she stays the more she risks never being able to return home. Perception in this space is via Suzi’s mind instead of her physical senses, and she must learn to orient herself this way if she’s to survive and get back to the world of light and sound. (The Leitmaiden)
Suzi is then told the story of Enantiodromia, a leitmaiden of ancient legend who is said to be part of the origin of this dream world’s turn to darkness. Long ago, she brought balance to the land with her fair hand, taking opposing extremes and bringing them together. One day, as she was sitting under the willows by a river, a spell was cast upon her by a mysterious shadow. Her fair hand turned black and she plummeted to the bottom of the river, where she sleeps forevermore. The river itself became cursed, and calls a siren song to all who come near to drown themselves in sweet annihilation. As a ghost walking between worlds, Metanoia tells her, Suzi can do things the inhabitants of this world cannot, and if she’s able to get to the sleeping Enantiodromia and wake her up, she may be able to help her reunite with her body. Suzi sets out on a journey to the river. (Enantiodromia, Specter Lyfe)
The story continues in Act II…