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Music / Fearful Symmetry

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Glass darkly shades the final rest / Still He will surely past this test.

These are your drowsy days in vain.
You will not wake to sleep again.
Will come the hour when you will never,
sleep again but wake forever.
— “Instruction Thru Film”

Fearful Symmetry is Daniel Amos’s (or as they called themselves at the time, DA’s) seventh studio album, released in 1986. Though it didn’t say anywhere on the cover, this was the fourth and final part of their concept album series The Alarma Chronicles.

At the time, frontman Terry Scott Taylor had death on his mind. His wife had recently miscarried, and he had lost two grandparents who he’d been very close to. So on the issue of how to end The Alarma Chronicles, the answer seemed obvious: the final chapter would be a meditation on death and Heaven. Taylor’s story in the liner notes picked up where Vox Humana had left off: the dreamer wakes up from his vision, writes down his story, and realizes that he’s on the verge of waking up again—passing via death into a greater reality.

Musically, Fearful Symmetry merged the darker sound of Doppelgänger with the synthesizer emphasis from Vox Humana. Although here, DA mainly used the synths to stand in for orchestral embellishments, more effectively on some songs than others.


DA is:

  • Terry Taylor: vocals, guitars, harmonica, synthesizer
  • Ed McTaggart: drums, percussion, synthesizer
  • Tim Chandler: bass (electric, upright, and electric 12-string), guitars
  • Greg Flesch: lead guitars, EBow, synthesizers, pump organ, dulcimer, mandolin
  • Rob Watson: keyboards, snares on “Sleep”

    Additional Musicians 
  • Alex MacDougall: percussion
  • Crystal Lewis: backing vocal on “Moonlight” and “Beautiful”
  • Jerry Chamberlain: backing vocal on “Strong Points”, “Beautiful”, and narration on “Instruction”
  • Dave Hackbarth and Doug Doyle: synth treatments on “Sigh” and “Sudden”


Side 1:

  1. A Sigh for You (3:58)
  2. The Pool (3:51)
  3. Sleep, Silent Child (4:43)
  4. Neverland Ballroom (3:22)
  5. Strong Points, Weak Points (3:58)

Side 2:

  1. Instruction Thru Film (3:24)
  2. When Moonlight Sleeps (3:59)
  3. Sudden Heaven (3:28)
  4. Shadow Catcher (4:37)
  5. Beautiful One (3:32)

Provides examples of:

  • And the Adventure Continues: How the liner notes story ends.
    The journey is over and only begun.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: In the liner notes story, the narrator sees a man who represents the entire physical universe. He’s old and decrepit—waiting to die and be reborn.
  • Dead Man Writing: The narrator of the entire Alarma Chronicles story admits that he'll be dead soon, and that this is his final message.
  • Death Song: “Shadow Catcher” is about a man on the verge of death, staring into the shadow.
  • Downer Beginning: The album opens with “A Sigh for You”, a meditation on sorrow and brokenness. Things quickly get better.
    Seeking a world of ten thousand years
    A thousand tears I cry
  • Eucatastrophe: “Sudden Heaven”, the narrator is in his darkest hour, only for the forces of Heaven to overtake him.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: “Strong Points, Weak Points” and “Instruction Thru Film” demonstrate the tension between the Protestant understandings of sanctification and salvation through faith alone. “Strong Points” is about growing to be a better person; “Instruction” reiterates that our own good deeds aren’t what save us.
  • Heaven: Not described in any detail, but “Beautiful One” is about the soul’s reunion with God after death.
  • Last Chorus Slowdown: “Sudden Heaven”.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Aside from the obvious reference to William Blake’s poem “Tyger, Tyger”, it also refers to Malcolm Muggeridge (quoted in the liner notes):
    God molds history to His purposes, revealing in it the Fearful Symmetry which is His language in conversing with men.
  • Mundane Afterlife: “Neverland Ballroom” is vague, but the Ballroom seems to be some kind of afterlife, considering how no one can leave.
    Dust to dust, never seen alive again
    Once they dance the Neverland Ballroom
    Blind desire, the sleep walk never ends
    Down at the Neverland Ballroom
  • Officially Shortened Title: By this time, they were just DA.
  • Song Style Shift: “Sudden Heaven” starts off as an odd country/new wave fusion, then goes psychedelic when the Last Chorus Slowdown kicks in.
  • Spoken Word in Music: “The Pool” has a narrator reading a brief poem in the intro and bridge. “Instruction Thru Film” features interludes in the style of educational shorts from the ’50s and ’60s.
  • Stopped Numbering Sequels: This is the only album in the series that doesn’t have the subtitle The Alarma Chronicles Volume [number]. In fact, it only mentions its connection to The Alarma Chronicles inside the liner notes.
  • Talking to the Dead: “Sleep, Silent Child” is addressed to a deceased child.
    Sleep, silent child, peace, be still (be still)
    Your ears have heard the Holy word
    Beyond the dark world's fiery end