Schooltree: “Day of the Rogue” from Heterotopia @schooltree

This video shows the world premiere live performance of the penultimate track from Schooltree’s superb rock opera Heterotopia. This happened on March 31, 2017 at the OBERON in Cambridge, MA.

The Heterotopia double album is now available at http://schooltree.bandcamp.com

Lainey Schooltree – vocals/keys
Tom Collins – drums
Peter Danilchuk – organ/synth
Ryan Schwartzel – bass
Sam Crawford – guitar

Video by Rob Schulbaum

Synopsis: Schooltree “Heterotopia” Act II, Part 2 @schooltree

In my review of Schooltree‘s masterpiece Heterotopia, I noted that the album moves in three phases: first, an incredible Act I that (like the whole album) never flags in excellence; then, the beginning of Act II which has four outstandingly classic songs that are all the more astonishing simply for being buried in the middle of this amazing prog opera and yet take it to a whole other level of musical accomplishment; finally, there is the remainder of Act II which (more than any other of the tracks on the album) offers a theatrical dramatization that is absolutely spellbinding in the manner of the best Broadway musicals.

As promised, here is the concluding synopsis of the album’s storyline as it concludes in the latter half of Act II:

Suzi passes before a mirror in which her zombie body confronts and warns her not to go near the river, from which no one ever comes out alive. Go there and you’ll destroy us both, she says. (You & I)

Suzi is derailed by this exchange and begins to lose herself and forget where she is going. It feels like she’s been on this road forever – or maybe just one really long day. Under a lamppost she sees a flash of light – it’s the centipede cat, which she now barely recognizes, as if from another life, and follows once again. It leads her to the river. (Into Tomorrow)

At the edge of the river its siren song calls to her, offering solace, peace at last; all she needs to do is leap into it. Suzi knows she must jump in with her resolve intact or be swallowed by the abyss. She falls in and sinks. At the bottom of the river, she begins to dissolve, but at the last moment remembers what that she has learned in Otherspace and uses it to move through the meaninglessness “like a ghost through a wall.” (The River, Bottom of the River)

Beyond the “wall,” Suzi finds and awakens Enantiodromia, and asks her to take her fair hand and make her whole again. But awakened Enantiodromia is changed from her former self; looking around at the darkness arisen during her slumber, she is the black-handed reaper now, bringing balance to the land once more, now by using her black hand to annihilate that which does not belong in this world, and attempts to begin with Suzi. Suzi pleads with her to stop, explaining she is only half of what she’s supposed to be, telling Enantiodromia of her quest though endless night outside of time to wake her. “I am not a shadow, just a girl; an exiled soul in the wrong world.” Enantiodromia tells her that she’s been in this world too long and is no longer just a girl; she cannot return her home. But as repayment for awakening Enantiodromia, she allows Suzi the chance to go back to take control of her zombie body, and return as one to her, at which point she’ll take them both together to the next place. (Enantiodromia Awakens)

Suzi returns to the mirror and faces her self, finally understanding the power of the ghost, making a connection between worlds and operating her zombie body like a puppet, using her will to control it. They merge, not quite whole but moving together, and slowly march toward Enantiodromia the Reaper. As Suzi gets ever closer, she becomes sick with disease as her body fails. But she marches forward nonetheless, facing the end, she is ready to become whole, if only to die in doing so. Enantiodromia takes her hand. Suzi’s body is destroyed and she dies in a triumphant blaze of glory. (Zombie Connection, Keep Your Head, Day of the Rogue)

Having achieved mastery in both worlds, Suzi is able to use her mind to grow her body from her head like a seed in the air downward to the ground. NeoSuzi glimpses what utopia could be for the first time, as something that can never be possessed, but experienced. (Utopia)

Act II, Part 1 — Synopsis: Schooltree “Heterotopia” @schooltree

As I said in my review of Schooltree’s fantastic concept album Heterotopia, at the beginning of Act II of this amazing prog opera, there is an LP’s side worth of immediately accessible, instant rock and roll classics.

The power and sophistication of these songs is jaw-dropping, so I thought I would devote this current post to them alone, as I resume the synopsis of the prog opera’s storyline.

I also include the last track of Act I, Specter Lyfe, on my playlist of the five classic tracks on the album that became my first-listen favorites. Here are the other four, which kick off the storyline of Act II:

Suzi encounters three shadows who taunt her for her ghostly “condition.” We’ve seen how this story ends, they prophesize, and you’re already dead, just like the rest of your kind. (Dead Girl)

Metanoia reaches out to Suzi after this altercation and teaches her the power of the strange – throughout your experience you will encounter strangeness, you yourself will become strange, but don’t be afraid – form is illusory, lines can be broken down and shaped by your will. Use the strange to adapt yourself and the world around you. (Turning into the Strange)

As Suzi moves through this world and tries to adapt, she begins to realize she’s spent her life overcome, in a cycle of unwitting self-destruction. She’s been a sort of ghost all along, but feels more uncertain and insubstantial than ever now (for obvious reasons). She feels unsure whether it’s her life as a human or her life as a ghost that’s the “reality.” Metanoia offers some perspective on this – all these things that make being a ghost hard are also what make it extraordinary. You are alone, but that makes you singular; you can’t touch anything but you can move through walls; the lines of reality are broken so nothing confines you. This is what will enable you on your quest: the power of the ghost. For a moment Suzi sees clearly the path before her. (Edge Annihilate, Power of the Ghost)

Act I Synopsis: Schooltree “Heterotopia” @schooltree

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.

HETEROTOPIA

A Rock Opera from Schooltree

Plot Synopsis

ACT I

(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)

Continue reading “Act I Synopsis: Schooltree “Heterotopia” @schooltree”

Album Review: Schooltree — “Heterotopia” ★★★★★ @schooltree

This is a freakin’ amazing album. If you have not yet heard Schooltree’s Heterotopia, you have no idea what you’re missing.

Imagine if Kate Bush released, in 2017, a 100-minute long, double LP concept album. Imagine if it was so damn good that it ranked right up there in rock history with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Quadrophenia. Sounds like a total fantasy — too good to be true, right?

Well, that is exactly the magnitude of what is going on here with this release. Except it’s not Kate Bush. It’s an incredible musician I had never heard of, called Lainey Schooltree, who has done the miraculous. With this amazing achievement, she has forever earned her place in the history of rock. This is seriously one of the greatest albums you will ever hear.

Continue reading “Album Review: Schooltree — “Heterotopia” ★★★★★ @schooltree”