"Flat Of The Blade" as written by Robert Del Naja, Guy Edward John Garvey, Neil Davidge, Grantley Evan Marshall and Damon Albarn....
I'm not good in a crowd,
I got skills I can't speak of

Things I've seen will chase me
To the grave

I'm not good in a crowd,
I got skills I can't speak of
Over there

Things that I've seen
Will chase me to the grave

Led with your hands tied
Fetters and flies

You stumble the dunes
Complain to the moon

Backs to the wheel
There's granite to shove

Take it
They give it
So rivet for rivet
I will pilfer my family a bulletproof love

How does it feel
The weight of the steel?

The weight of the steel
The flat of the blade

How does it feel
To kneel at defeat?

To kneel at defeat
At the choices you make

I'm not good in a crowd,
I got skills I can't speak of

Things I've seen will chase me
To the grave

Backs to the wheel
There's granite to shove

Take it
They give it
And rivet for rivet
I will build for my family a bulletproof love


Lyrics submitted by TurtleTurtleUp, edited by numcrun, Crane42

"Flat of the Blade" as written by Guy Edward John Garvey Robert Del Naja

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group, Spirit Music Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Flat Of The Blade song meanings
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  • +5
    Song MeaningI get the feeling that this is about a war veteran or similar.
    "I'm not good in a crowd"
    refers to PTSD or flashbacks experienced when in a crowded noisy enviroment.
    "I've got skills I can't speak of"
    I can kill people but I can't speak about it/it's not acceptable to be a solider. (remember MA are British where, unlike in America, soldiering isn't as glorified profession, at least insofar as I'm aware, I'm in Aus)

    "Things that I've seen
    Will chase me to the grave"
    Pretty obvious

    "Led with your hands tied
    Fetters and flies"
    This lyric is wrong "Led with your hands tied fed to the sandflies" Presumably referring to desert executions or being captured.

    The chorus refers to the weight of a weapon, a double meaning of both the guilt of killing and the weight of the 'blade', in this case a gun.

    "How does it feel
    To kneel at defeat?
    To kneel at defeat
    At the choices you make"

    Again a wrong lyric.
    "How does it feel
    To kneel at the feet?
    To kneel at the feet of the choices you made" Again fairly obvious.

    I have no real understanding of Backs to the Wheel or Granite to shove. Only that the latter is obviously a link to hard manual labour.

    "I will pilfer my family a bulletproof love" This lyric is wrong, it's build not pilfer, he just puts an odd emphasis on the 'bu' sound.
    XTimmyon March 03, 2010   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningI have listened to this song many times because it is true poetry. But, I have a somewhat different interpretation of the lyrics' meanings, while giving thorough attention to it's nuances. After all the devil is in the details.

    We start of while a menacing tone. Feelings of fear and anxiety parallel with the distorted twists and creaky, hollow sounds in the song's opening.

    In the beginning, all we know is that a shadowy figure of a man tells us:

    I'm not good in a crowd
    I've got skills I can't speak of
    Things I've seen will chase me to the grave.

    These words don't alleviate the anxiousness set by the tone. It forebodes an evil omen, yet the song's lack of melody and rhythm keeps the listener in the dark.

    I personally felt like a little boy in his bed on a cold, windy night with the creaking trees outside rapping on my bedroom window. We fear our speaker might be the monster that hides beneath the bed or in the closet, waiting...

    The speaker then repeats himself (with an added nuance) as if he desires to emphasize the horror he embodies:

    I'm not good in a crowd
    I've got skills I can't speak of (over there)
    Things I've seen will chase me to the grave

    Speaking of his own mortality proves he's human, but the added phrase "over there" gives us a very unsettling feeling. The speaker is letting us know he is not from OUR world here. We might begin to question whether there something corporeal at work. And is this a simple statement, or a warning?

    Eventually, the music changes from a tone of high anxiety to a tone of horror.

    Led with your hands tied
    Fed to the sand flies

    Now the listener has become the victim. We feel the death in the air as the sand flies circle the victim like buzzards.

    You stumble the dunes
    Complain to the moon

    We get a clearer picture of what's happening and what's GOING to happen here. The dunes are GRAVES of those who were led here before. The speaker has probably done this MANY times. We know the end is near. We connect with the victim who laments his or her fate.

    *Backs to the wheel
    There's granite to shove
    **Take it. They give it
    ***So rivet for rivet
    I will build for my family a bullet proof love.

    I believe this part is very misunderstood by people, so I will translate:

    Put your backs into it!
    There's granite to shovel. (For the graves).
    Take it. They give it....

    *I believe the speaker is speaking to his comrades now instead of the victims who are to fill the graves that are being dug. Everything makes sense in this context.

    **I believe the speaker is telling his comrades that everything left by the dead (or soon to be dead) is forfeit, so take everything the have/had. By being dead, they give it freely. This might mean money, information (from begging victims), and/or the speaker might simply be telling his comrades to strip the bodies of anything valuable. According to the speaker, there's no such thing as "robbing" the dead.

    ***This is complicated to explain. Rivets are FORCED through metal to hold pieces together. This is imagery that implies the willingness of the speaker to use force to protect his family. It also might imply his use of force to keep the "pieces" of his family together.

    It is unclear whether the speaker is talking about his immediate family or some other entity like a mafia family or gang. Perhaps he means both, but I don't think that's important. I think his choice of words might imply that some of his family met an untimely death at the wrong end of a gun in the past. Though, this is only speculation.

    How does it feel,
    The weight of the steel,
    The weight of the steel of the flat of the blade?

    How does it feel
    To kneel at the feet,
    To kneel at the feet of the choices you've made?

    The speaker is now speaking to the victim again. He might be seeking vengeance against those who harmed or betrayed him, but he might also be expressing concern about the heavy consequences of his own choices. Note that the victim's choices may or may not warrant his or her death on a moral or ethical scale. He or she may have simply made the wrong decision by mistake, (by chance) which led to his or her demise.

    I'm not good in a crowd
    I've got skills I can't speak of

    THINGS I'VE SEEN WILL CHASE ME TO THE GRAVE!

    The speaker repeats himself again. This time, he both expresses and laments the unforgiving nature of the fact that he cannot escape the consequences of his choices either (whether by chance or not). He knows the world won't absolve him from either horror or guilt, nor will he absolve his "victims" from their horrible end.

    With that in mind, the speaker continues...

    Backs to the wheel
    There's granite to shove

    Take it. They give it
    So rivet for rivet
    I will build for my family a bullet proof love.


    That my interpretation. Hope it helps:)
    dirtyd12on October 23, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI was generally confused about the meaning of this song, but while talking about it to a friend and telling him the lyrics we both looked at each other and had a sort of instant simultaneous realization about what it COULD be.

    I always thought it was a song sung from the point of a very twisted man.

    A man so obsessed with love, and yet so afraid of losing it he'll do anything to make an everlasting love that nothing could touch.

    And the line "Backs to the wheel, There's granite to shove" brought this idea into my head.

    The singer was in a family, and so consumed by fear, he decides he has a way to be with them forever. He decides to kill his family and bury them (driving out to murder and bury them, hence backs to the wheel, granite to shove)

    He kills his family so nothing else can touch them, in order to build an everlasting, bulletproof love.

    This could go along with the idea of a war veteran having flashbacks. An action like murdering your own family would ellude to some sort of mental disfunctioning.

    He's seen how twisted the world is and he realizes the only time people are perfectly safe, untouchable, and everlasting, is in death.

    That's just my take on it, fits with the atmosphere I think.
    BassmentStudioson November 22, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaningthis song screams iraq war vet to me, but then again, everything does lately.

    I'm not good in a crowd,
    I got skills I can't speak of

    after being in iraq, i can tell you i am definitely not good in crowds- out of habit. taken with the next line, im feeling that the skills you learn in war (killing) are not those typically talked about in normal conversation- hence, skills i cant speak of.

    Things I've seen will chase me
    To the grave

    definitely true, especially in the urban combat environment of the early invasion and dealing with the after effects of insurgent domestic terror. i will never forget the smell of burning bodies....

    I'm not good in a crowd,
    I got skills I can't speak of
    Over there

    over there...

    Led with your hands tied
    Fed to the sand flies

    captured perhaps or maybe metaphorically tied by geneva convention/rules of war set by your command. the flies are definitely pervasive and with no real "indoor" work environment, you are constantly dealing with them.

    You stumble the dunes
    Complain to the moon

    walking in sand is definitely a burden most ppl dont think of, when tired you do stumble constantly. hoping for a compassionate ear in the military is folly...sometimes you just have to complain out loud. i know i have had a few therapeutic conversations with myself while on watch at night, staring at the moon.

    Backs to the wheel
    There's granite to shove

    no where to go, and work to do.

    Take it
    They give it
    So rivet for rivet
    I will build for my family a bulletproof room (roof?)

    each atrocity they make you experience is just that much more reinforcement to protect yourself from it. i think about it like pink floyd used bricks in the wall to symbolize pink's slow building of a wall around him, isolating him from everyone else; where each case of disappointment was a "brick". here, each case is a "rivet" of a more durable structure. or this could mean that after seeing the devastation bombs cause to ordinary civilian dwellings, he will build a "bulletproof" roof for his family?

    How does it feel
    The weight of the steel?

    knowing that this devastation is caused by you (through your participation)...after all, you are carrying the tool of destruction in your very own hands

    The weight of the steel
    The flat of the blade

    flat of the blade symbolizes mercy to me as is the non lethal end of a killing tool. perhaps the weighing of options? to kill or not?

    How does it feel
    To kneel at the feet?
    To kneel at the feets
    Of the choices you've made

    by invading, we brought all of this on ourselves by going in the first place. each and every mentally damaged soldier is a direct result of placing them there in the first place. this could be personal or categorical- the individual soldier may feel like they are experiencing these things as a consequence of joining; or it could be a question to the nation as a whole after seeing the costs involved (which are purposely glossed over in my opinion).

    either way, this song is hauntingly beautiful with each part coming together masterfully in a crescendo of emotion. proof, yet again, of massive attack's musical genius and mastery.
    artyfrmflaon January 13, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentShould mention that a bigger fan than me mentioned that Massive Attack talk about "Buffalo Soldiers" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…, which apparently play a part in American-Rasta culture. I know nothing about this at all but it's an interesting sub-meaning.
    XTimmyon March 07, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah I always thought it was 'led with your hands tied fed to the sand flies' which just makes this song even creepier in my opinion. Its a great song but it is quite frightening.
    Jobizzieon April 20, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentVery gloomy but fascinating, I love the part in which the strings come in
    Boreqon July 07, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always thought, that the "weight of the steel of the flat of the blade" refers to the act of being knighted, as you would get touched with the flat side of a swords blade.
    Otherwise I really like your interpretation, XTimmy
    Firepeteon October 13, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a wonderful slow creepy tune. It reminds me a little bit of "We Suck Young Blood" by Radiohead. Same kind of mood. Of course Thom Yorke was likely inspired by MA's earlier stuff.
    mbs3580on October 29, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI do not have the words in front of me, however the following lines:

    How does it feel
    To kneel at defeat?

    To kneel at defeat
    At the choices you make

    Actually sound to me slightly different :

    How does it feel
    To kneel at the feet...

    To kneel at the feet
    of the choices you've made

    I may be completely wrong, if so - sorry, but this is definitely what I hear.
    stuarthopperon October 11, 2013   Link

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