The analysis of conceptual metaphors in “Resurrection” by Halford

Hi guys! Andriy is here. Is it already a time for a new post? The last chords of “Dark are the veils of death” are still buzzing in my ears… Well, we move on then.

The November post features an analysis of the title track of the first solo album by Halford – “Resurrection” (released in 2000 by Metal-is Records/Sanctuary). Halford is a post-Judas Priest/post-Fight band of Rob ‘Metal God” Halford. “Resurrection” was a ‘back to the roots’ effort on behalf of Metal God as it saw Rob’s return to his trademark ‘screaming heavy metal’ style and leather’n’studs stage performances.

Do I really need to introduce Rob Halford (rhetorical)? Let’s go straight to the lyrics and do some text analysis:

  1. I’m digging deep inside my soul
  2. To bring myself out of this god-damned hole
  3. I rid the demons from my heart
  4. And found the truth was with me from the start

Chorus:

  1. Holy angel lift me from this burning Hell
  2. Resurrection make me whole
  3. Son of Judas bring the saints to my revenge
  4. Resurrection bring me home
  1. I walked alone into a fight
  2. No longer standing in Satanic light
  3. I tried to look too far ahead
  4. And saw the road go to my past instead
  1. I’ve faced the things I’ve said and done
  2. There is no bastard left to overcome
  3. The peace of mind I thought was lost
  4. Was right in front of me on paths I crossed

I am pretty sure that to someone out there “Resurrection” may create an impression of a well-rhymed nonsense, so typical to metal (let’s face that embarrassing fact). That is not the case, however. As a die-hard Judas Priest fan, I claim the track is a cry of a person who yearns to get back into JP’s lineup. However, to avoid the misunderstandings, similar to those occurred around the “Scavenger of human sorrow” post, I would like to point out that the written below is my personal vision of the song meaning, based on the all-metaphorical reading of the lyrics.

One last remark. I would like to explain the way the article is structured. “Resurrection” has three verses and a chorus, repeated right after each verse. I argue here that they all are logically and chronologically distinct chunks of Rob’s narrative; therefore, I split the text into four parts, called Now, The Desire, Back then, and Back to the Future. The results will be summarized in a separate subchapter at the end of the post.

Now, let’s go over the lyrics and track down some metaphors and allusions in them. Here it is – locked and loaded – Rob Halford’s full metal “Resurrection”.

Now

The first verse portrays the condition which Rob finds himself currently in. His flurry of speculation bursts out:

  1. I’m digging deep inside my soul
  2. To bring myself out of this god-damned hole
  3. I rid the demons from my heart
  4. And found the truth was with me from the start

These four lines contain a few rather conventional metaphors. I will guide you through them one by one, trying to keep the explanation as simple as possible. Here we go, Line 1.

I’m digging deep inside my soul” – a beautiful opening for a self-reflective track like this one – is constructed on three conceptual metaphors. We address the case of the soul first, as it is the most obvious. I go for SOUL IS A CONTAINER, because the adverb “inside” clearly imposes a containment image schema on a soul here, presupposing the existence of “outside” and thus creating a boundary between them. Together with the verb “digging” it also highlights a dynamic nature of the entire process, a movement from a surface/periphery to a goal/center.

Now look, digging is interesting. In the line in focus it carries exactly the same meaning it has in the name of this blog – understanding. What the line says is “I am trying to find a solution”. Following this way of reasoning, we may claim that the metaphor, which stands behind “digging” is UNDERSTANDING IS GRASPING (examples of the metaphor include I cannot grasp the conceptual metaphor; I don’t catch your drift etc.). Why? If you are purposefully involved in the process of digging, you dig for something; you have a goal to find what you dig for. In the reality it would be a material object. When speaking figuratively, it would be an idea. In our case, it is a solution to a life crisis. That is, you dig to find an object and take it in your possession and you ‘dig’ figuratively to get an idea of something. The mappings are straightforward:

  • understanding is grasping
  • ideas are objects
  • thinking is manipulating objects.

I hope this is clear enough and we can proceed to the next line.

To bring myself out of this god-damned hole” is a desired effect of the solution, sought after in the previous line. The utterance is constructed on an entailment of the metaphor LIFE IS A JOURNEY. If life is seen as a journey, then a person leading their life is a traveler; the course of life is the path travelled. This logic of travelling allows us to reason in a specific way: for instance, if your life goes on smoothly, you may see it as a peaceful trip. If there are problems in your life, the metaphor would conceptualize them as obstacles on your way. The obstacles may be of different kinds and this is the point where the imagination of a speaker comes in. It is natural that there may be holes on the way you travel and if you fall into one of them you will not be able to continue going down your path. It will take time and effort to escape from it. In terms of life this would mean that you got into a problem and now you take efforts to solve it. In the late 1990s Rob indeed was going through a crisis. Describing this experience as being stuck in a hole is a very subtle observation: it takes away the perspective on a landscape from the protagonist in the hole as he sees only the walls around him, which in terms of life means he is missing out on everything; he does not have any goal or vision, he does not live. So much for that. Going on!

The next line (3) – “I rid the demons from my heart” – harbors one metonymy and two metaphors. Look, heart is a natural container. In the context above heart is used metaphorically, however there is a containment image schema imposed on it, because heart is said to house the demons (the HEART IS A CONTAINER metaphor). More to it, the Western cultural tradition sees heart metaphorically as an emotional center of an individual. In other words, it is a container for human feelings and emotions. In this light, the reference to demons above brings up the notion of vices. Vices make one think and act in an evil way and at this point it may be further argued that the whole ‘demon’ thing is a metonymy of an ACTOR FOR ACTION kind. Furthermore, it may be speculated that ridding the demons (vices, internal evils) from the heart makes this heart and an individual, having it, virtuous – the one who has self-discipline, practices self-denial (as the opposite to self-indulgence) and altogether has a strong inner core to stand up to evil. This is yet another metaphor, packed into this line – the Moral Strength (or MORALITY IS STRENGTH). This last one presupposes that the protagonist took an effort to become a stronger and a better person, who took his life under control.

Finally, the last line of the verse – And found the truth was with me from the start – is also metaphorical. Again, this is the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor, accompanied by the objectified “truth”. The reasoning behind the latter, I suppose is obvious: the truth-object is found in the heart-container after the demons have been rid from it. As to the former, I consider the word “start” to be symbolic here. It is not clear whether “start” is meant to be a birth-point of the hero or any other point in life (e.g. start of his career in music), but it certainly is a reference to a certain event in Rob’s biography. And if we agree on that, it is easy to put the rest of the pieces of the puzzle together. The reasoning in terms of start and finish and of covering a distance between them is that of a movement. Therefore, we have a thinking pattern from a travel domain again employed by the speaker to draw conclusions about his life.

So far the opening verse is covered. If you ask for my opinion, I would tell you that Rob reflects here on his career crisis of the late 1990s, which leads him to realize that his calling was and always will be playing metal in general and being a voice of Judas Priest in particular (“truth was with me from the start”).

The Desire

The chorus is upon us and it is a real hammer. Make sure you check out this tune!

  1. Holy angel lift me from this burning Hell
  2. Resurrection make me whole
  3. Son of Judas bring the saints to my revenge
  4. Resurrection bring me home

Believe me or not, the refrain apparently contains a couple of allusions to Judas Priest (“saints” in line 7 as an allusion to Metal Gods and “home” in line 8) and the entire piece, every letter in it, burns with Halford’s utmost desire to reunite with Metal Gods. “Son of Judas” in line 7 is an allusion as well. However, I am not sure to whom. Maybe, to Tim Owens, taking into consideration his younger age (Son) in comparison to other guys on the lineup? This is just a speculation of mine.

Concerning metaphors here. Lifting from the “burning hell” in line 5 and the entire resurrection scenario share their core metaphor: it is an orientational GOOD IS UP/BAD IS DOWN dichotomy. I have recently explained this metaphor in a very similar context elsewhere (unfortunately, I do not remember in which post). This metaphor reflects one of the very basic cognitive mechanisms of constructing correlations based on the direct experiences: normally, a human body functions properly when it is in a vertical position (upright), but when sick or dead it is horizontal (and low because laid down). Now, hell, simply put, is a bad place and heaven, where a resurrected body is headed to, is a good one. The orientational metaphor above explains their positioning on the vertical scale easily and clearly: hell is under ground, heaven is up in the skies. Of course, GOOD IS UP is not the only metaphor, which is responsible for the tradition of imagining hell or heaven the way we usually do. LIFE IS LIGHT/DEATH IS DARKNESS, for instance, is also involved here. However, this is not of our concern here. The point is that when you are resurrected you are lifted from hell and not fall from it, for example.

The noun phrase “Burning hell”, by the way, is a metaphor for an unbearable life, which is full of suffering. In other words, the current life circumstances are compared to those of being burned in hell. I would go here for the STATES ARE LOCATIONS metaphor (state of being alive vs. being located in hell). This metaphor has one very important entailment, which is also coherent with the next line: while in hell, you cannot escape and need a divine intervention to help you; comparing the life of the protagonist to hell presupposes that he cannot deal with his suffering alone and requires help.

It may be argued that line 6 – Resurrection make me whole – features another moral metaphor in this song. It is the Moral Wholeness, which is shown by the metaphorical use of the word “whole”. Simply put, all Morality Metaphors – there are many of them – share as their experiential basis (source domain) an experience of well-being. The latter assumes that it is better to be strong than weak, healthy than sick, free than locked up, rich than poor etc. etc. The target domain (what is conceptualized in terms of well-being) is morality. Hence, it is moral to be healthy, rich, free, and strong, for instance, and it is common to reason about what is moral in terms of wealth, health, freedom, strength etc. Our case of wholeness above draws a correlation between a structure of a natural object and a character of a person. Other things being equal, it is better for a natural object to be whole in order to function the way it is supposed to, rather than to be cracked or broken or shattered to pieces. An object can remain whole if it is resistant to an external pressure (strong) and if its structure is homogeneous (no alien substances/materials are added). If mapped metaphorically onto a person, this concept of wholeness would mean the following: a person is strong and self-disciplined enough to hold their system of values together in order not to give in under the pressure of internal (temptations) or external evils. The “Resurrection make me whole” utterance entails the opposite, hence our hero is in “burning hell” and needs a divine intervention (“holy angel”) to help him change for better (“resurrection…”). Look how coherent is the picture we get and how much more we understand now! So nice to analyze metaphors. (You can read more about Moral Metaphors in “Moral Politics” by G. Lakoff, 1996).

At the end of this subchapter I would like to draw your attention to the word “home” in line 8. I have argued above that this is an allusion to Judas Priest, to being in the band. Why is that the case? There is a rather widespread way of thinking about a group of any people, who live or work together, as of a family. This is actually a metaphor of a kind (A COLLECTION OF PEOPLE) IS A FAMILY. Family is an abstract notion. It is very closely associated with yet another abstract notion – that of home. Hence, it may be argued that if Rob thinks of the Judas Priest members as of his ‘family’, than the band itself will be his ‘home’.

If you have any other thoughts on this account, please, comment below.

Back then

This is the third part of the narrative and there is some cool stuff to talk about here as well. This chunk takes us to the past from the vantage point of the first verse and chorus.

  1. I walked alone into a fight
  2. No longer standing in Satanic light
  3. I tried to look too far ahead
  4. And saw the road go to my past instead

Line 9 “I walked alone into a fight” is my favorite here. It has several metaphors and at the same time it is an allusion (it is more of a direct reference here!) to Halford’s first solo project – Fight – founded after departing from Judas Priest. At least I am prone to think about it that way. However, I must admit that there are two ways of thinking about this line.

If we take ‘fight’ for the name of the band, then the line is constructed on the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor. The protagonist is the traveler and the pace of his life is the pace of the journey. After leaving the band, Rob moved on – ‘walked’ – into a Fight. Notice that “walk” denotes a steady, slow-paced and confident movement forward. He did not “rush” or “jump” into a fight. Constructing the metaphor in such a way opens for us a possibility to reason that Rob knew what he was doing and he was confident about that.

“Walking” from and into something also presupposes yet another metaphor: PROGRESS IS MOVING FORWARD. It is not overtly realized here in any way, but the nature of the process of walking from and into triggers it.

On the other side, if “fight” is not an allusion to Fight (a band), then it is a direct reference to the conflict that happened in Judas Priest during the Painkiller tour in 1991. If we conceptualize it this way, then it is the STATES ARE LOCATIONS metaphor, which we find in line 9. I have analyzed this metaphor in the previous posts rather often. If a state of something (i.e. state of being in a fight) is viewed as a physical location, one can reason about it in the same way one does when speaking about a sensorimotor experience of entering (walking into), being in or leaving a location. Thus, we can say I walked/jumped/stepped/rushed etc. into a fight; I was in a fight; I left a fight. Again, the word “walked” does not change its semantics or connotation in any way here and the notes about it above is equally applicable in this context as well.

If you ask me, I am sure Halford knew what he was doing when putting together this tune and line 9 was made ambiguous on purpose: it allows for two equally good explanations, because both are right.

I tried to look to far ahead” in line 11 contains two obvious metaphors: KNOWING IS SEEING (to look to far) and TIME ORIENTATION (ahead). The latter, as known in our Western tradition, conceptualizes future as being in front of us (we face it) and the past – behind. The course of our life is a movement from the past and into the future. That’s why we cannot see the past and can see only a bit of the future, a bit of the road just in front of us, so to say. As I have already noted many times, there are cultures, which think of this concept differently. There is also a reason behind its mechanics. As the past is something done or accomplished, you are able to see the results in front of you. As the future is unknown, you cannot see it, it is behind you.

KNOWING IS SEEING is a self-explanatory case. It is one of the primary metaphors, constructed in a child’s brain after correlating a visual experience of an object with knowledge about it. One of the ‘classical’ examples of this metaphor in the everyday speech is I see what you mean.

Now we know that what this line conveys is I tried to understand my future, what it is there for me.

And saw the road go to my past instead” (line 12) is once again the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor, where “past” is yet another allusion to Judas Priest.

So much Judas Priest in this tune! The next post should be definitely about them.

Back to the Future

With this part we return to the vantage point. Let’s crack the last verse.

  1. I’ve faced the things I’ve said and done
  2. There is no bastard left to overcome
  3. The peace of mind I thought was lost
  4. Was right in front of me on paths I crossed

To be honest, it took me some time to deliver a simple explanation of line 13. Thinking about “facing the things I’ve said and done” I came up with the metonymy plus objectification plus KNOWING IS SEEING pattern. The former provides a nice and simple explanation to the part with “things said and done”. I consider it a CAUSE FOR EFFECT metonymy, because what the hero actually faced in the end were the results of what he had said and done. Via objectification we can reason about abstract notions in terms of physical objects (observing, touching, grabbing, manipulating them etc.). Finally, Rob did not just see the results of his actions, he understood what he has done and that is exactly what the metaphorical “I’ve faced” (faced=saw) means. Hence, KNOWING IS SEEING.

Line 15 “The peace of mind I thought was lost” gives us two more metaphors. The first allows us to reason about the mind and its nature in terms of a human body: MIND IS A BODY. The peace of a body would mean the lack of physical stress on it. Accordingly, the peace of mind presupposes the lack of mental stress. The latter metaphor is the objectification of the abstract “peace”. Objectification provides a possibility to reason about peace as of a personal possession, which may be found or lost, bought or sold (!!! Remember “Peace Sells – but Who’s Buying”?).

Finally, the last line of the song – “Was right in front of me on paths I crossed” – once again employs the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor to reflect on the course of Rob’s life. It’s peculiarity, however, is that his ‘life-journey’ takes him eventually to the point he departed from: paths I crossed. In the light of our vision of this track it may mean that Halford got his peace of mind only when he got back into metal and proved to all out there that he always was the one and only: Metal God.

Epilogue

This post is huge and I am sorry if you made it up to this point feeling tired. I tried to be informative and explain everything in a simple and accessible way.

We may never know what Rob Halford really put into this song, but the beauty of poetry and the power of metaphor allow us to construct our own meanings of the written works based on our knowledge of the context of these works and on our personal experiences. I am convinced that “Resurrection” (track) is Rob Halford’s self-reflection on his career/life crisis in the late 1990s. The track, as well as the entire album, is a great example of heavy metal at its best and it really became Rob’s resurrection as a metal artist.

Rob Halford reunited with Judas Priest relatively soon after the release of his sophomore studio album “Crucible” (2002) and still tours with the band, delivering outstanding vocal performances. I adored Halford as a musician right from the first moment I heard him many years ago. His “Resurrection”, “Crucible” and “Live Insurrection” albums are a part of my neat CD-collection, accompanied by the first-press of “War of Words” by Fight (1993) and a dozen of Judas Priest releases.

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed!

 

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About Andriy Karamazov


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