Last time on Mind.in.a.box: Our story begins with an agent. We know him as Black. Employed by White, Black searches for the key to a reality beyond the physical world known as the Dreamweb: a virtual world that people known as the Sleepwalkers have escaped to, putting them out of White’s grasp. Black is a Stalker, a man put under White’s control to tail members of the Sleepwalkers in hopes of finding out how to access the Dreamweb. In particular he targets a man (now known as the Friend) and a woman (now known as Night).
But something goes wrong. As Black trails Night to a club, the music there overwhelms him, causing him to Black out and lose track of Night, but not before seeing a glimpse of the Dreamweb. His mind is broken by the experience, but through this he begins to discover that perhaps his mind wasn’t sound to begin with. Missing memories, nightmares of someone controlling him, feeling utterly lost in the world around him. In exposing him to the Dreamweb, the Sleepwalkers have freed Black’s mind from White’s control. He is no longer a Stalker. He has redefined his identity into something new. He has made a decision to depart from The Agency and follow the Sleepwalkers. But after such a life changing event, Black must first contemplate the events that have unfolded over the past several months. Several revelations may occur.
Now that his eyes have been opened, nothing will ever be the same.
Mind.in.a.box – Remember (8.5): Remember is quite the interesting introductory song for this album. The last two albums had explicit recaps of the events so far, but this one follows a slightly different method, focusing solely on Black’s current emotional state and his newly changed view on White and the Agency. Throughout its duration, this song develops from quiet ambience filled with whispers from the past to simple melodic verses depicting Black looking back to the conflict that has now arisen between him and White. His entire worldview has been shattered and he has found himself lost without direction.
From there, the song reaches its more energetic chorus, adding in some guitar riffs and much more violent introspection, focusing on Black’s regrets of his past actions. He never knew true reality until the moment the Sleepwalkers had freed him. He never knew the truth about his employer until he discovered the truth of the Agency and the Stalkers. And now that the truth has been revealed to him, he finds himself trapped in a state of turmoil as it all falls apart.
Outside of the obvious lyrics depicting Black’s current struggles, I found something incredibly interesting in the calmest sections of the song. There are some faint whispers that slipped past my ears a first, and even now they are so faint that it’s rather tricky to figure out exactly what’s being said. Though I believe I have noticed that the first line whispered, “Do you see the confusion,” comes from Certainty back on Dreamweb, even though the rest of the lines don’t quite match. So, if I were to guess, the rest of the whispers come from other pivotal songs in the past three albums. I don’t really have the time or energy right now to figure out what the rest are, but perhaps I’ll return later to decipher exactly what pieces of the story the Black is remembering at this moment.
But the past is behind him. The important decisions reside in the future.
Mind.in.a.box – Cause and Effect (7.25): So, we move onto Cause and Effect, which has a slight bit of a grittier vibe in comparison to our introduction. The bassline is probably the main reason for this as it takes a prominent role throughout much of the song. In fact, until 4-minutes in, it feels like the rest of the song is incredibly subdued in the background. With just the groovy bassline periodically coming in and out with a slightly syncopated drumbeat, though it’s more of an extra beat between the third and fourth rather than a delayed third beat, and the bassline seems to bounce back and forth between the groovy feeling and a slightly harsher tune intermittent throughout the track. And that’s pretty much the entirety of the song up until the 4-minute mark.
Okay, I’ve mentioned the 4-minute mark quite enough times. There is a game changer that occurs right here and it’s time to mention it. While the arps and the melodies do develop a small bit before this moment, it’s only here that they truly take the spotlight as they set the bassline into the background for once and let the arps take the spotlight along with some extra distorted vocals. Not quite the same as the gritty vocals that take up the majority of this track, but instead a more robotic voice that sings long notes. Thankfully, despite their distortion, I was able to parse these lyrics unlike all of the whispers in the last song. Speaking of lyrics…
This song further expands on Black’s regrets of the past. He was blind to reality, but instead had unquestioningly followed White. Now that the Sleepwalkers have freed him, Black sees the world for what it truly is. And he sees that White’s lies (not to be confused with white lies), have led him down a path that destroyed his identity in favor of trying to break into the Dreamweb, which upon retrospection, might not be the best thing for White to have access to. And so, now that his mind is free, he expresses his anger at the one who’d held him unwittingly in a mental prison for so long. For now, he blames White for his actions. But is his role in the Agency really that simple?
Mind.in.a.box – Transition (7.5): Now that we’ve reached the third song, it’s time to make up for lost time with the Mind.in.a.box arp, because it is much more prominent in this song than it was in Cause and Effect, taking the main stage for the majority of the song. In fact, other than the drums and vocals, the arps dominate this song so much that there is so little else to talk about, which gives me more time to go into the much more interesting lore.
In this song, Black returns to the club that he’d visited on that fateful day when he’d lost is trail on Night and first glimpsed into the Dreamweb (Check out Dead End from Dreamweb for the story on that). However, things have changed since he’d last visited the Dreamweb.
The club is empty. It had been teaming with the chaos of people and dancing when he’d first arrived at the club, but now the entire club has been abandoned. No music. No people. No sign of the Sleepwalkers. No answers to the questions that he’d hope to answer by finding the club once again. There is nothing left here.
Until he revisits the alley outside of the club. Here, he finally here’s the music.
It’s in his mind.
The time for action is at hand.
Mind.in.a.box – Doubt (9): Alright enough with the lore, let’s dive right back into Black’s mind and look further into the regrets that are arising as he gains freedom from White’s control. It is now that he feels doubt.
But first, before I get distracted by the inner turmoil Black is going through, can I just comment on the brilliant arpwork this song in particular has? I know. I’m repetitive. Mind.in.a.box is always fantastic when it comes to the arps. But this one does rise above the bar with several different layers to each and every arp, And it isn’t just the arps that are outstanding, there are some points where the arps go absent and what’s left is a simple rising chord progression and a good peaceful melody that highlights my favorite part of the song (though it’s actually my favorite part for lyrical reasons).
Doubt is a song of rising uncertainty. While under White’s control, he may have had some questions about his memories and where he precisely belonged, but none of these questions truly took form until the Sleepwalkers freed him. And now that he’s begun to redefine himself, he questions his past actions and whether they were truly the best ones he could have taken. He now dwells in the past when he should be living in the present, looking to the future. He dwells on what cannot be changed and throughout most of the song, falls into a deep depression, adapting a nihilistic view on his life, ruined by his past.
But thankfully this song takes a turn for the better. Despite being crushed by his past actions, Black eventually musters up the strength to live with it all the same. Yes, his past my be dotted with several failures, but that doesn’t mean he has to define his life by those failures. What matters is the present. What matters is that he redefined his life into something new, independent of White’s control. His doubt might not leave him completely, but he can thrive despite it.
Mind.in.a.box – Control (8.75): One of the main desires I have in life is to find a way to remain in control of it all. All too often, I find myself struggling to keep my head above the water. And so, to hear a this soothing relaxing track titled Control really washes over me. There’s a slower more introspective vibe created by the steady drumbeat and the simple bassline and underlying arp that set up the main structure of the song. And thanks to a few melodies, some fitting the calmer vibe and others with a more victorious feeling (the latter present in the chorus and the former being present pretty much everywhere else). This song really does have a solid feeling that matches its name.
Sound is deceptive. For this song describes the darkness Black feels after setting his life on autopilot. For so long he’d simply lived assignment to assignment, working under White’s command to fulfill the goals of the Agency, particularly uncovering the Dreamweb. He’d given up control to the whims of others and for a while he’d been content there.
But now that he’s freed, he feels lost. Yes, freedom from White’s control is definitely a victory for him and the Sleepwalkers, but now he feels lost in the chaos, tumbling down the void of the unknown, horrified by his past actions and vowing not to repeat them. But where does he belong now that he’s in control. Does he strive to make his own path. Does he blindly follow the Sleepwalkers instead? And how does he deal with White?
Chaos isn’t always easy to overcome, but Black has taken steps towards feeling in control. No more autopilot. No more mindless wandering under another’s guidance. Srive to escape the endless whole of darkness, not embrace it.
It’s time to take control.
Mind.in.a.box – Fragments (8): Alright, it’s time to dive a bit into the lore and maybe get a little bit meta. Musically, this song has just about nothing special to it. Good arp and that’s about all I have to say. Typical Mind.in.a.box stuff. But the lyrics. Oh, Black has many questions of the events of Dead End. Questions are eternal. Will they ever be answered?
Well, regardless of whether or not certainty will continue to escape Black’s grasp, he has found a place to look for answers, the club that had changed his life forever. He’d found it in Transition and now that he’s found the music playing in his head, he begins to piece together the events of that pivotal elusive night. The club has fallen apart, remaining in shambles, destroyed by something (or someone) referred to as a screamer, a currently unexplored concept, which raises more questions than it answers. The screamer could be involved in the music that allowed Black to glimpse into the Dreamweb, but that seems unlikely as the music, while initially harsh, doesn’t sound very destructive. More likely that music came from mind.in.a.box, a fictional band that had been playing at the club, likely one of the bands on the list mentioned on Into The Night from the last chapter in the story. And yes, I realize that mind.in.a.box being the name of the band within the story is incredibly meta and provides an entirely different layer of mystery to this story. Perhaps I’ll find time to conquer the ramifications of that another day.
But Black’s memory is starting to return. He remembers the music and the Dreaweb, the former seeming to be the key to the latter (a major development that will be important in the next chapter of Mind.in.a.box). He recalls the struggle between the Agency and the Sleepwalkers, and he recalls that he’d been rescued by two of those Sleepwalkers, Night and the Friend. But he knows so little about either group, despite both being intertwined with his life.
All that matters now is to fight against the Agency that had imprisoned him for so long and finally discover the true reality. To recall the memories that remain elusive and hidden.
But that’s a story for another day.
Mind.in.a.box – Unknown (7): Unknown, interestingly has a more controlled feeling than control. Simple smooth bassline that follows a more easily identified chord progression as well as a very subtle arp that follows it. There’s not really much of a melody. There’s the occasional one note in the verses that echoes before it leads to the next note, all of it continually following the chord progression. This song doesn’t really do a very good job of breaking bounds. It almost feels like filler. But when it comes to lyrical content and storytelling ramifications, there is no filler.
For quite a long time, Black has been pondering his life thus far, hoping to find answers to the Agency that plagued him and the Dreamweb that seems to loom in his future. Enter Night, the woman who’d eluded Black the most as he searched the club for answers. While the club was empty when Black had first investigated, I do believe that this song does depict Night reaching out to Black, beckoning him to join her and The Friend in the Dreamweb. Into the unknown.
The Dreamweb is unlike anything Black has seen before. His time in the Agency could not prepare him for such an experience. And neither can Night or the Friend, despite them visiting the Dreamweb themselves. All Black can do is blindly accept Night’s invitation into the Dreamweb. It’s acceptable that he can’t yet comprehend what the Dreamweb truly is. There will always be something unknown in his life.
For now, it’s the Dreamweb.
The music is the key…
Mind.in.a.box – Not Afraid (7): I really tried to find some parallels between this and Fear as I can’t help but feel that the two songs should be intertwined with development, much like the relationship between Machine Run and Redefined (though not quite as much because that matchup was flawlessly executed and can never be beaten). Unfortunately, other than them both relating to the concept of fear, these two songs have very little in common.
And yet, even without direct parallels, I do believe that the comparison between the two songs in significant as it does reveal a bit more about Black’s development. The best way to compare these two songs is to look at a specific element of the fear, not just on the personal level of Black, but also on the rest of society. Looking back to Fear, one of the lyrics in the song claims that everyone is afraid, but that’s no excuse. This song also explores the entirety of the people around Black, displaying them as empty shells, stuck in their darkest dream, living their lives in constant fear.
But there’s a major difference. Black is no longer afraid. He still lives his life as a dark dream, a never-ending nightmare of unknown reality, but he’s coming to find peace within that chaos. Peace with the unknown. This is likely the best relationship to have with the unknown. You can try to ignore it. You can cower in fear, letting it paralyze you, or you can stand up to the unknown and stride forward.
The only way to overcome the unknown is to face it without fear.
Mind.in.a.box – Second Reality (9): This song is incredibly deceptive in its tone. The overly distorted vocals emanate a feeling of darkness and confusion, but this song is actually one of the most uplifting songs of clarity in Mind.in.a.box so far. It’s not quite on the same level as Redefined, but I feel like continuing to compare future songs in this discography to Redefined will reflect the newer songs poorly. All will seem flawed next to perfection.
But before I get to the lyrics, I want to give a final quick look at the aforementioned grit. The darker tone of this song is created by the already mentioned distorted vocals as well as a slightly grittier bassline. There are a few more instruments in there, such as the occasional arp and piano melody, that prevent the song from becoming overly dark. And there is eventually a change in the vocals near the end, allowing the clearer and cleaner side of Poiss’ vocals to shine. Giving the song a powerful sense of victory. That is, after all, what this song is about: victory, particular over the past.
The past two chapters of Black’s story in the Mind.in.a.box discography have been incredibly life-changing. Everything that he’d known about White, the Agency, the Sleepwalkers, Night and The Friend, had been falsities made by the first two on that list. And now that he’s escaped White’s clutches, now that’s he’s found his freedom, the world around him has completely changed. An entirely new reality.
A reality in which in which all the barriers that once limited him have been torn down, allowing him to finally be free. A reality in which he can let go of his dark lie-filled past and find the truth in the future. A second reality.
Mind.in.a.box – Sanctuary (7.75): And so, Black once again returns to the club, enraptured by the music that had changed his fate. What was once a harsh overbearing melody as seen in Dead End, has now transformed into a song more gracefully orchestrated with calmly layered arps and discernable melodies that reflect the melodies created by the vocals. Oh yes there’s some more intense slightly bassier portions near the end, but that section has more a victorious feeling to it rather than the overwhelming chaos that throbbed in his head so long ago. This song overall is much more inviting now that Black is beginning to understand the Sleepwalkers and their Dreamweb. He now sees that music not as a distraction leading him away from his lead on Night, but now as what it truly is. Mind.in.a.box’s music is the key to the Dreamweb, a sanctuary where Black can truly find a life filled with meaning and hope, a life he can define and control. The music leads the way to Black’s second reality and the identity that was erased by White now begins to take shape once again.
Perhaps the memories shall fall into place as well.
Conclusion: This album has a slightly different feel to it, focused even more on introspection than usual. While Crossroads explored Black’s choice between the Agency and the Sleepwalkers, Revelations takes a look at the ramifications that choosing the latter has on Black’s life, focusing mostly on his shrouded past. I don’t believe that there’s quite as much worldbuilding in this chapter as it focuses more on Black reflecting on the events that have occurred so far as well as a nostalgic return to the club. That is, outside of the discovery that the music is the key to the Dreamweb. That’s a game changer that will define the next chapter of Black’s journey into the Dreamweb. But that’s a story for another day (I’ll review it sooner than I’d reviewed the last one. It’s been nearly 5 months since I’d reviewed Crossroads).
Final Score: (8/10)