Last time on Mind.in.a.box: As Black’s journey continues, reality begins to unravel around him. In the beginning he was a simple man, living his life out as an Agent employed under White. Working for the Agency against a group of rebels known as the Sleepwalkers. The Sleepwalkers had eluded Black and the rest of the Stalkers for quite some time. Their leader, a man later known as “The Friend,” had killed himself as Black had closed in on him. And another member, a woman named Night, had escaped Black’s trail in a club full of hypnotic music that has been pulsing in Black’s brain ever since the incident.
It was then, that Black had first glimpsed the Dreamweb.
It was then that White began to lose control.
And so, The Sleepwalkers took the opportunity to rescue Black from White’s clutches, recruiting him for the resistance against the Agency Black had once worked for. Transitioning into a brand-new life, Black has understandably had a bit of an existential crisis. His past and his future no longer align. The path forward is more unknown than ever. Black must live with the mistakes of his past. He hopes to redeem himself. To find new meaning.
Cast all memories aside, now is the time for the future.
Mind.in.a.box – Travel Guide (8.75): As per usual, Mind.in.a.box starts out this album with a recap of past events, making my recap kind of redundant. But this song doesn’t just recap previous events. There is more information here, that’s been lurking in the background and many of them are quite world changing. I believe that this is probably the most narratively intense chapter in Black’s story so far. It’s debatable whether or not this or the one in Broken Legacies blows my mind more, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
No need to talk of Broken Legacies here. There’s plenty of material within this song. The very first line of the song metaphysically changes the way you might look at the entire discography. Mind.in.a.box is no longer just the name of Poiss’ narrative cyberpunk project. It’s now the name of a band that’s important to the narrative. They were the ones playing the music in Dead End that first exposed Black to the Dreamweb. They are the band that Black and The Agency have been searching for ever since that incident. It is their music that Black rediscovers at the end of the last album in the songs, Transition and Sanctuary. This adds entire new levels of meta and immersion into the Mind.in.a.box universe.
And that’s not all this song has to offer. This song exposes a lot of intel on the Dreamweb and how it works, even clarifying past events back in the first album when The Friend had supposedly killed himself. He’d cheated death by escaping into the Dreamweb, another world that the rebels had used to elude the Agency, keeping them at bay, always one step behind (you might want to take a peak back at Stalkers from Crossroads now). This song even clarifies past events back in the first album such as when The Friend had supposedly killed himself. Black has now discovered that he’d cheated death by escaping into the Dreamweb. Much to Black’s surprise, the Friend is still alive.
Now is the time for Night and The Friend to show him the hidden world the Dreamweb. A world intricately connected to the reality Black had once known, and yet so distant.
But they have a key.
The music of Mind.in.a.box
And what fantastic music it is. I mean this isn’t necessarily the most stellar of Mind.in.a.box, but I’d definitely consider it on the upper end of his work. This song has less of a technological vibe than most, focusing mostly on varied guitar work than arpeggiated synths, but it does a great job of energizing this reading of Black’s journal, provided by Night.
But his story isn’t finished. Now that he’s conquered his past under White’s control. Black is ready to enter a new chapter of his life.
It is time to join the Sleepwalkers.
Mind.in.a.box – I Knew (7.75): Now this sounds a bit more like the classic Mind.in.a.box I know. Heavy focus on an arpeggiated bassline paired with the synthetic female voice used from the very beginning of the discography in Light and Dark (though I can also hear Black’s voice echoing in the background so perhaps that’s something to note). Add in a bit of melody and some dramatic drums and you’ve got yourself a Mind.in.a.box song. I don’t have too much else to say about the music, but the real matter of importance here is the lyrical content anyway.
This song takes on the tendrils of the last album’s themes of retrospection on Black’s past. It only makes sense to explore his memories in an album titled Memories. However, I feel like this song does feel a bit more positive, focusing a lot more on the new clarity that Black is now experiencing and how he’s beginning to find the answers to the questions he’s been asking his entire life. There seems to be a brighter future ahead of Black…
Mind.in.a.box – Unforgiving World (8.75): Unforgiving World has a subtle beginning with a low arp that soloing softly at the beginning. The drumbeat does come in not long afterwards, but this low arp still works well as the song’s backbone. Its influence is never lost, even when it’s covered up with several melodies, especially in the choruses. The variation in the melodies in this song is what I’d consider to be its main selling point. All of the usual technological elements in the verses blend seamlessly with the more organic strings in the second verse. And the chorus features a healthy variety of melodies in its chorus, from the most melodic portion preceding each chorus, to the longer notes underlying the distorted chorus (the latter of which seems to get more intense as the song progresses, though I feel that the hats may have some influence on that.
As for the lyrics, Unforgiving World is surprisingly much more positive than you’d think. The unforgiving world that Black lives in does take up some focus on the song, urging Black to give up his hopes like the numerous people hiding in the shadows, accepting the darkness as part of their life.
But Black doesn’t relent. Instead, he defies the darkness. He defies this unforgiving world, rejecting in his fears and refusing to fallback into the blind life he’d once lived. Instead he holds on to hope. Hope that one day, he shall find peace within this world.
There is hope…
Mind.in.a.box – No Hope (7): There is no hope…
Seriously, the contrast between this song and the last one is quite odd, to say the least and it feels like it doesn’t belong in the story as the next on the album continues towards Black’s positive path. It just feels completely out of place in his arc. And I feel that the album as a whole would be slightly better without it.
There is an alternate solution. The song could very well be following a different Stalker, one still under White’s control. The song does seem to share a similar tone to Stalkers after all, focusing on robotically oriented vocals in the front, with the familiar undistorted vocals in the background, commonly associated with Black. And the Stalkers are quite important to this chapter as you’ll see later (I’m sorry for slight spoiler, but it’s relevant. I won’t go into detail until later).
Anyways, since the lyrics are so sparse and vague, I’m going to judge this song mostly on the music anyways. The drumbeat in this one is very solid whenever it’s present, not holding back at all as it’s paired with a great bassline in the introduction. It gives the song a slight bit of energetic edge over the rest of the album, which for the most part, is slower paced, focusing more on dramatic moments than energy. And so, with some great arpeggiated development, this song, while not the standout of the album is good enough to fit within.
Mind.in.a.box – Synchronize (7.75): Synchronize stats off distorted, but quickly introduces a good simple melody and a solid drumbeat. The verses are decent, implementing the more computerized vocals, which makes sense considering that this song is especially heavy on the virtual themes of the Dreamweb. But before I get into how this song affects the narrative, I want to first remark on the chorus, or rather the introduction to the chorus specifically. It’s short, but the drum solo preceding the chorus is easily my favorite part of this song’s instrumentation, though the calmer bridge at about three and a half minutes in comes close.
But this is Mind.in.a.box. I can’t go exceptionally long without talking of the narrative. And this album is full of some of the most important developments yet, this song starting with Black’s journey into the Dreamweb, synchronizing with the musical frequencies of Mind.in.a.box and allowing his consciousness to become part of the machine.
You could say that he places is his mind…
In a box.
Mind.in.a.box – Bad Dreams (8.25): Like Unforgiving World, Bad Dreams is a more positive experience of a song, with a deceptively depressing title. Even the vocal tone is a bit deceptive. The odd near whisper in the verses feel especially uneasy. The soft metallic melody doesn’t really do a good job easing the tension, only making the song feel a slight bit more ominous. Not to mention the chorus whose vocals inspire a feeling of passionately loud desperation.
But like Unforgiving World, this song depicts Black’s escape from his bad dreams, from his never-ending nightmare under White’s control. But Bad Dreams takes this escape a step further, as Black has now synchronized with the Dreamweb, a reality that Night and The Friends have leading him to ever since Dead End (The music is the key) and Introspection (waking up underwater). Here, Black and the other Sleepwalkers are safe from White and the unfreed Stalkers. Even the Friend, who’d died back in Forever Gone from the first album, has found a way to escape death itself.
This nightmare is over. Black’s journey towards redemption is coming to an end…
Mind.in.a.box – Silent Pain (8.5): Silent Pain is, fittingly, one of the calmer songs on the album, focusing a lot on soft melodies set over an ambient bassline. It picks up a little bit more with a couple of other melodies and the essential Mind.in.a.box arp. Not to mention the emotional climax that builds as Black ends his journey of silent pain. It still remains to be quite a relaxing song with a great atmosphere to it, even though it doesn’t quite keep the calm it had in the beginning.
But that’s perfectly reasonable, quite fitting actually, because Silent Pain is about a journey. Black’s journey to acceptance specifically. Throughout Revelations, Black had struggled with the ramifications of escaping White’s control, but it’s here that I believe that Black has come to terms with is past. Or, at least, he’s fully committed to embracing the future ahead of him, setting the past behind him forever.
What matters now is the next step of his journey…
It won’t be an easy one…
Mind.in.a.box – Timelessness (9.25): Timelessness is easily the catchiest song in Mind.in.a.box’s discography. I’m not sure what it is about this song, but the chorus gets stuck in my head more often than any other song Poiss has made and is among the songs my mind regularly defaults to when it decides to fill the silence with mental music. Yes, I do indeed do this sometimes. My musical obsession is simultaneously a blessing and a curse.
Anyways, I’m quite certain that the simplicity of the chorus’ lyrics is what helps it stick in my mind. It’s not exceptionally quick paced and it only has two lines of lyrics (or four, if you want to divide it into an ABCB rhyme scheme rather than a single couplet). And despite being computerized, the chorus still has an emotional charge to it, depicting the experience of what it’s like to reside in the Dreamweb (again, talking of the lyrical content while analyzing the musical content is quite risky but hold on a second while I finish this off).
The verses, while not as catchy as the chorus, still have a grand effect on the song overall. The vocals may be the star of the show in the chorus, but here, it’s all about the bassline and melodies (and arps of course, always the arps). Everything here meshes quite well with the lyrics, and if it weren’t for the catchiness of the titular chorus of this song, I think I’d have preferred the verses. (Oh, and one last thing, the rising frequency at the end of this song makes for quite a great finale).
Anyways, seeing as this is likely the most story-heavy album of the Mind.in.a.box discography (the next five songs especially, I might not even mention the music in most of them), it would probably be a good idea to go into detail of what this song is about. Along with many of the past few songs of this album, this is about the experience that is the Dreamweb, which Black has finally fully entered, falling asleep in one world and waking up in another. Now in the Dreamweb, completely free of White’s influence, Black now has more clarity in his life than ever before. It is now that he feels at peace with the truth of the reality around him.
Surprisingly, he had to leave reality in order to discover that.
And then he came back…
Mind.in.a.box – Face It (8): Ok, this is probably the grittiest edgiest sounding track in the Mind.in.a.box discography. It has a very slow tempo with a heavy rock guitar serving as the main source of energy. And the namedrop of the song is much harsher than anything else in the Mind.in.a.box discography. But it also is a very important turning point in this album, not as artful as Redefined, but still a very important moment in Black’s life, transitioning into the most narratively driven stretch in the entire discography, five entire songs dedicated to Black rising up from his depressed slumber and actually standing up to White and the agency. It is time for him to face his past, to cut off who he was and to embrace the future.
This song is the perfect blend of Black’s past regrets of his time under White’s control and his desire to change the world. Mulling over his past has done nothing for him so far.
Now is the time for action.
Black exits the Dreamweb…
And makes his way to the Agency.
Mind.in.a.box – Up there (8.75): Enter Stalkers.
This is it. These next four songs will display the showdown between Black and White, concluding a major arc of the Mind.in.a.box story. Think of it as a finale of sorts (though not the final finale, there is more to come). Black has sought out White and found his way to the Agency’s headquarters. He and White stand on the rooftop of Black’s previous workplace (somewhat depicted on the album art, though there’s only one person there so I’m not certain), now in a stand-off between a rebellious Stalker and his previous employer. But Black is at a dead end. There is no way out for him. It’s all or nothing.
And then, the rest of the Stalkers show up, their face blank, with all of their emotions stripped away, fed to the machine.
White has an army under his control, an army that Black was once a part of. Before the Sleepwalkers had saved him. Recognizing their previous coworker, the Stalkers welcome him back to the Agency. They welcome him back to his “home” as a Stalker. There seems to be no way out for Black.
And then something happens. Something strange, mysterious and currently unexplainable as the Dreamweb is still so enigmatic, it’s quite impossible to tell the true limits of its power.
The Friend briefly appears, the musical arps taking over a more technological vibe to the song as he uses some sort of weapon to wound White, searing his skin. And just as quickly as he had appeared, The Friend departs, leaving Black alone with White and the Stalkers…
Mind.in.a.box – Pedro (7.5): Enter… Pedro?
This is the absolute hardest song to figure out how it fits in the narrative. Why? Well, there’s no lyrical analysis to be had. This song is all instrumental other than maybe a few vocals at the three-minute mark, but it’s practically impossible to figure out what they’re saying, if anything. That being said, the music in this song does stand out from the rest of the album, sounding more like something from THYX or off of the R.E.T.R.O. album. The song clearly needs more musical focus as opposed to the four surrounding it, which get away by having some exceptionally good additions to the narrative.
I’d describe the mood of this song as quite relaxing somehow. There are some more driving portions of the song near the end, but up until that point, it’s just a mysterious soundscape.
And then there’s the name Pedro. Where do I even begin? Seen only in the title of this song and nowhere else in the discography, I have to ask, who is Pedro? Whatever theory I come up with it will be impossible to determine whether or not it’s true unless the name shows up later in the discography with some more detail. But that hasn’t happened yet, and I have my doubts that it ever will.
My theory? Well, it is quite possible that Black has finally remembered his name. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it is a possibility, and you can’t tell me I’m wrong because he can’t remember his name as evidenced in Into the Night from Crossroads.
It makes sense narratively to have a song about Black between the Stalker’s beckoning him to rejoin the Agency and Black’s final stand against White. Speaking of which…
Mind.in.a.box – Shake-up (9): Enter Black.
Black is a Stalker no more. White no longer has control over him and he will never be loyal to the Agency again. Now is the time for ultimate redemption, the end of an arc as Black stands up to White and his legion of Stalkers, up on the roof of the building that had destroyed his memories. Black may have unknowingly been on the wrong side of the story as a Stalker in the first two chapters in this narrative, but over the last three (including this album), his life has changed completely, uprooted from what he once knew as truth and reality.
And now, standing before White, Black holds his ground steadfastly. He will not give up. He will not give in. His path in the future may not be perfect. His path to this moment wasn’t flawless either. But his actions have not damned him to failure. Just because he stumbles, that doesn’t mean he will fall. Until the end of his time, Black will stand up for the reality and truth that he has discovered with the Sleepwalkers in the Dreamweb. As the song concludes, Black gives on quiet speech before it all ends, now at peace with the past that had haunted him, the future that daunts him and the present in which he must fight for his memories
Now, he remembers.
Now, he knows the truth.
But the song comes to a strange end. Something that makes me uncertain of Black’s fate in this face-off. Despite the way this arc seems to end, Black seems to be absent in the next song, leaving White alone to… well, I’ll get into that in a bit. But it doesn’t quite make sense that Black would simply leave White alone after rising up to face him, dedicating his life to the future…
There’s one tone at the end that makes me worry…
A long tone that seems reminiscent of a flatline…
Black’s fate is uncertain…
Mind.in.a.box – 5ynchr0ni7e (9): Enter White.
With Black’s fate uncertain, it’s time for a shift in perspective. It’s time to take a closer look at the man who’s remained roughly enigmatic up to this point: White, Black’s employer, leader of the Agency, and controller of the Stalkers. So many questions have arisen about the Agency and their relationship to those that inhabit the Dreamweb. White has been chasing the Sleepwalkers for so long, but after losing control of Black, his search for a way into the Dreamweb grows ever more frantic.
It’s through this that we get a good look at White as a character. What kind of person runs the Agency and what thoughts must run in his head as he constantly takes the free will of others, turning them into Stalkers. He’s a man filled with regret and horror at what he has done. He is a man who fears that he will be found by the Sleepwalkers as much as he desires to find them. He is a man who is feared by all who work for him. He is a man who refuses to look at the face of a murderer, his own face. He is a man who dedicates everything he has to a cause. And right now that cause is unlocking the Dreamweb.
Thankfully, at the same time that he’d lost Black, the Agency was able to record and recreate the music that Black had heard in that club, the frequency of Mind.in.a.box. And so White has led a division of the Agency to conduct experiments on human test subjects to try and enter the Dreamweb.
It’s not working. Several lives have been lost already to this cause, but White cannot enter the Dreamweb. Not unless he knows the secret of synchr0n17ing with it…
Conclusion: There are several questions left unanswered at the end of this album. The fate of Black is still undetermined, though I believe his physically body has died, perhaps in a similar manner to how The Friend had killed himself back in the first album. But as we now know, the Friend is not dead. He’d survived death through the Dreamweb. And seeing as Black has entered the Dreamweb as well, it’s quite possible that he could do the same. The power of the Dreamweb is still relatively unknown.
But White desires that power. He vows to reach into it and destroy the Sleepwalkers who’d been evading him for so long.
It’s worth noting, that when I’d discovered Mind.in.a.box, this was the latest album. This was my cliffhanger, leaving me to wonder what was next in the struggle between the Agency and the Sleepwalkers. I had so many unanswered questions, some of which have been revealed since then.
But sometimes unanswered questions are good. It pushes me to dig deeper into the music. It pushes me to find as much information on this narrative as I can. And most of all, it makes me await somewhat patiently for the next chapter in this story.
You don’t have to wait though. Go ahead and listen to Broken Legacies right now! I won’t review it for a bit, but you can always listen ahead of me.
Final Score: (8.25/10)