River Of Deceit

  • This seems to allude to the river Styx (the river in Hell) and an apparent inability to compromise one's true self to avoid being pulled "down" by it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Andrew - Virginia Beach, VA
  • Mad Season was a collaboration of artists from the Grunge era. Layne Staley on vocals from Alice In Chains, Mike McCready on guitar from Pearl Jam, Martin Barrett from the Screaming Trees on drums. They first played together at a show where the audience had no idea who the band was and expected them to be just some newcomers.
  • This was their only album. It was not a big commercial success, but the band quickly developed a huge underground following. Many people consider it the best Grunge album.
  • The band's original name was The Gacy Bunch, after serial killer John Wayne Gacy and the TV show The Brady Bunch.
  • Pearl Jam's sound man Brett Eliason produced the album with the band. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brian - Paoli, IN, for all above

Comments: 25

  • Man Of Seasons from Detroit I believe that the opening lines my pain is self chosen is about Heroine and how he knew that if he kept doing it it would take him down a path that he could not return from he would eventually crumble it if he doesn't find a way out
  • Michelle from United StatesMy pain is self-chosen, at least so The Prophet says
    I could either burn or cut off my pride and buy some time
    A head full of lies is the weight, tied to my waist

    The River of Deceit pulls down, oh
    The only direction we flow is down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down

    My pain is self-chosen, at least I believe it to be
    I could either drown or pull off my skin and swim to shore
    Now I can grow a beautiful shell for all to see

    The River of Deceit pulls down, yeah
    The only direction we flow is down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down

    The pain is self-chosen, yeah
    Our pain is self-chosen
    Down, oh down, down, oh down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down

    Ok you are all pretty much Off on the real meaning of this song. Way off because not evolved on their level of knowledge hence when you have it you can sing about s--t because you know feel s--t on a deeper level than those who dont know what's up in the real world. Heres the meaning.

    You think it's about drugs. Wrong. Is it true he had addiction yes. Hell yes. Is the reason he had an addiction in the meaning of this song. Again HELL yes. But the song is about THAT not the side effect of the true meaning which is copes with hell with drugs.

    Let's break it down. My pain is self chosen. So the profit says Ok. This actually means folks for those who get it know that when you do something bad or wrong the consequences are hell and part of hell the biggest worst part is what is done to your physical body. You all are still lil lambs unfallen angels clueless God's wrath for when you sin which is a choice and therefore you choose the punishment cross to bare for doing the damn sin. That's what everyone who reads prophetic teaching and is ABLE TO GRASP IT learns FROM THE GET GO. SO if you are a beaten down schmuck put in hell because you chose to do wrong and hell is pain and suffering. You Chose that and thats what prophetic teaching tells us but most morons dont know it until after they've done the sin the crime then done the time which is also body and life hell for those who understand real punishment when you sin.

    I could burn or cut off my pride buy some time ....Being smart to know after knowing when you sin you choose the punishment of hell which is body torture (why drugs help people cope) but also being smart if your burning in hell for bearing false witness on another you can stop the lies you shed on another and get back in good grace and have some mercy for time you have left to live. But if you continue lying to extent its baring false witness horridly on another. Again prophetic teaching tells this is a major sin punishable by hell too but when you atone swollow your pride and tell the truth youll be given mercy eventually if learned your damn lesson stop the blasphemy. Keep on deveiving though and spread blasphemy fakse witness and lies the farther into hell youll be sent for doing it. Hence the chorus down oh down the river styx aka hell for deceiving aka telling lies.

    Hell is also a cross to bear that is like the yolk on your neck or anchor tied around your waist and christianity portrayed suffering of hell w a cross on your back while drug down street all to see the agony of the physical hell of baring it. And again worst part of hell is body hell this is how higher authority punishes the morons who sin including the sin of lies they will then be struck down for saying and that physical pain feels like as if the body is caring a 5000 lb weight on your neck back waist etc is what the pain suffering is like and purpose to break your back just like lyrics of another song breaking my back just to know your name heaven aint close in a place like this bring it down.... Hey this songs wisdom about hell is much like that one too. But if person chooses to admit they lied give up their pride come clean their cross will be removed theyll have mercy and not continue to be taken down for the sin of false witness lying blasphemy whatever you call it for that grave sin punishable by hell. So if your head is full of lies meaning you lie about others hey your choosing your hell and the suffering youll be punished with for that sin bit if you stop the punishment will be lifted when atone learn your lesson.

    Now the final verse you all interpreted with 0 understanding of prophetic teaching again either. Drown or pull to shore means again drown in hell you caused your self for lying shore is redemption for coming clean w the truth and not slander others further and set free of the hell your being punished w whuch is always done w physical suffering for the punishment. But if you give up the lying and then after your state of dying. The next life you will have a beautiful one not w a cross to bear art your waist or neck etc but a new life that is free from punishment of sin which is physical punishment wrath pain and choose sin choose consequence of body hell but atone freed and not taken down where will go if dont atone. And when you atone. In the next life knowing right from wrong and what punishment is for false witness baring blasphemy and lies. Your life will be beautiful in peace no suffering. See we are souls. Our bodies are the shells or prophetic teachings called our temples. But shell too is another word for it. This shell dies while in hell for lies but swollow pride atone etc next life shell is pure good and beautiful.

    The only relation this song has to drug use is the fact those who get it when others are put in hell or they are themselves and suffering taken down in punishment so they need anything to stop physical suffering which is their punishment. Their backs are broken and left to endure this hell. Its miserable. Those in hell refused the medical care for said punishment will get drugs off the street to stop pain.

    Now the most horrific part of this song is you could be a wise person know exactly whats at stake for telling lies and blasphemy and baring false witness and with that understanding ....Be telling the 1000% truth about something or claiming innocence to accusations put on you and your plea of not guilty also the truth as well as honest about those who have sinned by harming you but the god power in your turf chooses to believe you saying oh say you were drugged raped or poisoned and while accused of haneous things you never did nor would do youre guilty of that and lying what others did to you so you're going to pay the price of hell for your lies and until you admit you made it up or admit you did what you're accused of your punishment of hell will take you down further get worse and worse til you fess up.

    Hey even if youre honest and nothing to fess up to ...Once this shell aka body done w the hell put through in this life. In the next one your nrxt shell aka body your soul lands into will be a beautiful one after surviving all that.

    From someone who personally seriously knows what this song was written about and why and why staley killed himself. Drugs werent why. Drugs were just one means to lesson physical agony ...Just so you all know

    but most sheeples wont believe me stay clueless refuse to listen to prophetic teaching and know the real truth only after they too fall from grace and are put in hell themselves and have understanding not from wisdom and love but from having sinned and fallen. Its sad. Layne has a new shell now its beautiful he is free and he'll be a music legend again without condemnation that then leads to coping w drugs. Just so you all know too that was the hope too in that last line before singing about in the chorus going down / put in hell.

    Trust me this is the one and only meaning of this song from prophetic wisdom.

  • Nicole from New YorkSo i think a lot of people hit the nail right on the head- but then again, people interpret things how they see them.
    So i won't say that Layne wanted the lyrics to the song to mean x,y and z, however, i will share what i think the message Layne was trying to get across to fans with River of Deceit.

    My pain is self chosen, at least so The Prophet says:
    So a lot of people who have never struggled with addiction or have had loved ones who have, seem to think addiction is a choice we make. Yes, addicts chose to pick up the drug the first time, but most addicts never think that they will become a slave to the drug. The Prophet can mean many things; society, God, the media, peers, etc. So i feel as though he is saying that he in fact chose his pain (addiction) because that is what society (The Prophet) says.

    I could either burn, or cut off my pride and buy some time:
    Basically lose the battle with addiction (burn) or admit that i have a problem and ask for help because i can't do it alone or admit that i enjoy using drugs and that i don't want help (cut off my pride) and possibly get over my addiction for a short time and extend my life (buy some time).

    A head full of lies is the weight, tied to my waist:
    To lie to myself and to others about who i really am, or to have to keep up appearances and put on a happy face when i'm dying inside (a head full of lies) just keeps making me fall deeper and deeper into misery (the weight, tied to my waist)

    The River of Deceit pulls down, oh the only direction we flow is down, oh down....:
    Basically, we keep lying to ourselves and others and we wind up drowning in our own sorrows, pain and lies. The amount of energy it takes to constantly have to lie and hide our feelings and pretend to be someone we truly are not, is exhausting and will ultimately drag you down deeper and lead to our demise.

    My pain is self-chosen, at least i believe it to be
    I could either drown, or pull off my skin and swim to shore,
    now i can grow a beautiful shell for all to see:
    On the flip side of things, if i myself look at my pain as self-inflicted i could either chose to keep burying myself deeper with lies or i can finally get rid of this facade which is holding me back and preventing me from being myself. Once this facade is shed, my true self will finally be free and i won't be ashamed if everyone can now see it. I also think that by indicating that he will be growing a "shell" shows that either he will now have a new, more pleasant place to curl up into and hide (versus drowning under piles of lies) or that the shell, besides being beautiful will act as some sort of a shield and keep him safe from further pain or hurt. I'm leaning more towards my first explanation, only because Layne basically holed himself up in his home, away from everyone in the months leading up to his passing.

    In closing, this song is beautiful and gut wrenching at the same time. I can feel Layne's pain when i listen to this song. His death was absolutely tragic and it kills me to hear how he secluded himself so, that nobody realized he had passed-except for his accountant. I can only marginally understand how alone and sad he felt. But i've always said, the most tormented souls create the most beautiful art- and although in most cases they spend only a fraction of their life walking this earth, their legacy and stories will live on in their music <3
  • Adam from Seattle, WaGrowing up in Seattle during the "grunge" era was pretty amazing. I went to the same HIGH school as Layne. This song is 100% absolutely about heroin addiction in particular amongst some other things like so many of his songs were.
  • Dion from Las Vegas NvOpinions are important, every song we appreciate holds a value and a different meaning to each of us. We are not the same people. They were not trying to hide the meaning of there music. It was personal battles more losses than wins, pain and addiction. And there were the chosen few that had the ability to communicate this openly with us. We are fortunate that we will have there music till the day we die.
  • Gordy from Minnesota "River Of Deceit"
    What the song lyrics mean to me.

    My pain is self-chosen, at least so The Prophet says
    I could either burn or cut off my pride and buy some time
    A head full of lies is the weight, tied to my waist

    The River of Deceit pulls down, oh
    The only direction we flow is down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down

    My pain is self-chosen, at least I believe it to be
    I could either drown or pull off my skin and swim to shore
    Now I can grow a beautiful shell for all to see

    The River of Deceit pulls down, yeah
    The only direction we flow is down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down

    The pain is self-chosen, yeah
    Our pain is self-chosen
    Down, oh down, down, oh down
    Down, oh down, down, oh down

    When our "pain is self chosen" it is because we are not being who we want to be or have lost our selves trying to be what everyone else wants us to be. It is a choice to many people make. Deep down we all know that, " or so The Prophet says"(because we are our own "prophets").
    We know that we "could either burn" living the lives we choose for ourselves, which could potentially shorten our lives, or "cut of our pride" and live our lives the way others want us to. Sure we could conform to what society wants us to be, which could "buy some time" for us as far as our longevity is concerned. But at what cost?
    "A head full of lies" is what happens when we are trying to be other than ourselves for everyone else's sake. We forget who we are, and burden our selves with the lies we live for other people. It is a "weight tied to our waists", which "pulls" us into a "river of deceit" a river of lies we tell to make others happy.and the "only direction it flows is down", down below the surface essentially drowning us.
    Our "pain is self chosen". We "believe it to be" because we know ourselves. We know when we are not living to be who we were meant to be. We "could either drown" in the lie we live for others and suffer a life never knowing or revealing our true selves, or "pull of our skin"(which was a false skin we created for others) and "swim to shore"(stop choosing to live in pain and lies).
    If we choose to "pull off our skin and swim to shore", we can "grow a beautiful shell for all to see". The shell is our Inner self finally revealed. The true us. The us that lay waiting beneath the skin of deceit. But our "pain is self chosen"... A "river of deceit"... And "the only direction it pulls is down"...
    I believe Layne Staley was a conflicted person, torn between being himself, or being who his family, friends, and fans wanted him to be. I think in the end he chose to be himself instead of drowning in a "river of deceit, even if being himself would end up being the death of him. I think he died happy though. Sometimes being ourselves and living the way we do is what kills us, but at least we're not living a lie. I think we should be happy to live being true to who we are even if others are not. Layne Staley was true to himself. He decided to "burn" and be proud, rather than change for everyone else. Right or wrong, that was his choice. He "grew a beautiful shell", even if some people couldn't see it.
  • Andrew from MichiganThis song is definitely about addiction. Self-chosen pain is indeed the nature of addiction. Addicts know they are doing themselves harm but they choose it anyway.
  • Lonnie from MichiganI really think its funny, in one of Layne's interviews he jokingly states what ever you think the songs about, that's it. I agree it's not about homosexuality!
  • Justin from A Place, CtSome of you are smart, it is indeed written about the book The Prophet, all of the song was written about it not about heroin. As far as Mike from Brookline you are the most retarded human being I've ever met. In what way does this even seem like it's about coming out of the closet. At least the people who said heroin said it off of a good understanding of Layne and his songs, but you are just an idiot.
  • C from Titusville, Flthe thing that bothers me about this site is that anyone can come on here and state their own opinion of what the song means. and man do some people have some far out reasoning when it comes to determining what a song is about.
  • Tom from Harlingen, TxMachel from Melbourne perhaps you should perform your research thoroughly before posting lest you appear a moron. the MUSIC to the song was written before layne joined the band, layne added in his lyrics upon joining Mad Season. All LYRICS WRITTEN BY LAYNE STALEY, EXCEPT "LONG GONE DAY" which was cowritten. look at the album credits. may the gods of music strike you down for this outrage
  • Mike from Brookline, MaI heard before that this was pertaining to being "in the closet" and that the river of deceit was the river of lies told to keep the fact that this person was in fact gay. I don't recall which band member or if it was about a friend of the writer. You can make a case for either scenario; they both fit quite well.
  • C from Titusville, Flfrom listening to aic and mad season, also from watching layne on stage, its hard to think he believed in jesus or the bible. ive seen him make the sign of a cross and then give the middle finger after. but I dont think layne was dumb enough to think that this universe just happened on its own. he struggled with the mysteries of life, the fact that its so obvious there was a creater, yet how the hell can he allow this chaos to ensue. reflections on how the world drags humans down, maybe wondering why.
  • Shaun from Carroll, IaEveryone knows that Layne had a problem with drug addiction and so that is where most of his inspiration for his music came from naturally. His self chosen pain was the drugs specifically heroin. If you read the withdawl symptoms of heroin it sounds very painful. The prophet was a drug counselor telling him that he is choosing to do this to himself. He lived in a world of deceit because there is no such thing as an honest drug addict or an honest drug dealer. I know from experience. I was one of the lucky ones in life because I got help and am now clean. I didn't drown in the river of deceit. The river of course sybolic of the drugs. Anyway that's my take on all this. This is a very beautiful song and I am glad it found its way into my life.
  • Stink from Male', -when staley wrote the lyrics of the entire album "ABOVE", he was reading "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran (1923). i guess the line "so the prophet says" is a nod to this book... love this song and the entire album is so beautiful!!!
  • Patrick from Ellenboro, NcBest song ever written, song by the best singer ever.
  • Machel from Melbourne, FlThis song was written BEFORE Layne was asked to join the band.
  • Hebrew from St. Paul, MnThe best line in the song is him saying that "he can cut off his pride and buy some time". In other words... He can admit he is an addict / cut off his pride, and the time he buys is temporary sobriety. His hopelessness falls in the songs title however, as he knows his sobriety will be temporary. He will once again "deceive" himself finding yet another reason (probably through self pity) to return to his addiction, thus the "Self chosen pain". The result is a twofold hopelessness however, because knowing this... "Why even try?"

    The lyrics of this song were written by a man who has taken his power to "choose" away from himself by a choice to become a paradox (eventual nothingness). That is to say "Unto himself."

    This is done by choosing not to surrender his choices to the higher power that granted him his choice in the first place. That higher power granted him his choice to control his own destiny and live by his own law. That higher power turned him over to himself per his request. Now through his "choice", cut off from that higher power, he became unto himself, and no longer had a choice as "Choice" cannot choose itself, because by the very nature of "choice" it has to be granted thus the paradox. This is where his anger at "God" comes from.

    Turned over to himself, now the God and master of his own life, he feels his imperfection / humanism. Unable to be God, who is perfect, his only escape is surrender to seek a false God to surrender his choice to, like Heroine.

    This false God, imperfect like him, offers him a temporary escape from the pain and suffering of knowing he will be eternally cut off. As a good false God always does though, it became him and he became it, thus the furthering of the concept of "Unto himself." Flesh chooses to replace spirit.

    This song is a self fulfilling "Prophecy" about the pain, sadness, and anger of being among the living dead who also have been cut off from choice through the paradox. As was said before this is done by not surrendering choice to the giver of that choice, and instead choosing self or rather nothingness. As was mentioned before, Choice cannot choose itself lest it becomes a paradox (nothingness).

    And so goes the fate of all idols our flesh chooses to worship, as we choose our flesh, instead of the spirit who granted us our choice.
  • Tom from Harlingen, Txthe first two lines summarize the entire song song. "My pain is self chosen, at least...so the prophet says" Layne really does not believe himself to have had anything to do with the pain in his life. So obviously the "drug addiction" theory is tossed out. i think his depression and disdain for God hold basis for this song, as they do in the majority of the songs he wrote
  • Peter from Homer Glen, IlActually, the reference to the prophet is not about GOD, though I believe he really did accept GOD, just not the church. It's a book call The Prophet by Khalil Gibran in which the author states "our pain is self chosen".
  • Mark from Horseheads, NyThe lyric "at least so the prophet says" I think is a reference to Jesus Christ or perhaps some evangelical figure's preachings of how one may overcome their pain and suffering through the prayer and acceptance of God, which I think Layne denies. The river of deceipt may very well mean to Layne the supposed lies that are stated throughout the Bible and from those who preach it today. Layne's heroin abuse is definitely accountable for at least some, if not a majority of the song's lyrics. But I think the other commentators have overlooked the fact that he probably saw God as some pretentious, deceiptful subject. Does the song "Man in the Box" ring a bell? "Jesus....deny your maker....he who tries...shall be wasted." Classic Layne, very ambiguous. Does he believe, or does he not?
  • Mike from St. Louis, Mook when i was still in school and had a memory i was reading philosophy(can't remember who), and the writer stated "we each choose our own pain to hold or release." i belive that layne was refering to the lies that we tell ourselves to get through life, and that we can hold onto our falsehoods or let go and display our inner beauty
  • Scott from Stonewall, CanadaWe know Layne suffered from depression. I beleive the concept of the river is used as a metephor for his emotion. "The River of Deceit pulls down The only direction we flow is down Down, oh down" It also holds the concept of suicide, "I could either drown Or pull off my skin and swim to shore" go on living, drowning in the river "life" or shed his skin, suicide and be free from the pain. This is my theory of course and may be seen in a different way.
  • Billy Ross from Hagerstown, Md2 words: awesome song!
  • Cp from Cleveland, Ohthe song seems to be about the downward spiral that constant lies seems to pull on a person. the songs seems to depict how a person's life can fall apart with constant lies. also the coverwork on the album was done by layne.
see more comments

Movie Stars In Music VideosSong Writing

Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Mila Kunis and John Malkovich are just a few of the film stars who have moonlighted in music videos.

John Lee HookerSongwriter Interviews

Into the vaults for Bruce Pollock's 1984 conversation with the esteemed bluesman. Hooker talks about transforming a Tony Bennett classic and why you don't have to be sad and lonely to write the blues.

Kristian Bush of SugarlandSongwriter Interviews

Kristian talks songwriting technique, like how the chorus should redefine the story, and how to write a song backwards.

Ben Kowalewicz of Billy TalentSongwriter Interviews

The frontman for one of Canada's most well-known punk rock bands talks about his Eddie Vedder encounter, Billy Talent's new album, and the importance of rock and roll.

16 Songs With a HeartbeatSong Writing

We've heard of artists putting their hearts into their music, but some take it literally.

Female Singers Of The 90sMusic Quiz

The ladies who ruled the '90s in this quiz.