I. Concept and Theme A. Fatalism We Are the Void is about death, but it is more accurately (and seemingly paradoxically) about life. While it is common for explorations of death to focus on the thing itself, this album concerns itself primarily with mans living relationship to the inevitability of his own death. The story centers on a protagonist who is forced to confront his own mortality by witnessing it externally. A large portion of the album is spent dealing the philosophical implications of mortality, rather than the moment itself. This series of monologues ultimately resolves with another, more definite question that serves as a prompt for the protagonist to live by. The element of death is embodied through the philosophy of fatalism. Fatalism is the belief that mans ultimate fate (death) is decided, and cannot be altered. This idea is related to determinism, the belief that all events are predetermined, but distinguished by its limitation to matters of ultimate fate. A fatalist believes that, while the past and distant future are immutable, the present is subject to will. The decisions made by the protagonist according to his will become central subjects in the album. Fatalism has ancient Scandinavian roots, as anyone who has read Beowulf (or watched The 13th Warrior) could tell you. In some cultures, the belief is liberating as it absolves individuals of control of one of the scariest aspects of life, its end. Shadow in Our Blood, which serves a thematic overture of the album, introduces the concept in a different light. These lyrics describe the paradox of humanity: we follow our animal survival instinct despite the conscious recognition that life is temporary. At the same time, the lyrics also describe the species as delusional for living in the face of death. This is presented in the overture as a critical piece of the puzzle that the protagonist must solve. Here, he has judged our continued living in the face of death negatively, assuming that it is based on falsehood. This position will alter as the album progresses. The Fatalist begins to introduce the plot of the characters progression: The characters fatalism is inspired by a forced confrontation of mortality. Having witnessed death in another, he is forced to confront the value and nature of his own life in the face of this new input that he had previously hidden from himself. The degree of this revelation is realized in contrast to the protagonists previous state: The ruin that befalls the infinite realm is believed to be caused by death itself. The words of the chorus are directed at the fatalist, not spoken by him. He is described externally as a fatalist, as though it were an objective matter and not one of philosophy. The inevitability of his fatalism is echoed in reality, in which he walk on soil that dreams of blood. The day [that] has come in the above lyric could be viewed as the moment of death, described with a definite article (the), as it is the only predetermined day to the fatalist. What is significant, however, is that this day of death is not the day in which the protagonist dies, but the one in which his infinite reality is slaughtered by the arrival of his fatalistic revelation. His remaining reality, the portion of eternity which he is afforded, is simultaneously made meaningless by its limited nature and anti-climactic ending. While the protagonist reaches this conclusion early on, he has not yet fully considered the implications of his fatalist beliefs, believing his fatalism to be inevitable. This flirts with the concept of determinism, and serves to absolve him of responsibility for his own life. The doubt is introduced in the final verses of The Fatalist: That fatalistic smile is the façade of indifference to fate. The protagonist seemingly embraces fatalism, a philosophy with some physical truth to it, and uses it to justify his resignation to determinism. His smile is false, as the philosophy that he claims to have embraced is based on flawed logic and serves only to absolve him of responsibility for his remaining life. This philosophical conundrum is partially resolved in The Grandest Accusation. This song, like The Fatalist, is most likely sung from an external perspective as it addresses itself to the protagonist of the story. In the opening lines, parallel structure is used to describe death in several analogies: The persona speaking these lines is likely the characters sorrow, an embodiment of the negative aspects of his fatalism. This sorrow is personified, as the protagonist needs this agent of fate to give his will over and surrender. However, he is instead treated to the Grandest Accusation: There are several possible interpretations for what the Grandest Accusation may be. It is my belief that it is best interpreted as this: Man is his own murderer. While his mortality may have severed him from the eternity that he naively thought he would live, it was his own inability to manage the resultant sorrow that killed his remaining potential. Paralyzed by the fear of death and given over to determinism to avoid the battle against that fear, he fails to realize his remaining time, and thus becomes the cemetery for unlived life. Note also the ruin described in The Fatalist: now laid to waste and ruin/now laid to waste again/you wash your hands in blood. Not only is our eternity slain by mortality, but we ruin it a second time by surrendering to sorrow. In that surrender, we wash our hands of responsibility, justified by our impending deaths. Fueled by this revelation, the protagonist is finally able to realize his will and challenge his fate. It is said that great literature raises questions, but does not give answers. Here, that maxim is fulfilled by a conclusion in the form of a question. In At the Point of Ignition, the protagonist faces off against his fatalistic sorrow: Here the resolution is first voiced: rather than banish the sorrow of mortality, confront it. The flame metaphor is introduced here, but not fully elucidated until the chorus: The fuel/flame dichotomy, when fit into the revelations of fatalism, is the choice between being consumed by sorrow or using that sorrow to inspire life. Despite being about death, and dwelling so thoroughly on the implications and sorrow associated with it, the album actually peaks with a message of hope. Ones impending death should be a motivation to do greater things now, rather than an excuse to simply give up. At the Point of Ignition also reconciles this enlightened view of sorrow as a motivator, rather than a destroyer, in a later verse: Here, fatalism is termed the answer in our system, a default human reaction to mortality. It is a self-defeating philosophy which kill the spark and leaves us unable to burn onwards in life. Questioning this view and recognizing the defeat inspired by fatalistic thinking leads to a simple realization: without questioning our fate and our dying instinct, everything is meaningless. Here, the protagonist does not expose the meaning that he has found to inspire life, but he does draw out the conflict and the decision he must make to continue: In a world of self and sorrow, which will consume the other? Bonus point: Between the albums original arrangement and the release, At the Point of Ignition and Shadow in Our Blood switched places on the album. In the current arrangement, this cycle of songs at the beginning of the album leads from resignation to hope; in the original arrangement, it moved from hope to resignation. This leads to an interesting issue of objective truth: The persona in At the Point of Ignition thinks that surrendering to sorrow without searching for meaning is cowardly and meaningless. The persona in Shadow in Our Blood thinks that fighting the inevitability of oblivion is delusional and meaningless. Which one is correct? Different arrangements of songs lead to different metaphysical paths by the protagonist. As this is not truly a concept album, theres really no reason to assume that the songs should be read in one direction or another; it is up to the listener to decide which end of that journey, the fight or the surrender, is a greater truth.