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Posts Tagged ‘Blind Guardian’

Musical inspiration is a funny thing.  I suspect most songwriters would tell you they can’t really pinpoint where it is that they find the music coming from, nor, I imagine, where it ought to be going.  We’ve all heard and rehearsed the tired story of Michelangelo, who was apparently fond of saying that the sculptures already existed, and he needed only to clear away the excess marble to find the Ur-figure (but id-figure, or even ego-figure, would be equally appropriate).

I think we love to nurse this myth of the artist as conduit, laboring only to tap into an elemental source of truth and joy that exists just at a tangent to our consciousness.  Still, plenty of other artists will tell you it ain’t no secret but a hard slog of self-doubt and fucking hard work.  I’d like to think, I guess, that the most successful artists harbor some niggling belief in the truth of both notions.

The coexistence (or even the overlap) of these narratives of creation means that when we hear a note, a song, a phrase that recalls another note, song, phrase of not immediately-remembered provenance, we get a lot of mileage out of whichever narrative we favor, no matter how latent/blatant that favor may be.

So, when you hear a song that recalls another song, what do you do?  Do you recoil in disgust, showering the impostor with spittle and vitriol?   Do you wince ruefully, and chalk it up to the best of intentions gone sickly and sour?  Or do you step back and consider whether two songs are mere glinting scratches on the surface of the same atavistic, artistic edifice?  Picture a Kubrickian monolith, or a vast gleaming mountain of purple and electric white.  Each hymns to the same fleeting impulse.

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Mvmt I:

This first pairing of songs, I think, is ample evidence for this latter interpretation.

Max Richter, “Andras” (from Memoryhouse)

Ludwig Van Beethoven, “Für Elise”

Not to say that Max Richter is nipping too closely at the heels of old Ludwig Van, but this seems like oblique homage, or even an unconsciously lateral telescoping of the same shock of wistful beauty, all yellowed leaves and guttering candles and receding memory.
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Mvmt II:

Even here, I’m liable to be generous.  Frankly, I’ve no clue why each time I hear one of these songs, sometime the following day I find myself with snatches of both pieces jammed together on a maddeningly uninterruptable loop in my head.  They’re both pretty decent songs, in fact, and without an in-depth musical analysis, I couldn’t really tell you if they bear any semblance of the other’s structure, or melody, or key.

All I know is, time t+1 from either of these, and over and over and over it goes:
“Cry for Tanelorn! / The obsidian conspiracy is rising!”

Blind Guardian, “Tanelorn (Into The Void)”

Nevermore, “The Obsidian Conspiracy”

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Mvmt III:

The situation here is largely the same.  For reasons which remain maddeningly opaque to me, lately any time that I hear either of these songs, I wind up with a bizarre mash-up of the two stuck in my head for days upon teeth-grinding days.  The sections in question, for the record, are the last two lines of each verse on The Decemberists’ tune, which then leads straight into the Modest Mouse chorus.

Thus:
“So far I had known no humiliation /
In front of my friends and close relations /
And we’ll all float on, okay x4″

Or:
“I’ll prove to the crowd that I come out stronger /
Though I think I might lie here a little longer /
And we’ll all float on, okay x infinity”

The Decemberists, “The Sporting Life”

Modest Mouse, “Float On”

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The work of an errant heel, indeed.  I may just take that lovely turn of phrase as the next slogan of this here blog.

Spinal Tapdance: Inscrutable ramblings from an insufferable nincompoop.

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One can hardly crack open any corner of the internet lately without being subjected to the annual rite of Wistfully Realizing That Summer Is Nearly Over.  That fact, coupled with the release this week of Iron Maiden’s latest album The Final Frontier (itself a potential wistfulness-fest in its own right), which seems to have been one of the more high-profile and highly anticipated metal releases of the year, has left me with that vague twinge.

You know, that “Ah, shit, 2010, it was nice to know you, but I guess you’re off to stay at that farm upstate where you’ll have all the room to run and play that we couldn’t offer you here at home” sort of twinge.

So, as a bit of a patch on this collective maudlin tendency, I thought I’d tally up some of the albums which are still slated to be released in this humble Year Of Our Narcissism 2010 for which I’m most excited.  This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive (or even particularly informative) list; this is just the stuff that I’m keeping tabs on, all sweaty palmed and fidgeting in my seat.
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- Blind Guardian, At The Edge Of Time.  The full-page ad I keep seeing in the magazines has a quote describing this as something like “ethnic and pure.”  Sounds a bit dodgy, but I’m just hoping “ethnic” is a poorly-chosen synonym for “folk-ish.”  A Twist In The Myth was a little dull for my tastes, so here’s hoping they spice things up.

- Venetian Snares, My So-Called Life.  Not metal, sure, but Aaron Funk has consistently put out some of the most intense electronic music of the past decade or so.  Plus, Detrimentalist was the fucking shit.

- Christian Mistress, Agony & Opium.  Classic NWOBHM tunes fronted by a Björk-esque singer?  Hell yeah.  Bring it on, 20 Buck Spin.

- Infernaeon, Genesis To Nemesis. Their debut from a few years back was more than a little shaky, but I’m hopeful for this one.  Sure, this is unlikely to be the second coming of Nocturnus’ The Key, but hell, there’s a lot more room in death metal for keyboard experimentation than in black metal.

- Cephalic Carnage, Misled By Certainty.  Cephalic Carnage have always seemed like the quintessential Relapse band to me.  I know they didn’t pioneer the stuff, but their widdly death/grind/tech/whatever whirlwind tends to satisfy like lemonade on a sweltering summer’s day.

- Black Anvil, Triumvirate.  Pretty psyched for this, and you should be, too, if you’re looking for an updated take on Darkthrone’s mid-period crust-covered Celtic Frost-isms.

- Unearthly Trance, V.  The upward trajectory of this band has been astonishing over their past four albums.  Electrocution was a pitch-perfect distillation of what it seems like they’d been working toward all-along, so who knows where they’re going next?

- Melechesh, The Epigenesis.  Melechesh have lately been everything Absu quit being a while back.

- Drudkh, Handful Of Stars.  Drudkh’s form has changed deceptively little over the years, leading some to interpret that as stagnation.  Listen carefully to the last few records, though, and you’ll hear the results of slight tinkering to an entirely unique sound.  The prominence of bass on Microcosmos alone should have signaled that no matter how hateful the forests these Ukrainians haunt, they’re deadly serious.

- Salome, [Title Still Unknown].  Profound Lore has been dropping some tasty hint-morsels lately about this album.  Vocalist Kat added the third prong to Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s triple vocal attack on lats year’s Agorapocalypse, but hearing her vocals attached to scathingly crippled sludge is another thing altogether.

- Torche, Songs For Singles.  Rumor is, the record’s too short, and maybe also too awesome.  Blown off as pop metal by plenty of those who don’t realize that Torche combine some of the best attributes of pop and metal, meaning maybe the epithet’s actually a back-handed compliment.

- Enslaved, Axioma Ethica Odini.  The title seems like a Latinized version of “The Ethical Axioms of Odin.”  Presumably that gives just as little clue to the musical contents as the Latin version, though.  This is one of my most feverishly anticipated records, though; Enslaved have been completely unstoppable to this point.

- Krieg, The Isolationist.  Okay, so I really dug The Black House, but thought Blue Miasma was uninspired and dull.  Adding Leviathan’s Wrest to the band (on bass) is more than sufficient to pique my interest, though.

- Cradle Of Filth, Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa.  Wow.  This may actually be a worse album title than the new Enslaved.  Plus, it’s Cradle Of Filth, so any credibility I may have had is likely a shredded mass of bloody pulp by now.  But you know?  I still kind of dig Cradle Of Filth, and Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder was light years better than most of their recent tripe.  So, y’know: Fuck off.

- Therion, Sitra Ahra.  Here’s to hoping that bringing things back to a single-disc release can bring slightly more focus than recent efforts.  Sure, Sirius B / Lemuria worked well in tandem, but given how good just the right amount of Therion is, too much Therion is a headache-inducing proposition.

- October Tide, A Thin Shell.  More gloominess, please.

- Sailors With Wax Wings, Sailors With Wax Wings.  Pyramids side-project with tons of unexpected participants and collaborators from throughout the metal world?  Excellent.

- Kylesa, Spiral ShadowStatic Tensions was one of my favorites from last year, so I’m pretty psyched that they’ve already got a new album coming out late October.

- Vulture Industries, The Malefactor’s Bloody Register.  Slightly off-the-wall black metal from a who’s-who of mainstream underground (it’s a fine, confusing line) Norwegian black metal.  Not for the ‘true’, likely, but true for the rest.

- Virus, The Agent That Shapes The Desert.  I did a little plug for this upcoming album a little while back.  I’m hoping the band can get enough pre-order support from all you good folks out there in Awesome Metal Appreciation Land to make this a 2010 release.  Fingers crossed, then…

- Aborym, Psychogrotesque.  Completely fucking no joke, a few days ago I was posting on Twitter about how I was hoping to see some new music from Aborym someday soon.  Lo and behold, maybe the very next day or so comes through the news item that they’ve got a new album coming out this year.  Shit!  Generator trimmed back on some of the detrimental excess of With No Human Intervention and cranked out some seriously deranged black/industrial anthems.  That title’s a bit shit, but still my soul hungers for the bleakness.

These last few are already out in Europe, to be fair, but I’d really love to see them picked up by a U.S. distributor rather than paying import prices:

- Ondskapt, Arisen From The Ashes.  Last one was a beast.  Make this one beast-ier?

- Kvelertak, Kvelertak.  Everything I’ve read about this band has made me want to drink some beers and crank the record.  And yet, if I am forced to pay import prices for it, I will have no money with which to drink some beers.  An existential conundrum if ever there was one.

- Winterfylleth, The Mercian Sphere.  Their debut full-length The Ghost of Heritage was quite impressive, but had a few too-ragged edges.  Here’s to hoping they’ve smoothed out in all the right places.  Still, these guys and Wodensthrone are making an awfully compelling case for an English black metal renaissance.
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So, as you can see, friends, it looks like there’s still plenty to be looking forward to this year.  And that’s just counting the ones that I’m actively looking forward to; who knows how much metallic gold remains to be mined with everything I’m sure I’ve forgotten or overlooked?  Embarrass me with the breadth and exquisite sheen of your “Most Looked Forward To’s”

Oh, and I know I can’t include them here, but Devin Townsend has been hinting that the last two albums of the…quadrilogy (?) will both be released in March.  So, sorry, Ghost and Deconstruction, but I can’t put you on 2010′s list, even though I am milliseconds away from pissing myself with glee as I type.

Plus, I keep hearing random whispers about expecting a new Pig Destroyer one of these days, but nothing definite yet.  I mean, I keep prowling all over the damn yard, looking for something new with which to terrify my phantom limb.

My bones quake with the sickness.

The world is a frightful place, and hope the only salve.  Heavy metal for the common good.

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The title of this post really ought to read, “Harry Potter Metal, or On the Use and Abuse of Irony for Music (apologies, as are so frequently due, to F.W. Nietzsche).”

Now, I’m sure that I’m a few years late to this particular party, but after a couple of Blind Guardian tracks just kicked out of my stereo, I suddenly remembered reading a while back about some Harry Potter-themed bands.  Obviously, with such a friggin’ enormous cultural phenomenon as the Harry Potter books (& movies, & video games, & tea cozies, & chewing tobacco, &, if the television’s carpet-bombing campaign of commercials is to be believed, theme parks, &c., &c.), one ought to expect its influence to spread far and wide.  A quick bit of internet research (well, if typing and clicking are admissible under the banner of ‘research’ these days, at least) jogged my memory of an indie rock-type band called Harry & The Potters, by two brothers from Massachusetts.  Pretty cutesy, I guess, and even better when I find out that the proceeds of what they’ve done are going to various literary nonprofits.  Good on ‘em, although the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club (no, I’m not fucking joking) makes me gag more than a little.

Now, however, a bit more research on trusty ol’ M-A reveals this band from Norway, the aptly-named Voldemort.  They’ve got two self-released EPs out, which feature some winningly-titled tunes as “Mayhem at the Ministry,” “The Dark Mark in the Sky,” and “Cradle of Filch” (okay, I’ll admit to getting a decent chuckle out of that last one).  The band members have also adopted Potter-themed pseudonyms, including Count Draco Horcrux (…the fuck?) and Muggleslayer.  Okay, so this is already a whole lot of strikes against these folks, but it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility that they could write some decent tunes, yeah?  Well, check out their Myspace yourself, and see if you can make it any further than 1:24 into “Mayhem at the Ministry,” because  I sure as all damn hell could not.  It’s not that I take any great pleasure (well, maybe a little) in tearing down the work of others, but seriously?  This sounds basically like a third- or fourth-rate thrash tune slowed down to 1/2 time, with what sound like (but I think are not actually) synthesized distorted guitars and drums, with an irony-laden vocal ripoff of Cronos from Venom, with occasional King Diamond shrieks thrown atop the last word in a line for “emphasis.”  Which is to say, awful, awful stuff.

Awesome

Not nearly so awesome

The real point of this post, since I should be getting on with it, is that I can’t quite figure out exactly why it is that I can take perfectly seriously many of the metal bands that have incorporated various fantasy literature into their names, themes, artwork, and very music itself, whereas this Harry Potter-themed heavy metal of Voldemort seems like utter fucking bollocks and nonsense.  I think in this case, it’s a pretty clear case of a straight-up gimmick band.  In the interest of full disclosure, I ought to point out that your humble scribe is a pretty giant Harry Potter nerd, so it’s entirely possible that my near dry-heaving upon stumbling across that Myspace page is a knee-jerk response meant to defend Ms. Rowlings’ canon; more likely, though, is that this is a knee-jerk response to the ongoing hipsterization of heavy metal, about which I am, all things considered, an even gianter (that’s right, it’s not a word, but fuck you internet, I’m using it anyway) nerd.

J.R.R. Tolkien, of course, has a long and illustrious pedigree of being used and abused in the world of heavy metal.  Thing is, I’m pretty much perfectly cool with that, and my being perfectly cool with it is kind of bugging me, now that I’m thinking about this Harry Potter music bullshit.  Of course, some of the most obvious examples of Tolkien metal are Germany’s Blind Guardian and Austria’s Summoning, but even the most casual fan of underground heavy metal has stumbled across easily a few dozen bands whose names are drawn from Tolkien.  Gorgoroth, Amon Amarth, Cirith Ungol, Isengard (featuring Fenriz of Darkthrone), Nazgul, Uruk-Hai (early version of Burzum), Cirith Gorgor, and Ephel Duath are only a few examples (not to mention probably at least a half-dozen bands each taking the name Sauron or Morgoth).

Now, in all fairness, Gorgoroth haven’t spent much time actually singing about Tolkien, in the same manner as Blind Guardian (whose landmark Nightfall in Middle-Earth takes on one of Tolkien’s more difficult works, The Silmarillion) and Summoning (whose last full-length album, Oath Bound, included a track ostensibly sung in one of Tolkien’s made-up languages, the Black Speech of Mordor), nor have most of these other bands.  But even with Blind Guardian and Summoning, I don’t find it particularly difficult to take them (more or less) seriously.  And of course Tolkien is far from being the only literary/fantasy inspiration in heavy metal; H.P. Lovecraft likely plays a close second (check out the bizarre thrash band Mekong Delta, or look for basically any band ever utilizing the word Cthulu), but there are also bands like The Gates of Slumber using Robert E. Howard for inspiration (in this case, his tales of Conan the Barbarian).  This is not to say, by the way, that Harry Potter metal is the only type of fantasy heavy metal that reeks of the ridiculous; Italy’s long-running cheese-mongers Rhapsody (lately Rhapsody Of Fire), for example, have invented their own world of dragons and wizards to sing about.  It’s almost like someone should tap them on the shoulder and remind them politely that they’re not German.  Something I haven’t looked into, but might be interesting to investigate, is whether any metal band has tried to tackle Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.  I’ve got a hunch that someone, somewhere, must have given it a go.

Something tells me this is not an issue I’ll be able to resolve, inasmuch as it probably requires delving much more deeply into heavy metal’s penchant for the theatrical, the mystical, the occult, and so forth.  Maybe the fact that Tolkien’s books have been a part of the world’s collective literary consciousness for quite some time now, whereas Harry Potter remains a currently evolving phenomenon, plays some role in my different reactions to Potter metal and Tolkien metal; that is, maybe fifty years from now, Harry Potter metal will be just as widely accepted.  Maybe it simply has to do with the fact that this Norwegian band Voldemort sounds rather like a dog retching, whereas Blind Guardian sound completely fucking bad-ass; in that case, maybe all it will take is for a band to come along and make some really neck-wrecking Harry Potter-themed metal.

Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied with my Harry Potter-brand garbage disposal and jogging shorts.

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