Heavens Divide – Lyrics Interpretation

Heaven’s Divide is one of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker’s most prominent music tracks, and one of the few that features lyrics. It is a song that was written specifically for the game, and that has higly metaphorical, symbolic lyrics. What do those words mean exactly, and how do they relate to the storyline? This article attempts to propose a possible explanation.

While attempting to interpret the lyrics as logically as possible, and giving multiple meanings where more than one option is valid, this is still an interpretation and therefor inherently subjective.

This analysis was written using knowledge of the entire series when interpreting the lines, with the use of examples directly from the games at certain points. But of course, it’s very well possible that someone else reads something quite different from them, and no interpretation is more valid than the other.

Also, it has to be noted that it is difficult to translate some of the metaphors directly to a literal meaning, but in order to arrive at an interpretation it is necessary to make things a little more concrete. Some of the lines are less explicit and clear-cut than a simple explanation can provide, so this should be kept in mind. Simplification isn’t the goal here, but a tool to make the lyrics easier to summarize, and to translate feelings and thoughts evoked by the lines into a meaning, coherent to the context of the whole.

Interpretation

This interpretation assumes the lyrics are written from Big Boss’s point of view, and are aimed at the Boss.

 Petals of white
Cover fields flowing in grieving tears

This part is pretty obvious, it refers directly to the flower field where Big Boss against his will fought – and killed – the most important person in his life, the Boss. This event would become the turning point in his life.

And all the hearts once new, old and shattered now
Love can kill, love will die
Give me wings to fly
Fleeing this world so cold
I just wonder why

This part echoes his new-found bitterness as a result of his mission to kill the Boss, and finding out the truth. ‘Hearts once new’ refers to how he changed by these events, and how it embittered him (‘old and shattered now’). You can already see how Big Boss separates himself from his country and society as a whole, ‘fleeing this world’ that he can no longer relate to, and that uses soldier’s lives as carelessly as The Boss’s.

Cold as the dark
Now my words are frosted with every breath
Still the hate burns wild, growing inside this heart

Now we see a turning point: here it becomes even more clear that Big Boss’s ‘dark side’ has come out. His soul has become ‘cold and dark’, and the last sentence points towards the fact that he will actually take action at one point. It’s safe to say this refers to Outer Heaven. The ‘hate burning wild’ probably refers to his growing hatred for what happened to the Boss, and his new-found passion for his military nation.

When the wind changes course, when the stars align
I will reach out to you and leave this all behind

This sounds like it refers to Big Boss’s own death. He will ‘reach out’ to The Boss by joining her in the afterlife, and leave the real world behind.

However, it could also be something else. It could refer to Outer Heaven’s creation as well. The wind changes course – Big Boss becomes a terrorist himself. He will reach out to her, because in his eyes he is fulfilling the Boss’s will by creating Outer Heaven. And he will leave his previous life behind, the traitorous world that caused her death.

It is also possible this refers to a comment made by the Boss in MGS3: “The foibles of politics and the march of time can turn friends into enemies just as easily as the wind changes.” The metaphor for a changing wind refering to changing enemies is used here as well, but this time it’s for Big Boss, whose former country now becomes his enemy.

When heavens divide

This can, and probably does have multiple meanings. Heavens divide immediately brings to mind Big Boss’s military nation ‘Outer Heaven’. The division between Zero’s ‘heaven’ (The Patriots) and Big Boss’s ‘heaven’, meaning their ideals, their ways of interpreting the Boss’s will. The war between Zero and Big Boss.

It could also refer to the Boss’s death again, when the two must part ways.

When heavens divide
I will see the choices / choice is within my hands

Big Boss has to choose between The Patriots and Outer Heaven.

It could also refer to Big Boss changing role from pawn (someone who is being controlled) to leader (someone who is controlling). He went from obeying soldier to leader of a military nation.

How can we ever protect and fight with our tiny souls
Let me shine like the sun through the doubts and fear

It could possibly refer to Outer Heaven opposing the almighty Patriot organization, despite their nuclear capabilities an unequal battle. When leading MSF and Outer Heaven, Big Boss fights alongside minorities who are opposing a mightier enemy. The last phrase possibly refers to the fact that Big Boss is an icon for many of the people he encounters and aids (Saladin for Sniper Wolf, Che Guevara for Amanda, Naomi’s ‘benefactor’, and he is also being used as an icon by Zero). In this way, he could be a sign of hope that shines through their doubts and fears.

Do you feel the storm approach as the end draws near

The storm that is approaching is the war between Zero and Big Boss, which will result in his death.

When heavens divide
Time will come to softly lay me down
Then I can see a face that I long to see
And for you, only you I would give anything
Leaving a trace for love to find a way

This sounds like it refers to Big Boss’s death again, after which he will meet The Boss again in the afterlife. He would give everything for her, including his life.

I will dive into the fire
Spilling the blood of my desire
The very last time
My name scorched into the sky

This segment has a darker tone to it again. Big Boss will dive into the fire, he will create Outer Heaven and fight a relentless war against Zero. He will use his power as leader of a military nation to spread conflict around the globe. The man will become a symbol, his name ‘scorched into the sky’.

In short, the song covers Big Boss’ life after The Boss’ death in chronological order.  Looking at the overall structure, you can roughly discern those parts: Big Boss kills the Boss, is embittered by this and by the way the world doesn’t seem to care, turns his back on his former country, fights alongside minorities and becomes their hope against greater opponents, and faces death after which he can get closer to the Boss again, leaving behind a dark legacy.

Heavens Divide – Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker Original Soundtrack, lyrics by Nobuko Toda, performed by Donna Burke.
  • ObsessedGeorge

    This is one of the best articles i have read in my life! Reading what you wrote while listening to the song, tears fell from my eyes. Amazing word! No words can describe this game, if we can still call this piece of art “game”…

    • Nyxus

      Thank you very much!

  • benbenkr

    Very well written article! Heaven’s Divide is not only (IMO) the best song in the series, but also the deepest one. It’s not opera deep, but only those who understand’s the lore of Metal Gear would be able to appreciate the song.

    • Nyxus

      Yeah, you can get quite a few things from it if you are familiar with the Metal Gear history.

  • GiantEnemyCrap

    i loved this article congrats man i loved reading it.

    • Nyxus

      Thanks, I’m glad to hear it!

  • Lucidity

    Great work Nyxus, I really enjoyed reading. I find MGS very meaningful and reading this only adds to that. I admit before I hadn’t really thought that much about the words. I am now stunned.

    • Nyxus

      Thanks! Yeah, with MGS you often see a lot more when you stop to think about things. Glad you liked my view on the song.

  • A very interesting article. When I first heard the song I imagined Strangelove singing this to the Boss. The second part of the chorus specifically, called my attention as her call to the Boss. However, considering the title “Heaven’s Divide” and your article, I would say you’re right about the interpretation. Still some of the lyrics could be connected to Strangelove’s character.

    • Nyxus

      Well, if that’s your interpretation I’d say it’s just as right as mine. I’ve never thought about it like that, pretty interesting.

  • Nalim_86

    Great Article, enjoyed reading.
    But from the beginning my first thought was: (“This interpretation assumes the lyrics are written from Big Boss’s point of view, and are aimed at the Boss”) there’s confusion who’s Big Boss and who’s Boss. To my mind it is sung by woman, and is sung from Boss to Big Boss.
    Her inner conflict, and her feelings, when she’s lying in this field of flowers finally able to see his face and tell him the truth. And, imho, it is expressed in this song – how she wanted him to become a better soldier, to overcome everything. Despite her tragic story.
    But this is only my opinion..

    • Nyxus

      Well yeah, that’s also possible. But based on the rest of the lyrics, it seemed the most logical to me that it’s from Big Boss’s point of view. But of course, that’s just my perspective and something can be said for your point of view as well.

      I’m glad you liked the article!

  • Armin

    It was Great man. And About that Stranglove thing,it doesnt matter Who the person is,It’s the view. Bog boss and strangelove had feelings in common,and that is the main thing!not Exacly the SNAKE, strangelove,It can be the Player too!

  • Pingback: Close Up: Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker Original Soundtrack | Metal Gear Solid()

  • Special A

    Now the saga continues right? Donna Burke is back with a new song and a new story about Big Boss (Punished Snake)

    “Sins of the Father” The sins of Punished Snake and his diamond dogs

    • Nyxus

      Yes, they already said the lyrics from Sins of the Father have a lot of meaning to them.

  • Alorian

    OH MY GOD ! YOU ARE A GENIUS !!! SPECTACULAR ! AWESOME !

  • Alorian

    I’m totally agree. The story of Metal Gear is much better than many films of Hollywood ! It is not only a story of patriotism ( about The Boss ), of war, but it’s a reflection about meaning of pain of soul, about meaning of word “fight”. Big Boss’ battle it’s not only a fight against Zero, or USA, or Russia, or occasional enemy, but, at first, against himself !

  • Big_Boss88

    Amazing job Nyxus, you’re a genius at writing these interpretations :D.

  • SOSOCLES

    I too, almost cried a few times. At one time I was a soldier fighting my enemies in Afghanistan. I had a mentor named, “Chief,” and I was his personal SAW gunner and medic. I hated and killed my enemies alongside both Infantry and Special Forces. I had even conducted recon and intel gathering to support operations by the unit formally known as, “Delta Force,” with my comrades. I returned to garrison Army where I was constantly being pressured to dishonorably discharge soldiers, brothers who risked life and limb, because of the Army’s, “needs.” I am proud to say I succeeded as an Infantry Combat TL, but failed as a true Army soldier, and was honorably discharged. I then went to college and could not relate to anyone and was disgusted by everyone’s lack of ability to meet me any distance in understanding me, but I would waste vast amounts of time, money, willpower and creativity, on them. They would even insult me in deep and meaningful ways. I rediscovered this game series and am trying to play every canon Metal Gear. I now feel regret for killing those soldiers, as they were at least fighting and dying (however stupid) a cause, unlike these cowards. I now want to shut away. There is only pain in the world, but like in the theme for Phantom Pain, “Let me suffer now and never die, I’m alive!” I feel that pain is life. The same pain that built technology, muscles on bones, and births children, is the essence, the reminder that we are living our life, in some way, to the fullest. A phrase, “Save the World from Soldiers,” now makes more sense as, “Save Soldiers from the World.” I shared many ideas similar to Big Boss, and now that I’ve discovered this game series, I have hope that, with hearts full of pain, eyes full of vengeance, and minds teeming with growth, we can finally find a God that cares about us.

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