Let me share my heart with you
As I'm guided by the dead to a miserable end
As I'm guided by the dead to a miserable end
Following on the themes developed with Jouhou, The Inalienable Dreamless was an emotional purgative for vocalist Jon Chang, a lyrical exorcism for feelings of pain, isolation and loneliness.
Chang said he often “retreated from people into fiction and games,” and he turned those passions into metaphors to express his anger and anxieties. With Jouhou, Discordance Axis had already moved away from grindcore’s narrow, safe, stereotypical preoccupation with social and political themes to delve into something more personal. Those ideas would flower to their fullest expression with The Inalienable Dreamless. The first album, Ulterior, was Discordance Axis’ attempt to place Napalm Death and Assuck’s political fixations “in a more interesting place.” However, as he matured, Chang said he found punk and grind’s sloganeering “naïve.”
“I didn’t want to write about politics,” Chang said. “If you’re in college, if you really have your eyes open, you realize so much of it’s bullshit. They all try to make it so black and white.”
Beginning with “Continuity,” the last song on Discordance Axis’ 1995 split with Melt-Banana, Chang said he strove to “go a little bit deeper.” It would become the Rosetta Stone song in Discordance Axis’ catalog, influencing how Chang approached his lyrics for both Jouhou and The Inalienable Dreamless.
The cancer-clouded song is full of evocative imagery and clever wordplay. Tongue-twisting lines like “Life tuned to a time table” show a deeper focus on lyrical rhythm while “Decapitated body of information/ Reassembled wrong into a smile” placed a new emphasis on capturing feelings of anxiety and unease. It’s an inwardly-focused song that captured Chang’s growing obsession with interpersonal relationships. With "Continuity" Chang began to focus more on “where I’m at rather than where I thought the world was at.”
“'Continuity’ was the first time I crossed over to write a song that tapped myself as the base and layered metaphor on top of it, rather than starting with fiction [or] abstract material to provide the base and inserting myself somewhere in between,” he said.
With his first steady job out of college, Chang said he was able to indulge his passion for anime and manga, making several trips to Japan every year just to watch movies or stock up on games and books that were not available in the United States.
“I was saving all my money, and I kept going to Japan,” Chang said. “Every four to six months I would go to Japan. One [trip] would be long, three or four weeks, and one would be short, a couple of days. I was showing up to movie premieres. I had never had money in my entire life. Now that I was making it, I wanted to spend it. I’ve never said anything about materialism. I’m such a collector.”
He increasingly drew inspiration from games, science fiction and the anime as lyrical springboards to express himself as a songwriter during that period. Though commonplace today, in the mid-1990s it was quite a radical departure from the narrow list of topics metal found acceptable lyrical fodder.
“It wasn’t anything that intentional at that point,” Chang said. “As a young person I didn’t understand where I was going with my work. I couldn’t think critically about my work at that point. … Jouhou was the start of that. Those metaphors seemed perfectly natural to me. They didn’t seem like they were coming out of left field."
Ultimately, The Inalienable Dreamless would be shaped by Chang’s discovery of the movie Evangelion Death : Evangelion Rebirth. The movie and the related anime series would serve as the master metaphor for Discordance Axis’ final album and much of Chang’s subsequent songwriting with his later band GridLink as well.
“I had a functional understanding of Japanese. I could follow a decent part of the movies I watched," Chang said. "I saw Evangelion and I understood 15 percent of what I saw, but emotionally, I understand 100 percent of it. It was like the death of a friend watching that movie. There’s been nothing like that in my life that I’ve been that crazy with, ever."
The themes of loss, courage, maturity and the desperate need for approval from distant parent figures that drove the story, ostensibly about Japanese teens suiting up in giant robots to fend off an alien invasion, made such an impression that it became the defining reference point for developing The Inalienable Dreamless’ lyrical conceits on songs such as "Pattern Blue," "Angel Present" "The End of Rebirth" and "The Third Children." Chang even credited himself as Eva05 in the album's liner notes in tribute to the series.
Chang connected with the emotional struggle of Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno, who conceived and directed the series following a four-year bout with depression. The series was groundbreaking and controversial in Japan at the time for both its involved, psychologically rich plotline and for its violence.
“Evangelion is my life, and I have put everything I know into this work. This is my entire life. My life itself,” Anno said in a 1996 interview with anime and manga magazine Protoculture Addicts.
It was that kind of dedication to an artistic endeavor that drove Chang as he prepared himself for what would become The Inalienable Dreamless. With Anno as his inspiration, Chang said he felt compelled to make something as profound and personal as Evangelion, to replicate that experience in audio form.
“[Anno] had gone into a massive depression and retreated from society for a year, and when he returned he had written this thing,” Chang said. “He got this thing made somehow. I decided I had to write a new kind of record. If I wanted to do anything creatively ever again, I had to go to the same level this guy went. Me and the world and who am I and who I want to be.”
Focused on the musical end of The Inalienable Dreamless, drummer Dave Witte and guitarist Rob Marton allowed Chang free rein with his lyrics.
“We’d just let Jon go wild. We’d do the music. In our mind, we’re the musicians. We’d write the songs and play the music. He’s the singer. Who are we to tell him what to do? All three of us expressed ourselves the way we wanted to,” Witte said.
While there’s a searing emotional honesty that screams through Chang’s performance on The Inalienable Dreamless, the lyrics are intentionally shrouded in several layers of metaphor and striking imagery. Chang declines to discuss the individual meanings of his songs. Instead, he said he prefers for listeners to draw their own conclusions, infusing the songs with their own, personal interpretations. However, as with Jouhou, Chang said much of The Inalienable Dreamless is obsessed with the difficulties of interpersonal relationships, particularly those with women.
“I just didn’t know how to relate to women at all. I still don’t know if I do, despite being married,” Chang said. “Jouhou is so much about my inability to have a stable relationship with a chick. It sounds funny now, but half the fucking songs are about that shit.”
Chang’s bandmates are also content to leave the lyrics unexamined, respecting the singer’s emotions and his reticence.
“It’s super angry and poetic. I don’t have any emotional attachment to it because it’s cryptic,” Witte said. “There was a lot of inner hatred, too, that shined through from Jon, personally. At the end of the day I was really proud of that record. ‘I will live forever. Alone.’ That pretty much gets to the point.”