Pre-preface: I binge-wrote the following over the course of two nights last July but never got the motivation to actually finish, and I don't think I'll be able to get into the same flow I was in at the time very easily to be able to write my analysis of Override[A], even though I do have a lot of thoughts and ideas about its place in this interpretation of Underline. I might add a short summary at the end of this about any major things I wanted to eventually bring up but didn't due to not finishing this. In any case, here it is, relatively unedited from my first draft:
Okay, so, I've never posted on here before because I've never had any insight into the layers of meaning in the lyrics of these songs and how they might relate to the story of Digital Haunt - and I still don't really have any ideas in relation to Digital Haunt specifically, but more about what kind of personal meaning the lyrics might have had to Sparkles*. The reason I am posting this here is because I believe that, if this is accurate, it will help us to understand the feelings Sparkles*' is expressing in Underline, and in understanding the artist, we will understand his art even better.
So, having gotten that out of the way, I would like to point out that I obviously cannot guarantee the accuracy of this interpretation, but I think it is at least worth considering given both the lyrical evidence, and the factual evidence given to us by the band members themselves in what they've said about not only Underline, but Album II, as well as their new direction in general. This was their first record to contain no anime-related songs whatsoever, and it has been mentioned that this was in part an experiment to see what kind of reaction the fans would have to their ideas for how to move the band forward, both in sound and in theme, as Underline is heavier and darker in both those aspects. This is further supported by what's been said about Album II, that the extremely positive reception to Underline was the signal that told them "that it was time to move on conceptually", and what we've heard of it so far is even darker and heavier than what Underline had to offer.
Okay, I think that's everything I need to say before I enter the lyrical analysis. Keep in mind that I don't necessarily have as much confidence in the meaning of some lines as others, and some I'm really not sure about at all, but here goes.
Are You Listening?
All aboard this sinking ship - This is the first line of not only the song, but the entire EP, and fittingly, it implies some sort of beginning, with voyages starting with the passengers going aboard the ship. However, this ship is already sinking, yet it is being boarded anyway. To me this represents the speaker (which is as yet not particularly identifiable, however I would like you to give me the benefit of a doubt when I say is Sparkles* himself, at least for the purposes of this layer of meaning) setting out to do something that he knows to be not only risky, but potentially absolutely fatal. Being a metaphor, the 'fatality' is not quite so serious as it is being portrayed - as Sparkles*' choice to do whatever this is (again, I think I know, already, but I will get to that once there is more evidence) is not likely to be literally as fatal as dying in a shipwreck. Another possibility is the line being sarcastic, with the "sinking ship" being the mainstream music industry, which would make "all" make sense, as it would reference how most musicians just become part of that instead of being original, which becomes their downfall. Alternatively, but similarly to the first interpretation, it could represent the speaker (Sparkles*, for our purposes) intending to accomplish something completely impossible, (sailing an already sinking ship), but doing so anyway, intending to achieve it despite its obvious impossibility. What exactly that is, we will get to, but for now, this is all I could gather from this line.
No business here, it's just relationships - Firstly I would like to quote Sparkles* on something I believe to be relevant to this line's meaning. "And in this spirit, we turn not to a corporate machine for investment, but to you, our fans, our belovéd disciples, who are every bit as as much a part of this project as we." - to me the 'business' and 'relationships', as well as being somewhat similar to the idea of business and pleasure when it comes to travel (usually by plane but in this case it could be applied to the ship from the previous line), are representative of this aforementioned 'corporate machine' and the fans, with 'no business here' alluding to the executive meddling they are trying to avoid in their art, and thus 'just relationships' referring to their reliance on the relationship with their fans to support them instead of an unempathetic record label. If we assume that this line is referencing fan support, we could also assume that the fan support is what is making the impossible, sailing a sinking ship, possible, and not just in their investment into the band through crowdfunding, but also in their literal support.
Derived, contrived - Somewhat less to say about this one, as it's only two words, but I believe it to be referring to music in general as being both derived and contrived, 'derived' as in, always having been influenced by something prior, which is unavoidable for any artist, intentionally or not, though there are degrees of it, ranging from inspiration, to unoriginality, if it is too similar to what came before it. 'contrived', on the other hand, is negative, being defined as something that is "deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously". This could link to the band's want of creating something more personal, as said by Sparkles* in his interview with Laura Kate shortly after the official announcement of Album II: "So I guess the main goal of this record was to continue that trend, and write a more personal album" (take note that the 'trend' he is referring to is explicitly said to be making the record 'personal', which is one of the reasons I believe the speaker to be Sparkles*, directly expressing his personal thoughts through this record). As such, this line could be trying to contrast these two traits of modern music, one being not so negative as the other, but unavoidable, whereas the more negative, other trait is entirely avoidable; presumably if one is personal enough, their ideas, feelings, and messages will come through as honest and natural rather than forced for the sake of making music to sell - in the same interview, he ends by saying, "This is the record we want to make, not the one we feel we "need to".". At the same time, something being contrived could be considered a good thing, depending on interpretation, as it could be indicative of artistic purpose - and non-contrived music could be considered lacking in cohesiveness and polish despite its unfiltered, honest nature. I feel that this line is probably intended to be interpreted multiple ways.
Another mind homogenised - Given that this line follows 'Derived, contrived' and is within the same musical phrase, it's likely that this is meant to be part of the same statement. This, to me, seems to mean that it is further description of modern music, as being unoriginal and conforming to what is expected of it and no more. This is supported in that it reflects other sources where Sparkles*' had voiced his opinion on musical homogenisation, such as on the page for Album II, where it says, "we came together with a shared vision: to create music which stood as a unique pillar in the ever homogenising house of rock and roll.", and, from a post on his Medium page, "Music has become lazy and relies on exploiting over-used tropes and cyclic, cliché, obvious inspiration points. People are lauded with rewards and praise for emulating, no; cloning, the heroes of the past because it resonates in nostalgia for the people who decide what is good and what is not." (remember this quote for later!). The word 'another' supports the idea of this homogenisation continuing to happen all the time.
Should this mean more to me? - Here he appears to be questioning why he even cares in the first place, though as we know from what he's said, it's clear that he really does care and does feel strongly about all of this (enough to write a song, an EP about it).
Just join the tribe and feel accepted - Continuing his previous thought, I think he is describing the temptation to just give in to custom, to the obvious, and "join the tribe" - the tribe being the mainstream music industry, with the choice of word likely meant to imply that this manner of approaching the creation of music as being extremely primitive, like many tribes are. The temptation is established by 'feel accepted' which establishes that, by not conforming, he is choosing the more difficult option, as his art will not be as accepted as it would be had he homogenised it like everybody else. The temptation is also mentioned in another of his Medium posts where he says "And I am guilty of falling into that trap. Giving up when the feel-good serotonin release tells me I’ve made an “acceptable” work. Not wanting to push things further; to create something new and exciting and progressive, not old and comforting."
But cool don't come for free - The extremely colloquial tone of this line somewhat confused me at first and made me cringe a little bit until it became evident that that was the point (or at least, I think it was). I'm not as sure about this interpretation, but I believe that it could be meant as being referential to the extreme colloquiality in much of modern music - simple language for simple people, and it would appear the inclusion of this line is meant to criticise writing lyrics that way rather than giving them depth - this is further supported by the otherwise shallowness of the line itself, with its only purpose, other than its criticism, being its literal meaning (something that many modern lyrics only have - literal meaning, i.e. no depth or layers of meaning), being that a good reputation doesn't come without earning it, or "cool [not coming] for free".
That much was expected, forever discontented - At least part of the purpose of this line, I feel, is to return to the eloquence to be expected from Area 11 lyrics from the satirical colloquiality of the previous line. As well as that, though, I think "That much was expected" refers to Sparkles*' awareness of the difficulty of his goal due to the expectation to not only subvert cliché, as he desires, but to also make good music in the first place as usual (as originality alone doesn't automatically grant quality). I think this could be linked back to the idea of him boarding a sinking ship, as in both lines it is clear that he is aspiring to something very difficult with full awareness of the difficulty. "forever discontented", I think refers to the fact that setting one's own standards so high will guarantee constant dissatisfaction with one's own work. This is supported by another quote from the interview with Laura Kate: "All artists are aware that you always fall short of what you actually want to achieve, but you should always be striving to create something as close to your vision as you can.".
The rope that pulled me from the pit now hangs around my neck - Firstly, it should be noted that this is one of the first instances of darker lyrical ideas in Underline, something that becomes more recurring in the final track. In any case, I think the basic metaphor here is one of the easiest to see, not that that's a bad thing, being that something that previously got Sparkles* out of a bad situation is now a detriment to him. What isn't as clear is what exactly this thing is, though my theory, fitting in with Underline's general theme of moving the band forward from their past, is that it refers to their gimmick of basing songs off of anime, as while it is what got them famous, what they are most well-known for, what they are associated with, it's very possible that Sparkles* feels that this is inhibiting his creative liberty, and the choice of this detriment being a rope hanging around his neck is a perfect representation of the restriction he is feeling. As well as this, being hanged causes asphyxiation, cutting off your mouth from your throat, and the disability to speak could represent Sparkles* being unable to express his thoughts when feeling obligated to also force anime references into the themes of his music.
Is this the clue you wanted? Too cryptic for the rest - As we start approaching the chorus, and the first instances of the song's title, "Are You Listening?", the speaker finally begins to directly address the listener, more specifically with a rhetorical question (like "Are you listening?") that almost seems to be condescending in nature, implying that we have somehow missed something -- at least, until you look more carefully. Initial interpretations of this song seemed to hinge on this, leading the Digital Haunters (including myself, though I only lurked the wiki at this time) to believe that the song was making fun of us for not being able to get anything correct as of yet. However, the line actually says "Too cryptic for the rest", not "The rest were too cryptic". In fact, this seems to imply the exact opposite: that the "clue we [want]" is one that is more cryptic rather than less cryptic. Why? I can't actually answer this one, as I have basically no idea what "Too cryptic for the rest" means. However, I do believe that "Is this the clue you wanted?" is essentially informing us that Underline is a very important clue to something, presumably Digital Haunt. This is further supported by an answer to a question on Sparkles*' Reddit AMA: "Here's a clue: "Are You Listening?" (as well the rest of Underline) is kinda not set inside the Digital Haunt universe. But that doesn't mean it's not related to the Digital Haunt, and by that I mean it still is DIRECTLY PLOT RELATED. Which might make sense when you hear Album 2..." (this was in response to somebody asking about this specific line, actually). From this, I believe there's an argument to be made that Underline's purpose is to, by seperating itself from the DH universe, contrast itself with it to allow us to better DH (which I suppose is somewhat similar to how this album's personal nature helps us understand Sparkles*, which in turn helps us better understand his art). However, the evidence for this is inconclusive at best so it's essentially just speculation. As he said, this might make sense when we hear Album 2.
Play the part of the victim if it puts your mind at ease. Put all the blame on me - I think this line could potentially be a pre-emptive response to any negative feedback the band might've expected for their new direction, essentially telling those fans that they're welcome to act entitled to the band not progressing beyond what they are known for (and in fact, we now know that Underline was intended to "test the waters" - with its positive reception encouraging them to continue to progress, and presumably, negative reception would've done the opposite and we might've continued to see the same Area 11 we came to expect after ATLITS). "Put all the blame on me" seems to be Sparkles* taking responsibility for whatever the consequences of Underline would end up being.
Close your eyes and listen please! - Here it feels like Sparkles* is requesting us to give him the benefit of the doubt with this new direction, and the placement of this line just before the chorus (historically being the part of the song that is supposed to sum up the main message or idea of the song) implies that the chorus is about to try to justify the band's choice to progress, if we are willing to listen. "Close your eyes" seems to imply that the information we are about to receive is very important, as well, as closing one's eyes improves the receptiveness and effectiveness of the other senses, including hearing, meaning that he wants us to more carefully consider the meaning of the chorus coming up.
So what you feel, is it nostalgia or love? - Here agin I must bring up the quote from his Medium post: "People are lauded with rewards and praise for emulating, no; cloning, the heroes of the past because it resonates in nostalgia for the people who decide what is good and what is not.". I think it is fair to say that this line expresses this exact idea, though in rhetorical question form, and instead of criticising other works for this creative vice, he asks the listener, the Area 11 fan, if they enjoy their music out of love for their artwork in its own right, or purely because of the "nostalgia" mentioned in his medium post, some kind of interest in the similarity they have to the other artists liked by their fans. Alternatively, one could interpret the "nostalgia" as being for the anime they reference, with the fact that this song (and the other two in Underline) not being based on an anime being designed to challenge their fan's notions about why they enjoy the band in the first place.
Tell me now, are you really listening? - The previous idea continues into this line, challenging the fan's notions about why they enjoy the band - if they are "really listening" to the band's messages and ideas and concepts, or simply the music - this is further evidenced by the use of the phrase "really listening" instead of just "listening"; it's obvious that they are "listening", but the "really" suggests deeper meaning, the awareness of which in all their songs, by the listener, is what is being questioned here.
When everybody tells you to stop, and that you're never good enough - It's not clear who "everybody" is meant to be, as it's hyperbole, and since Sparkles* is addressing the fans here, seemingly, the only thing that makes sense to me is for it to be musical elitists who might look down upon the fans of Area 11 due to their image as a band that makes anime music. Following this line is the repetition of "Tell me now, are you really listening?" from earlier, though the change in context has cleverly changed the meaning of the line entirely - referring now to whether or not the listener, the fan, really cares about what other people think about their taste in music, including their like for Area 11's music, with the "really" now implying that they shouldn't care. Supporting this is another Medium post written by Sparkles* that says, "creating music should be open to everyone / too long has the music industry cowered in it’s ivory towers / the truth is there is no correct / there is no ideal / there is no wrong, there is no right", and, later, "elitism in art is a folly / music should be open", with "there is no wrong, there is no right" suggesting that people should have the liberty to enjoy whatever kind of music they like without fear of judgement by others. Alternatively, "everybody" could represent self-doubts and insecurities that artists have about their work - again supported by a quote from the interview with Laura Kate where Sparkles* said, "All artists are aware that you always fall short of what you actually want to achieve".
The next few bars after the chorus don't seem to add any extra meaning in their language, though it should be mentioned that the repetition of "Are you listening?" further emphasizes the importance of this particular song in the EP and what it means.
Reach out for help, and she lets you down / So gild your pockets, we'll watch you drown - I think this line is likely to be another negative reference to corporate support as opposed to fan support - with the "[gilded] pockets" representing greed and obsession with superfluous gain that is common in corporate types - as they would rather allow homogenisation than take risks allowing artists to innovate, and thus "let down" the artists who do want to progress their art form, as well as somewhat ironically being worse for the corporate types in the long run, as they "drown" - perhaps in the homogeneity itself. Be sure to remember the use of "down" and "drown" here for later.
A burnt taste, a real waste, a sticky stain we'll soon erase - I'm divided on this line. On first glance it appears to continue from the previous idea, being that after an unfortunate experience with a greedy corporate type, artists are left with an unfortunate bitterness towards the corporate machine - though this seems a bit overdramatic to be definite to me. Alternatively, the phrase "a sticky stain we'll soon erase" sounds almost sinister, perhaps because the idea of a stain being erased from an otherwise clean material sounds awfully similar to the idea of homogeneity - something that the corporate type supports and is perhaps determined to accomplish - to what end, I don't know, though I seem to have more evidence for this interpretation than the other.
Cause this means more to me - Being deliberately similar to the line at this point in the first verse, the change from questioning why he cares about originality and good art over homogeneity has changed to be more assertive of his position - perhaps because of his unfortunate experience dealing with the corporate machine, if we are to accept the first interpretation of the previous line.
And we'll still look to the lights in the sky - This is clearly a reference to their first album, and suggests that although they are going in a new direction, they'll "still" remember their roots - it's almost like an assurance to the fans that they haven't forsaken their past just because they've moved on from anime music.
but it's hard when all I see; another ceiling I don't recognize - The used of the word "but" implies that while they will not forget their origins, they do not want to feel restricted by them (like with the rope line in the first verse), with the "ceiling" representing a barrier literally preventing them from proceeding upwards and improving their art and themselves as a band, and the word "recognize" meaning that Sparkles* refuses to submit to such a barrier - he refuses to recognize its ability to restrict him - rather than being that he doesn't remember it, the other meaning of the word "recognize".
With no concern, and deathless turn, now we take control - Continuing from the idea established in the previous line, Sparkles* declares that he will now "take control" - presumably from the restrictions he has now refused to recognise, and he will now unapologetically ("with no concern") and boldly ("deathless turn" - or in other words, invincibility) take his art wherever he wants to (similar again to what he said about Album II in the interview with Laura Kate: "This is the record we want to make, not the one we feel we "need to".
As we pass by tonight / We fade into hindsight / The time slips off our lives - The third line of this breakdown most clearly demonstrates the whole section's meaning, seemingly being that the band are determined to make the most of the time they have while they are still young, while they "pass by", to make the music they want to make before they "fade into hindsight" (cease their works and become reduced to memories - or, more morbidly, die).
Can this be realized? - Another rhetorical question is used to consider whether or not they will be able to accomplish their aspirations ("This is certainly the same band, but we’ve grown up a bit, learnt a lot, and we’re getting closer to our ideal sound.") in the time they still have. As well as this, the choice of the word "realized" gives the line a second potential interpretation, being that Sparkles* is actually asking himself if we, the fans, will realize what it is he is trying to tell us, in the time we still have (with Area 11 around). Personally I find both interpretations equally valid, and, knowing Sparkles*, could very well both be correct.
This was the night, and this was the place, this was the moment, this was the moment - The most obvious thing to take note of here is the fact that this backing line in the final section of the song is almost directly quoted from Cassandra (pt. II) from ATLITS, except with the lines in reverse order. One possible reason for this could be that it is a hint for us to consider Cassandra (pt. II) in relation to this song, which seems plausible but a bit too simple for what I believe to be the most important line of the song, given its last-minute use - a choice that made the delivery of this line seem kind of desperate, as if the song was in a panic trying to give us a final hint. As such, I think there's more to it than this. What I think is a bit more subtle is the contrast of the order of clauses in this with the order of clauses in Cassandra (pt. II)'s chorus, where it originates from. In that song, it gets less specific, going from a moment, to the place, to an entire night, in which something happened, while this song tries to zoom in as far as possible to whatever it is that happened, going from the night to the place to the moment, as if it is trying to highlight something very specific, and while I can't determine what that is, I find it highly likely that this particular line is the key line that links whatever "universe" Underline takes place in to the rest of Digital Haunt, as it is one of the only clear references to another song we know to be within the Digital Haunt universe, in this case Cassandra (pt. II). However, I should note that this doesn't directly relate to the theme of this analysis, being the personal meaning to Sparkles*, but I otherwise don't know how this fits in with the ideas expressed in the rest of the song, so I'll just settle for whatever layer of meaning this analysis is on for this particular line.
Overall, Are You Listening? appears to mainly focus on Sparkles*' discontent with the state of the modern music industry, and from this discontent his desire to innovate and make music with personal meaning, while he still can.
In The Blind
Hold the line? Thespianic answers - Already here we see the first instance of somewhat obscure vocabulary, something that becomes a trend throughout the song. "Thespianic" isn't actually a word in the dictionary, but it is very similar to "thespian", which as an adjective means "relating to drama and the theatre" - suggesting that the "answers" being received here are dramatic, poetic, artistic, instead of being shallow (which should be clear given how much we've already been able to surmise from the first song alone!). The "line" being held here could be some kind of communication line, as this song appears to have a consistent basis in communication imagery - "In The Blind" itself is a phrase used to inform somebody on the other end of a communication line, that you expect to be able to hear you, that you can't hear them back - and the song's original title (at least, what was very likely to be its original title), "Agree & Amplify", is a conversation tactic. This, along with the phrasing of "Hold the line" as a question could signify that the speaker (Sparkles* again, but just bear with me on that until later lines) is questioning why they've been told to hold the line - and that the answers to this question are relating to drama, art. Perhaps this is a failed attempt at contact with the corporate type, maybe the same experience as mentioned in the previous song where it says, "Reach out for help and she lets you down". The next line further supports this interpretation.
Abode of time annihilates advances - This seems complicated but becomes easier to understand if you break it down into simpler vocabulary. Doing so tells us it essentially means, "The circumstances of the time we live in now destroys advances". Considering the previous line in context with this one, it is fair to say that Sparkles* could be referring to how the state of the modern music industry makes it very difficult to innovate and make progressive music (advances). The absolution of the word "annihilate" supports this, and could link to the "sinking ship" should we accept the interpretation as Sparkles* doing something that he knows to be impossible or at the least very difficult.
I redesign, I realign - To me this seems quite literal, referring to the innovation and risks taken in Sparkles*' music, with the "[realignment]" representing Sparkles* setting straight what his aspirations are for his art. I find it difficult to see much else in this line, though I've probably missed something.
Frozen, as in, foetal - How "frozen" and "foetal" could be used interchangeably here is quite odd, unless it is assumed that by "frozen" they mean still or motionless rather than literally frozen like ice (though given a line in the beginning of the next song, this is also a possibility, but we'll get to that when we get to that). In that case, foetuses are relatively motionless, at least until they start kicking (once they have fully formed) - and I think this is what Sparkles* is trying to refer to, a state of being just about ready to start forming, kicking, "[clawing oneself] out of the womb". This could mean that "frozen" could refer to the reference to this state itself being like a snapshot taken just before the "foetus" begins moving.
Red-shift bathes the hours when it's weakest - Red-shift refers to the increase in the observed wavelength of celestial objects like stars, causing them to turn red as they move away, as their wavelengths get stretched, so that the longer wavelengths (red ones) are seen more (and the opposite, blueshift, happens when the object is approaching you). The implication is that something is becoming more distant at times when the observer is weak, and perhaps needs that thing. This could link to "Reach out for help and she lets you down" in Are You Listening, and fits in with the rest of the verse if we interpret it as being referential to the state of the modern music industry.
Space-gap-space; repeat; release the secrets - It might seem like the use of both the word "space" and "gap" is redundant, however I think it's more likely that "space" in this sense means a setting or universe - and the first part of this line could be a description of Underline's universe, as Sparkles* mentioned that it is not the same as the rest of Digital Haunt, with "repeat" implying that there are more than just these two universes (perhaps a multiverse), and "release the secrets" could suggests that the setting is key to understanding the secrets of Digital Haunt. However, I can't really see anything particularly personal in this line, likely in part due to it being difficult to see any kind of surface level meaning to analyse in the first place. Post-draft note: the first 'space' might be Override[A], the 'gap' being [B], and the second 'space' being [C], since Sparkles* has described [B] as being a kind of 'nexus' between the setting of Underline and the setting of Modern Synthesis.
I redefine, and yet resign - "redefine" I interpret as being a continuation of the idea of innovation from "I redesign, I realign", though "resign", literally meaning to "accept that something undesirable cannot be avoided.". This could link to the later phrase "Incumbent carcinoma" but I'll go more in depth there.
And when I phased out the "privileged" and the "purpose" I realised that art can never true be separated from the frames and the veins - Essentially, Sparkles* is saying that no matter what one does, one's art will always be influenced by their context, experience, and personal feelings. It can be assumed that "the "privileged" and the "purpose"" refer to the monetary side to the music industry, and that even by stripping down art to its simplest form, an expression of some idea, with no intent for it to achieve anything in particular, it is impossible to remove the human element from it - the "frames" being the context the work was created in, in the human world with things going on every day that could unknowingly affect the artist's feelings and perception of the world, and the "veins" being the very core of the human experience that is leaking in by virtue of even being created by a human in the first place - the subconscious thoughts of the artist that influence everything they do, including the art they make.
Incumbent carcinoma that should define who I will never be. Sorry - "Incumbent carcinoma" can be transliterated to mean "necessary cancer" - continuing on from the previous line, we can infer that he is saying that the inability to dehumanise art is like a "necessary cancer" - perhaps its necessity is what he "resign[s]" to. The line also says that this inability "should define who [he] will never be". This reminds me of the idea put back in Are You Listening? where I infer that Underline's purpose could be to, by contrasting itself with the rest of the DH universe, allow us to better understand that universe, and this line could be saying that this inability to dehumanise his art "define[s] who [he] will never be" - anything other than human. Then he apologises for this, in a manner that seems to be only out of courtesy and not genuine apology, which reminds me of "with no concern, and deathless turn, now we take control" - where as mentioned, he unapologetically ("no concern") declares his intent to take his art wherever he wants to.
Cause this is a new way - After the previous line, to me, this is likely to be referring to the new direction he is taking his band in, continuing on from that thought. However, this line (and the rest of the chorus) has more meaning if considered after the second verse, so I will return to this line after that.
Still spinning cycles in my mind, spinning cycles in the blind - "still" implies that Sparkles has wanted to take this new direction for a while, and the ideas he has for it are "still" spinning in his mind, cycling around, ready to be applied in his work. Here we also get the use of the song's title, "in the blind", the literal meaning of which was mentioned earlier. In this context, it can be assumed that he is trying to say that while he knows he can be heard by his fans, he cannot really hear how the fans will respond to, and what they will think about, the ideas that are "spinning cycles in [his] mind" unless he releases them.
Tryin' to catch me out - "catching someone out" is to somehow trick them into revealing something they were trying to keep hidden - perhaps he was trying to keep his ideas hidden, and perhaps he feared the consequence of taking the bold new direction, in terms of whether or not the fans would respond positively - which could link to the insecurities about one's own work that I mentioned in the analysis of "When everybody tells you to stop, and that you're never good enough". The fans, on the other hand, were eager for more material, while Sparkles* more bold ideas about where to take the band were unbeknownst to them.
Hold me back and keep me down! - The fact that this is backing vocals rather than Sparkles* himself saying this line implies that it is being said by something or someone else. I like to see it as being almost like a freudian slip of the artist's insecurities regarding his work, that deep down, he'd almost prefer to just be held back, kept down, and prevented from expressing what it really is they want to express, in this case Sparkles*' aspirations for the band.
Refluxed detest, integrity I passed on - This can essentially mean that Sparkles* is forgoing integrity and instead allowing his hatred (for what is as yet unclear) to flow back into him. Here the lines almost get somewhat more aggressive, as he begins to be less guarded about his thoghts and feelings.
Take this fuck, rejected on the last one - Here I believe the "fuck" to only mean itself, that is, to exist in the line for the sake of being offensive, provocative - as his "refluxed detest" could be driving him to return to unapologetic expression. "rejected on the last one" implies that he is doing it as a statement of his freedom to say it in the first place, as he previously felt unable to do so for whatever reason - perhaps this is where his detest came from, hatred for whatever it was that was diminishing his creative liberty to say things like that, and as such, he tells us to "take this fuck", to hear it and thus understand the statement he is making. Also, this is the only way I could find to make this clause make grammatical sense, supporting the validity of this interpretation. This is further supported byt the fact that Sparkles* has mentioned that Underline was deliberately darker and heavier in its themes, the first use of profanity (the joke "dirty" version of Tokyo House Party notwithstanding) being an example of this, as he wanted to "test the waters" with these heavier themes.
Drop the weight, accept my fate, and trigger the explosion - This line only further supports the interpretation of the last line by more clearly referencing his awareness as to the potential consequences ("accept my fate") of such bold expression - in this case represented by the "explosion". We could even take it so far as to say that "drop the weight" could refer to his finger dropping onto the keyboard or mouse to release the record, though this is a bit of a stretch.
I scar lives in neurons; ink on ripped skin - "neurons" are what make up neural networks in human brains, so saying that "[he] scar[s] lives" in them could be a metaphor for doing something unforgettable, with "scar" giving it a negative connotation. What exactly this is, however, is unclear, as I don't think it's likely to simply be his self-expression in his art, though I don't discount this as a possibility. Otherwise, I am unsure about what this is. "ink on ripped skin", as other people have pointed out, sounds like it could be a reference to tattoos - which are also permanent, like "scar[ring] lives in neurons" is. It's worth mentioning also that Sparkles* has a tattoo himself, one of the logo of Ghost Cassette, his former band, so it's possible that this line is hinting a link between this part of this song and with ideas put forward in their music - perhaps something to do with how, because they were an unprofessional university-based band, they were also unapologetically self-expressive, which is a quality Sparkles* would like to return to himself in this song. As well as this, Ghost Cassette's music was a lot darker and heavier than Area 11's early music, which could be what is being referenced here (if anything at all).
Countermand: the paradigm is shifting - "countermand", as a verb, means to "revoke or cancel (an order)". The order that is being revoked here could be intrepreted as less an order, and more the expectations that the fans have for their music, and "countermand" as a noun means "an order revoking a previous one". "the paradigm is shifting" supports this, as a "paradigm shift" is defined as "a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions", and as such this line could be establishing that the release of this record will completely change the fan's perceptions and expectations of the band.
Now keep the faith as illusions break and we'll show you something real - If we accept the interpretation of the previous lines, this makes perfect sense as an instruction to the fans: if they remain faithful to Area 11 as they change their direction, and the fans' "illusions" about how they thought the band was going to progress - then they will be treated to better, more personal music ("we'll show you something real"). This is supported by a quote from the interview with Laura Kate, where Sparkles* said, "So I guess the main goal of this record was to continue that trend, and write a more personal album. I felt that although one of the strengths of ATLITS was it’s variety, I wanted to try and create more of a feeling of consistency on the second album".
And when I reach out into event horizons will there be light and sound, or will it be just me? - An "event horizon" is essentially a point of no return, for example the centre of a black hole, suggesting that this is another metaphor for the permanence of the potential consequences of his artistic expression. However, "will there be light and sound" points towards the specific, black-hole-related definition, which is interesting because it allows it to also be a metaphor for stepping into the unknown (an idea that is returned to in the breakdown), with the uncertainty of whether or not there will be "light and sound" perhaps acting as a metaphor for the worry that fan support will not continue past this event horizon of the band's new, personal, direction, or whether it will "be just [Sparkles*]". Following this line, as mentioned earlier, "Cause this is a new way" now changes meaning slightly, and makes sense in reference to the uncertainty of the consequences of the "new way" once the "event horizons" are crossed.
There is no-one else - As the breakdown starts, the tone changes quite drastically, becoming a lot more cynical and almost existentialist. This change in tone is accompanied by a change in vocals, switching to a filtered, EQd spoken word section. This leads me to believe that the speaker may have actually changed, and this breakdown is some kind of other point of view. The line itself seems fairly self-explanatory, being that the speaker is alone, though it's not clear whether the speaker is alone in a particular way, for example "there is no-one else" (that sees the world the same way as me) or something like that (not that there's any basis for that particular way, it was just an example), or if he literally just means that he is the only person around.
And as I step into the unknown I get the sudden realisation that everything is strangely familiar and that I've been carrying this feeling in every moment and every place I have inhabited and existed... - What exactly "the unknown" is, is not extremely evident, though it is possible that, as mentioned earlier, it links with the idea of the event horizon as a metaphor for the band's new direction. If we assume that, then it is also possible that the event horizon could be literal, and this soliloquy is descriptive of what the speaker is seeing as they enter the actual DH universe, from theirs. This is supported by the reuse of the words "moment" and "place" in close proximity with one another, and I hypothesised back in Are You Listening? that use of those words in the Cassandra (pt.II)-referencing lines could hint at that being a link with the rest of Digital Haunt. As for the part about familiarity and the consistence in feeling throughout everywhere the speaker has "inhabited and existed", it could suggest that the two universes are very similar to one another, perhaps parallel universes (which would support the notion that Underline's purpose is to define DH by contrasting with it). Alternatively, it could be indicative of the speaker's philosophy, as he later expresses his opinion that all feelings are the same, and that the consistence in his feelings even into the unknown is what triggered his "sudden realisation". Something else to note is that the speaker goes out of his way to separate the words "inhabited and existed", implying that they are two different things. As well as the links it has to this idea of haunting that is a consistent theme in Digital Haunt (even being in the name), I like to interpret this separation as another indication as to the speaker's philosophy. One way this can be understood is through the earlier line, "will there be light and sound, or will it be just me?". Perhaps the "light and sound" is somehow what distinguishes inhabitance and existence, as without light, observation cannot take place, and thus nobody would be able to assure anybody's existence - this would be especially true if the speaker was completely alone, which is implied to be a real possibility. Keep in mind, however, that this interpretation requires us to assume that the speaker here and the speaker in the rest of the song are one and the same.
and more to the point I feel vindicated in the discovery and feel humbled by the continuation of my chemical anomaly - to "vindicate" is to "show or prove to be right, reasonable, or justified". This suggests that the speaker feels that the experience they are currently having, their realisation, seems to back up their pre-existing philosophy in some way. As for feeling "humbled" (made to feel less important or significant - another potential link to existentialism), the "continuation of my chemical anomaly" I think is likely to refer to the speaker's ideas being spread, perhaps their philosophy, or if we assume this speaker to also be Sparkles*, their feelings through their art. Perhaps both. In fact, this interpretation is supported by a quote from their announcement of Album II on their official website: "We want to make a record that takes the band to a higher plane of existence, where art, pop, philosophy and narrative co-exist.".
because everything around me is not only the creation of an internalised ideal of what I believe to be reality, but is also completely and utterly me in every sense of the word and that I am as much in control of this construct as I am in control of how you feel hearing these words - More philosophy here. The speaker appears to be describing how his perception of the world is nothing more than perception, and by definition that makes it personal ("completely and utterly me in every sense of the word"). This reminds me of the inability to remove the human element of art from earlier in the song, as in both cases it is the speaker's human nature that affects his interactions with the world around him - with his expression in "art can never true be separated from the frames and the veins", and with his perception here. What then ties this neatly together is "I am as much in control of this construct as I am in control of how you feel hearing these words", which implies that while his expression and perception will always be human, he also always has power over his expression and perception, and that the two affect each other, the "construct" being his perception (in part created from the expression of others) and "how [we] feel hearing these words" being his expression - and our perception.
and all the times I've felt confused, angry, safe, offended, contented or anxious are simply moments shared with the rest of creation and they are, in conclusion, the same thing. - Again we have the idea of the consistency of feeling indicating that "they are, in conclusion, the same thing" - vindicating his pre-conceived ideas. Again, as well, we have a potential reference to the idea of a difference between inhabiting and existing as defined by the ability to observe, or lack thereof, as the presence of others suggests observation and thus existence.
a singular electron moving in all directions and all times; we watch from our vantage point at the edge of the explosion - the "singular electron moving in all directions and all times" appears to be a reference to the one electron universe postulate, a theory put forth by theoretical physicist John Wheeler, suggesting that all electrons (and positrons, their antiparticle), are all the same, singular electron, and that it is our observation that causes us to perceive them as seperate particles. This, as well as "we watch from our vantage point" continues the references to observation, supporting that interpretation.
Overall, In The Blind seems to theme itself around the merging of art (with its numerous references to the creation of art, expression, et cetera), philosophy (with its imagery and especially the concepts in its breakdown), pop (the song is really good), and narrative (the breakdown plays out like a story being told by the speaker, and is one of the most likely parts of the EP to be directly related to DH's story, through the contrast interpretation or otherwise) - essentially embodying Area 11's vision for what their music should be, serving as a taster of what is to come more than the rest of the album - and this is reflected in what the band has said about the song, especially Sparkles*, who has firstly, said that the song was the most difficult to write of anything he's ever written, secondly, is the song (perhaps even thing in general) that he is most proud of, and thirdly, that unlike every other song of his, is the only one that he has said he wouldn't change a thing about. All this leads me to believe that this song stands as a forecast for what to expect from Area 11 in the future; so long as we trust them to do what will be best for the band's future ("keep the faith as illusions break and we'll show you something real") as they begin their new direction ("the paradigm is shifting").
Okay, I did end up adding a small note in there about something I happened to notice and think about as I was editing that, but otherwise it's been left as-is, even if I am somewhat tempted to go back and change my wording or interpretations slightly in some places.
On Override[A], I was essentially going to talk about how its references to birth are a metaphor for the album being created, with the 'Override' being a kind of point of no return (like the event horizon mentioned in In The Blind), and the questions of willingness/readiness to die being a way of showing how important this EP was to Sparkles* as an artist, that he felt like he was taking a huge risk but he was ready for it (switching from questioning "Are you willing to die?" to certainty "I am willing to die" (kind of like with "Should this mean more to me?" and "'Cause this means more to me" in Are You Listening?). The override being triggered as the very last line of the last song fits because as the album is completed, it is finished, it is ready, and it got released when it was done - the completion of the listener's experience listening to the EP mirrors the completion of the creation of the EP itself by Sparkles* (and of course all of the many others that worked together to make it possible), tying into what I think Underline is about, and why exactly it is called 'Underline'; It is about itself. If you look on the cover art, the name isn't even anywhere to be seen, only a physical underline underneath the band's name, because the EP is kind of meta and is about its own creation. The presentation of the cover links into the theme in this way: the EP says, "I am here, this is me.", and the cover just says, "Area 11" with an underline, saying, "We are here, this is us, this is our new direction".
I don't know if that made any sense to any of you other than me but I have a lot of feelings about the themes and meanings of this whole release and I thoroughly look forward to Modern Synthesis to give me similar feelings and inspiration : )