"River of Deceit" as written by and John Saunders Barrett Martin....
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 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


Lyrics submitted by black_cow_of_death

"River of Deceit" as written by John Saunders Barrett Martin

Lyrics © Fintage House Publishing

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River of Deceit song meanings
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  • +8
    General Commentfuck man, why do so many people want to attribute layne's lyrics to addiction. 90% of the subject matter he wrote about is the pain in his life that led him to drugs, not the drugs themselves
    shineglasson April 21, 2007   Link
  • +6
    General Commentanother beautiful song:) i think in this, he's admitting to knowing that his problems are his own fault and of his own lies and deciet. he's saying if he swims to shore from this river he can truely become the beautiful person he knows he is (like how we see him). he knows this river only goes in one direction, down.
    eddievanhillbillyon May 02, 2003   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThis song owns you all.
    Crimson Hatredon April 29, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis was the first Mad Season song I ever stumbled across. It was, as per the norm, misattributed to Alice In Chains on Napster (RIP) and all I could say was: Wow. This is absolutely fucking amazing. Why wasn't it released?

    And then in a conversation I was having with a friend he was like, "Oh, that plays on the radio all the time here." That was how I was introduced to Mad Season. I couldn't believe my ears when I picked up my copy of "Above." Layne Staley's beatiful voice on a blues sounding album. I fell in love and was waiting for the second album that I was hoping would come. It never came. Mad Season fell apart, and Staley died.

    Man, that was a total let down for me.
    SocialParasiteon September 05, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI believe this more to be about personal enlightenment rather than drugs.. Its clear though that anything with his life in truth was attached to drugs it seems. I think his consciousness has been raised above most and he sees everything covered in lies. The lies attach to himself because there is nobody to witness it with him. The burden of carrying this weight pulls his soul down while his own consciouss rises. He is accepting the decisions he has made and accepting the consequenses. It seems to be he is always faced with the choice of living with the lies or separating them from himself and drowning.
    pinion7on January 14, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Comment "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.
    gordy12478on June 28, 2016   Link
  • +2
    General CommentDon't know why this came to me but it did one night while I was "under the influence."

    It seems like Layne Staley, even in Alice in Chains with Jerry Cantrell writing, seems to sing about songs with very vague words. It doesn't talk about specific pains. But it looks as if he's giving you only a partial picture of what he understands. It seems that a lot of these bands, Mad Season are so underrated. These people are in a state of mind that is so ahead of the rest of us.

    But alas, as the brightest flame burns quickest, Layne made a sacrifice to know these things and to communicate them. Heroin took him down, but God bless him for he belongs in a higher place.
    chino69on April 08, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think he's talking about his personal addiction to Heroin and how many of his friends try to help him over-come it. This is definitely a song that relates to others with similar additions and problems.
    It is truely sad to see such an extraordinary talent lose his battle with his addition. You'll be missed Layne.
    Valloreanon May 28, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentEdouglass77, you deal in absolutions of assumption yet provide little more than the tired discourse of those who scream “heroin” in response to the poetic efforts of Staley. Any song Dougy, any song(all artists encompassed, AIC not lone), can be construed to fit the nature that it is in reference to addiction. If Staley’s addiction had been known to no other but himself, I doubt your company would exist in such large numbers. His music, this song in particular, can just as easily be seen as a “spiritual” song, the aspects left to further speculation. I pity individuals like yourself who will never see the true genius Staley gave us. He was of Poe, Goethe, Lovecraft…yet to you, simply another pathetic artist who wrote of nothing more than the cliché subjects of addiction and whatnot.

    Furthering the idea, if the song is indeed of spiritual characteristic, the pain that came was not of his own accord,

    “ AT LEAST, I believe it to be…"
    vanisidroon July 03, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPeople that listen to AiC need to hear this song. It's so weird but so beautiful to hear Layne's voice being used in something so heartfelt and tame. Typical lyrical genius by Layne and a great showcase of his vocals. I love Alice in Chains and I have all their albums but I think this is my favorite thing to ever have Layne Staley's name on it :D

    Oh, and you can't forget to mention how awesome Mike McCready (Pearl Jam guitarist) sounds in this.
    Tig45on April 02, 2011   Link

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