Monday, 5 November 2012

Guest Post! Complementary genres – fantasy and heavy metal

Last but not least... :o)

When I sent out a call for guest posts, Jamie Gibbs was the first to reply with an offer of a post on Fantasy and Heavy Metal. I'd never even thought about the relationship between the two so was interested to hear more. Through no fault of Jamie's, I wasn't able to put the album covers onto the blog so have linked to the images on Amazon where I could (have a look, they're gorgeous) Check it out...

First off, a big thank you to Graeme for having me here. His blog was the first one I followed when I first started my own, and he’s been a big inspiration. It’s an honour :)

As a genre, fantasy is able to adapt itself to suit almost any medium of expression, and music is no exception. I'm not talking about the sprawling epic soundtracks that accompany movies like Lord of the Rings, but rather that unique blend of imagery and music that is found in the metal genre. There is something about this kind of music that is particularly open to fantasy influences, and it does a great job at conveying elements of the fantastic through music.

Here are some concept albums and songs that have borrowed heavily from fantasy novels, and a few that have told their own fantasy story exclusively through music.


Dragonland - Under the Grey Banner 

As a genre, fantasy is able to adapt itself to suit almost any medium of expression, and music is no exception. I'm not talking about the sprawling epic soundtracks that accompany movies like Lord of the Rings, but rather that unique blend of imagery and music that is found in the metal genre. There is something about this kind of music that is particularly open to fantasy influences, and it does a great job at conveying elements of the fantastic through music.

Here are some concept albums and songs that have borrowed heavily from fantasy novels, and a few that have told their own fantasy story exclusively through music.



Kamelot - Epica/The Black Halo 


Kamelot are one of my all-time favourite fantasy metal bands, and this dual concept album is some of their best work. Based on the story of Faust by Goethe, Epica and The Black Halo tells the story of a brilliant philosopher who sells his soul to the demon Mephisto for untold knowledge.The narrator eventually falls in love with Helen of Troy and realises soon after that you should be careful what you wish for.

Check out Epica’s “Descent of the Archangel” for the initial bargain struck between Mehpisto and the narrator; a brilliant track that shows off the vocals of former singer Roy Khan and the persuasive nature of the demon in the tale. Kamelot are masters of concept tracks and have a host of excellent songs under their belts including a trilogy of songs about Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a four-part saga about a vampire lord, and the upcoming original concept Silverthorn with new singer Tommy Karevik.



Blind Guardian - Nightfall in Middle Earth 


Any list about fantasy metal wouldn’t be complete without Blind Guardian, who are heavily influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Nightfall in Middle Earth is a musical version of The Silmarillion; as well as full-blown tracks, Blind Guardian narrate a number of passages from The Silmarillion to connect parts of the story. Vocalist Hansi Kurch sings like a medieval bard, lending an authentic fantasy-like quality both to the songs and the narration.

Listen to “Nightfall” for a flavour of this one; it tells of how the dark lord Morgoth and the spider Ungoliant destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor and brought darkness to the land.


… And the songs

These are just a few of the concept albums that take on fantasy stories in sweeping, 15-track arcs. There are also a load of individual tracks that cover self-contained fantasy stories in themselves:
  • “Dante’s Inferno” by Iced Earth is a sprawling, 17-minute epic number that takes you on a journey through all nine circles of Hell.
  • “Tower of the Queen” by Falconer follows the political upheaval of a plot to overthrow the Queen and her tyrannical rule.
  • “A Storm to Come” by Van Canto is an acapella rendition of the 19th Century Norwegian play, Peer Gynt, which plays with the line between reality and fantasy and how they can be blurred.
The list goes on. Fantasy and metal music blend well together, and it can be a great inspiration when writing your own fantasy worlds. Fantasy as a genre is immersive and filled with imagery; qualities that are shared by the music that it inspires.

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Jamie Gibbs is that bearded, caffeine fuelled zombie fan from the fantasy book review blog Mithril Wisdom. He claims to be a full metal head, but likes to listen to Billy Joel when no one is looking. If you want any more fantasy metal goodness, throw him a message on his Twitter.

Cheers Jamie!

3 comments:

Jamie Gibbs said...

Thanks for having me, Graeme! Here's hoping there'll be a few new converts to the genre :)

Jamie

tomlloyd said...

A while back I was emailing a guy in a warrior metal band, Lost Legion, cos he was hoping to write a song based on a scene in Twilight Herald. I checked out their album and decided it was a bit Jeff Wayne - twee on first listening but done with such utter conviction that it won me over. The album is Gemmell-inspired and I still listen to it today!

fluffrick said...

I'm listening to Luca Turulli's Rhapsody as I read this blog - what a fine post, Jamie (and Graeme)!

I realise that metal as a genre isn't to everyone's taste - but there's no better accompaniment to an epic fantasy battle sequence in a good read than some suitably expansive, galloping Power/Trad Metal.