43. Fantasy in Music

My rambling might not make sense.


Is there as big an overlap between rock/metal and the fantasy genre as I seem to perceive? I feel like it’s some sort of exponential curve that changes with genre. You go from very basic rock, and there seems to be no overlap. The Beatles never sang about epic battles, or gods, or any of that. Then you get a bit bluesier and a bit more psychedelic, and you get Cream who wrote one song related to Odysseus. Greek mythology isn’t too nerdy. Led Zeppelin comes in and writes a few songs about Lord of the Rings, but they stay the badass horny dogs they are.

Blue Öyster Cult takes it to a-whole-nother level, and are one of the nerdiest bands I can think of. They wrote sci-fi songs, fantasy songs, one song about the Elric Saga, Godzilla, and the names of some of these songs seem like shitty fantasy pulps.

Rush, oh we can’t forget Rush, who covered classic poets, fantasy, 2012 is basically a sci-fi concept album with extra songs tacked on. The song The Necromancer is so LotR that it’s not even funny. These guys were even bigger nerds than BÖC, and might top out the graph. But that’s how prog rock goes. Dream Theatre is like Rush with metal. Literally.

Rainbow was one of those bands that started to build the bridge between hard rock and metal, and it’s undeniable that Blackmore and Dio made small epics in their music. Stargazer is about a faux-wizard that fools people into making a monument for him, which he then tries to fly off and promptly dies. Dio first band was called Elf, and then he went to continue making vaguely-fantasy music with his stint in Black Sabbath, and his self-titled band.

Then we get to metal. Bands like Iron Maiden and Manowar to get to the manly fantasy. Manowar is a nerd’s power fantasy, while Iron Maiden just got nerdier as time went on, with odd vibes. Steve Harris is a poetry and history nerd, which you can see in songs like Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Trooper. Then the album Somewhere in Time has a Blade Runner inspired cover, while discussing space and time. Yeah, totally not sci-fi sounding.

And let’s not forget the Viking himself, Yngwie Malmsteen, who is literally seen fighting  three headed dragon on his album Trilogy. Ritchie Blackmore is very similar in this sense, but one is actually a creative guitarist.

Of course, Viking metal is also a genre. Pirate metal too. It’s all nerds with instruments.

Power metal is a giant fantasy circlejerk, and it’s really not restricted to just that genre. It’s part of why I love rock and metal. It brings me so much joy to hear an epic being told in the form of a heavy hitting song, or a medieval sounding tune being turned up to 11. And something about Vikings and Norse mythology comes off as nerdier than Greek and Roman mythology, perhaps it’s the heavy use of it in modern fantasy. Dwarves, goblins, elves, fairies, and all, are very common in Norse and Celtic mythology (though now I want to hear Greek mythology based metal, that sounds like it would be awesome. Phrygian-mode metal.) Northern pantheons were very popular with Tolkien (making it very popular with Tolkien rip-offs too,) helping cement them in popular culture.

I can’t be the only one who sees the correlation here. What is it about the music that makes them want to sing about their last D&D session, and why do I love it so much?


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