In Calming River’s song “Haunted pt.1 (Fairytales)” we see hills covered in snow, not a pure white snow, but a muddled, mud and soot mixed snow. Trees line the hills, sprouting up like the gnarled hands of a skeleton. When you walk through the trees you resist looking behind them. It is not from the fear that a ghost may lurk there, but from the knowledge that one definitely does. This song is about the past coming back to haunt someone, and the choice to run from the past or embrace it for all the sadness and evil it may hold.
In the case of Calming River, it seems like it is a sad and desperate past that haunts him.
The singer sounds like he is singing all curled in on himself. The acoustic guitar that backs up his creeping voice is simple, which allows it to play into the nature imagery. It is not exactly an enjoyable song but it does evoke some cool imagery. There are three strong elements in this song: Nature, Ghosts, and Fairy Tales.
The nature element is brought in by the descriptions of tree and snow. The snow hints at this man’s memories being frozen in time, and at how cold his soul has become from neglecting them.
The ghosts haunt this song and provide a reason for movement. They scare the singer, but they also soothe him, luring him to them. Calming River explains:
Ghosts they tell me to run far from here.
But also, they lurk behind him, waiting for him, following him.
Calming River also sings,
Don’t be afraid to let it in, let in.
By this, he means the memories, but also his resulting sadness from remembering them.
The fairy tale element of this hints at the ghosts being a euphemism for the past, but they also emphasize the idea that the song is a cautionary tale.
This is a Grimm Fairy Tale, one where a child wanders into a dark, cold forest, and then never returns.
There is a disconnect between his singing and the music which leaves the audience of kilter. For example, in one portion the singer’s voice moves downwards while the music is swelling upwards. In general, the beat is pretty static, but his voice spins, swells, and recoils in an unpredictable way.
There are also indecipherable words throughout the song that sound like murmurings. These give the impression that the song is for its singer, a personal plea. He is a man who is haunted by his past. His past has been diminished by what happened in it. He is trying not to fear it, to move on.
I am tired of running from the things I held dear.
These are the memories of his loved ones that he has lost. This realization of tiredness, his willingness to give up, hints at a change in the future.
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