For fans of concept albums and bands with a story to them, hopefully you’ve at least heard about LOST IN GREY. This unique thearical symphonic metal band features three vocalists: band mastermind and and keyboardist Harri Koskela, as well as violinist Emily Leone and Anne Lill. Their first release, entitled “The Grey Realms,” was an intriguing debut, brimming with potential and plenty of memorable moments, so we spoke to Harri and Anne about the debut and its story.
When Harri Koskela started to write songs for a solo project, he shared the tracks with Anne Lill when asking her to do visuals, who declared outright that the music was great but the lyrics were awful. Fortunately, the music inspired her, not just lyrically but thematically, as the ambience of the music created a story in her mind that would eventually evolve into “The Grey Realms.”
There was a big influence from nature, the fogginess or cloudiness or greyness, creating a veil that hides things, which thus ended up inspiring the characters.
Lillian – the protagonist, hailing from the “real world,” who gets lost in the Grey Realms. Idealistic and naïve, yet with a good heart, Lillian hides from her own dark side.
Odessa – the queen of the Grey Realms, one of the entities that haunts Lillian. She is a proud, beautiful ruler, but has her own insecurities and wounds, keeping walls up to hide her own vulnerability.
Patrick – the demon king, another entity that haunts Lillian. A lover of tea parties and perhaps a bit of a troll, he is the type who enjoys watching the world burn.
Lillian has gotten tired of the bullshit in the “real” world and takes off. Through her wandering, she finds her way to the Grey Realms, where she meets Odessa and Patrick, who promise her great things, that she can have things her way and everything will be all right, but she begins to slowly see that the paradise they offer is not exactly how she imagined it. As she learns more about the place and herself, she must make the decision whether or not to stay.
Now that you’ve gotten an idea where the material came from, let’s look at the songs:
1. “Waltz of Lillian”
‘In the band’s uniquely theatrical style, “Waltz of Lillian” is the “welcome to our show” prelude/intro track to set the stage for the upcoming “performance” (the whole album). The lines of “what did you see and what did you know / what made you retreat / abandon it all” link to the next album, where some of those questions are answered.
2. “Road to Styx”
Lillian’s story begins officially in “Road to Styx,” straying from the real world, into the strange mistiness of the Grey Realms. Odessa and Patrick are watching Lillian as she approaches, where Patrick can be seen, enticing her to continue forward and rest with them.
In this song, Lillian thinks she is heading for the river Styx as she runs away from everything, and instead she ends up by a river, but it turns out to be a strange place with completely different characters appearing than, say, Charon [the psychopomp from Greek mythology], leaving her actual location unclear. Patrick, knowing how confused and easily misled Lillian is, first introduces himself as a sort of pier guard or the one collecting the payments for Charon, suggesting Lillian has travelled for so long and far that she may just as well hang out on the river bank with him (and Odessa and everyone else that ended up there) while Lillian is waiting for Charon to come back to take her over the river. The first clue that she has misunderstood what is going on, thinking she is heading towards a specific direction or place (be it literal or symbolical) that she has learned about (from family, society, whatever), but the whole place turning out to be something else. It leads to the question of what else has Lillian been wrong about, what other false beliefs does she have, and in what other ways is she – or perhaps will she be – fooled?
3. “Dark Skies”
This track introduces Odessa properly, as Lillian enters the kingdom. Odessa makes many lofty promises to Lillian, drawing attention to everything wonderful about the Grey Realms, in a “definitely not a trap” too good to be true sort of way. Patrick even offers that she “live the dream eternally,” perhaps offering some degree of immortality in this space.
Here, Odessa gives a speech about how things will improve for Lillian, as the leaders of the realm promise that this is a place where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, but there’s also that hint of foreboding in these seeming lies, as Odessa mentions that obedience is key and that Lillian must bow to the King and Queen for all to be well.
5. “The Order”
Here, Lillian begins to understand that something is not right here, she is unhappy with the contract, so to speak (metaphorically, or literally? Hmm…). She was promised adventure, but now seems to feel roped into things that she doesn’t want to be a part of, yet again finding herself in a place where she is not her own master. Very bluntly put, Lillian sings: “hold on, just what the fuck is going on?” Adventure appears to be an empty promise, as there are “doors that must not be opened,” painting Lillian’s patrons in a more oppressive light.
6. “New Horizon”
Lillian’s escapism begins to unravel around her and the ambiguity of the Grey Realms comes into question – is she asleep, is she in a coma, is she literally trapped in a strange fantasy world? It’s unclear, as Lillian begins to understand more clearly through the dreamish haze. Her journey is reaching its climax as she begins to see things for what they are.
7. “The Grey Realms”
The album reaches its climax in the title track, as the characters all struggle to make their point. Patrick is unveiled as the King of Ghouls, while Odessa is revealed as a voice of insanity. Here, there is some taunting, as Lillian fights to escape and Patrick and Odessa fight to keep her. The end result feels quite ambiguous, as there is no clear winner or loser in the struggle, just a reminder that the rain keeps falling.
8. “Silence Falls”
“Silence Falls” reflects back to “Waltz of Lillian,” as it acts as the outro/closer to the “stage show” that is this album, bringing it full circle. Here, the voices summarize and give hints on what has become of the characters, while still not offering a true conclusion, as Lillian’s story is certainly not yet over, as she chooses to stay in the Grey Realms and not return to the “real” world. Even if she seeks to get rid of Patrick and Odessa, however, she is in their realm and thus it won’t be so easy to escape them.
As a concept album, this is a really fascinating work, as it places a firm conceptual foundation without adding too many details. Listeners can read the lyrics and get a base understanding of what’s going on, yet can add their own ideas and flavors to what is literally happening in the story. Whether or not Lillian’s journey is a metaphor for what’s happening in her life, or whether she is literally on a fantasy adventure, is entirely left up to the listener to decide, allowing for a lot of different interpretations of the story. We’ll definitely have to check into “The Waste Land” to see how things proceed from here!