euro style


Here’s the thing. I actually think that the way Kvothe claims that the Edema Ruh can tell other people’s stories better than the original tellers of the tale is some unholy combination of arrogant and racist and appropriative and almost imperialistic despite the Ruh being an oppressed minority themselves. Every time I try to venture back into Patrick Rothfuss’s books I’m hit over the head with this idea that Rothfuss doesn’t understand that a minority group routinely has their own stories and culture stolen, appropriated, sold, used and twisted by outsiders - and that the Ruh, very likely as victims of this, would be far more considerate about who owns a story, who tells it and who tells it best.

This said, I love, love, love Nightwish’s song. I love that it’s a tale about the power of taletelling, and I love the way Euro or Euro-styled metal bands regularly and routinely write songs about fantasy books or their own fantasy worlds. I love the way you can find yourself listening to a song on an album and realise it’s about a fantasy series you read years ago. I love the way most metal bands are just as fucking nerdy as the rest of us.

(Blind Guardian’s Otherland is about Tad Williams’s fantasy/sf/neuropunk series of the same name. They’ve also done too many LotR songs to count. On the same theme, Battlelore have done LotR-specific songs (full album here) and generic fantasy when they’re not mining Tolkien. If we go into myth, there’s Amorphis; if we go into epic-styled European history, there’s Leaves’ Eyes and Eluveitie; if we go into just plain fantasy, there’s Dragonforce and every other power metal band of that ilk in addition to the folk of Elvenking and Korpiklaani (the latter have created every song about drinking ever) and the prog and power metal concept albums that Arjen Lucassen and Tobias Sammet ever had a hand in that span everything from fantasy to SF (my god, The Human Equation is amazing, and please tell me how Runaway Train isn’t awesome) and whatever Therion happens to be doing; and then the vaguely-fantastic, historical, mythological, narrative or futuristic stylings of Nightwish and Kamelot and Epica (seriously, Kamelot’s March of Mephisto and Nightwish’s Ghost Love Score) and … oh, what about Amanda Somerville and Michael Kiske’s City of Heroes, which is almost The Hero’s Journey in song form?)

This barely scratches the surface! Honestly, if you’re a spec fic geek, I don’t understand why you’re not a metalhead. Metal was made for us! Sure, there’s blastbeats and guitar solos and even growled vocals, but if you listen to them often enough, you start feeling the art. After a decade of metal, speaking as someone who once found conventional radio rock to be horrifically heavy, I find growled vocals to be intensely beautiful. In this sense, metal fairly encapsulates the twisting themes of light and dark that comprises the spec fic genre in addition to challenging what is and isn’t art, what is and isn’t beauty.

(A great band to start with if you want to learn how to hear death/growled vocals is Dark Tranquillity, as Mikael Stanne has very clear growled vocals … and DT is just the classiest melodic death metal band ever. Go listen to The Mundane and the Magic. Don’t be put off by the name of their genre: their stuff is largely existential.)

Honestly, though, if you pick one thing from this list to try, make it The Human Equation. Listen to it all the way through, the way we used to treat albums: it’s a story told in song, and the end is so worth it. Plus “Day Three: Pain” is one of my all-time favourite songs.

(ETA: And if Eternal Tears of Sorrow’s Angelheart, Ravenheart (Act 1: Before the Bleeding Sun isn’t one of the most simply over-the-top-epic songs ever, including the ridiculous name, well!)