The Poetry of Metal: “Panic Room”

It’s no secret around here that I love metal music. I’ve written a couple of blog posts about it, after all.

I personally think metal is a great genre of music, but it often gets a bad rap – understandably so, in some respects. It’s certainly not a genre for everyone (much in the same way that country music is not a genre for everyone), so I’m not here to try and convince you to listen to it. However, I do think we need to give it a chance. Metal often gets brushed aside because, “it’s just senseless screaming,” but beneath the screeching guitar riffs and pounding bass lines, there’s some really beautiful artistry.

I’m also an English major, so analyzing words is kinda my thing.

That’s why I decided to start this series on my blog, which I’m calling, “The Poetry of Metal.” Every so often, I’ll pick out a song I like and analyze its lyrics, showing how the artist uses the words to create art and meaning. Maybe by the end of it, you’ll still think that metal is loud and annoying, and that’s okay. What I do hope is that you’ll come away from these posts seeing that metal, like any other genre of music (yes, even CCM) deserves to be treated like the poetry it is.

This week, I’m focusing on “Panic Room,” a song by Silent Planet from their album Everything Was Sound. If you’d like to hear the song, I’ll link to it below, but if you’d prefer to just read the lyrics, keep on scrolling.

Lustrous lines obscured by opaque blinds – Frozen metacarpals tap tap tap the window glass.
Syncopated staccatos with the broken clock synchronized with my post-
Traumatic ticks ticks – talking to the space in the room that echoes back indiscernibly
To my disconnected self/self – it’s self-consuming, what’s ensuing is my undoing –
The nightly casualty of war.

And it sounds like this: War, endless war

In my endless dance with entropy I must rescind my sentience, the sickness that I know.
Rearrange the disarray of disintegrated senses –
Puzzle pieces, spectral splinters of a soldier’s worn and tattered soul.
In my endless dance with entropy I must rescind my sentience,
The sickness that I know.

Machines of air looking down on us – the beasts of dust as we grapple heel and hand,
Mud and sand, (blood red oil) the chaff of the harvest converted to currencies
of wealthy means, stepping stones cut from our perforated bones.
Riches are reaped beside our bodies sown just to be thrown back again and forgotten
if we stumble in, laid inside a homeless nest, stuck with eager dirty needles,
Shipped to an early steeple where boxes close, descend with grace as you defend yourself –
Both charitable and chaste. Praise me for my valor, lay me on a crimson tower –
Justify my endless terror as my “finest hour.” Treat me as a token to deceive the
Child whom we fatten for this scapegoat slaughter.

I learned to fight; I learned to kill; I learned to steal; I learned that none of this is real.
None of this is real. None of this is real. None of this is real.

But there’s a war inside my head.

Beleaguered by my breathing – choking, screaming, heaving. Time drags me back
to the desert. This is war: A child stumbles from the wreckage holding his salvation –
The trigger to cessation – to end us all. I took a life that takes mine, every quiet
moment we collapse. Have you forsaken us? All the darkness comes alive.
Take my hand, drag me to the void.

“Panic Room” was written about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and specifically inspired by a friend of the band who is a veteran and has experienced PTSD. For the purposes of this post, I won’t be discussing the meaning in-depth, but knowing what the song is about is important to understanding how the artist conveys that meaning through the lyrics. (If you are interested in hearing more about the the meaning behind this song, you can watch Garrett Russell, vocalist for Silent Planet, talk about it here.)

Now, to get into looking at “poetry” of the song, I’ll start with the first three lines. They each begin with alliteration, or the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words:

Lustrous lines obscured by opaque blinds – Frozen metacarpals tap tap tap the window glass.
Syncopated staccatos with the broken clock synchronized with my post-
Traumatic ticks ticks – talking to the space in the room that echoes back indiscernibly

Furthermore, all of the alliterative sounds are on the stressed syllables of each word (with the exception of “staccatos”). Try saying some of those words aloud and listen to which syllable has the most “oomph” behind it.

When words are alliterative, they stick out to us (which is why so many companies have alliterative names). The effect in “Panic Room,” however, goes beyond that. The alliteration creates a heavy rhythm, which reminds me of a heartbeat. Although I do not experience PTSD myself, elevated heart rate is generally a symptom of panic attacks, and the alliteration seems to echo that “heart-racing” type of feeling.

There’s more alliteration throughout the song as well, and there are some rhymes in this song that lends to the rhythm, such as “consuming/ensuing/undoing” and “sown/thrown,” but I’ll let you look for those yourself. Regardless, if you read the song aloud, do you see the rhythm in the words? You don’t even need to know the music.

“Panic Room” also incorporates a number of allusions (references to people, places, things, or events), some of which are more clear than others. Since Silent Planet annotates their lyrics in the CD booklet, they do point out these to their audience, a few of which I’ll look at below:

Riches are reaped beside our bodies sown just to be thrown back again and forgotten
if we stumble in, laid inside a homeless nest, stuck with eager dirty needles,
Shipped to an early steeple where boxes close, descend with grace as you defend yourself –
Both charitable and chaste. Praise me for my valor, lay me on a crimson tower –
Justify my endless terror as my “finest hour.”

The phrase “homeless nest” refers to the homelessness epidemic among veterans in the United States (Garrett discusses this in the aforementioned video). According to the annotations, “Between 1/4 – 1/2 of chronically homeless males in America are veterans.”

“Charitable and chaste,” according to the band, alludes to evangelical Christian leaders who advocate pro-war positions without thinking of how it affects the servicemen and women involved. To my understanding, many of the members of Silent Planet are Christians themselves, so I doubt they’re bashing religion itself, but rather making a point about how these leaders, in general, tend to treat soldiers. They’re saying that many of these people claim to be “pro-soldier,” but also promote the violence that affects these soldiers deeply.

Finally, “finest hour” is a reference to a speech that Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, made during WWII. The line is rather sarcastic and bitter, but I don’t think Silent Planet is bashing Churchill or his speech; rather, they’re using a well-known quote to make their point more powerful. Soldiers returning from war are often thanked for their service, and rightly so, but we often overlook the pain they went through and how they are still suffering now.

As you can see from these examples, allusions are another device that can be used to make a powerful point in a work of writing. In writing this song about PTSD, Silent Planet uses the allusions to really explain their point to their audience and make them think about the topic deeply.

Of course, there are many other things I could say about “Panic Room,” but sadly, I have to stop here. As you can see though, when you look past the heavy musical style, there’s a lot of literary techniques to be found in metal. “Panic Room” is just one example, and I plan on showing you many more in the future.


Readers, what are some songs that you find “poetry” in? What songs should I feature next? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time!

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