I’ve always been both a metalhead and a total fantasy geek–possibly the two most powerful formative influences on my teen years were Metallica and J.R.R. Tolkien. There exists a deep and occult connection between heavy metal and fantasy fiction, one that surfaces both obliquely–Spiked wristbands! Album covers that could double as Wheel of Time book jackets! Fire!–and overtly, as in the legacy of metal songs explicitly inspired by fantastical literary sources.
After the jump, check out a few of my favorite heavy metal songs inspired by fantasy novels. And I know I’ve forgotten a few, so add them in the comments!
Iron Maiden – “To Tame a Land”
Pretty much the entire Iron Maiden catalogue of powerfully narrative songs could be considered part of the classic fantasy canon. But special mention has to be made of “To Tame a Land,” off Piece of Mind, based on the Dune novels. And they’re really not kidding with these Dune references, which are serious and deep–this is Bruce Dickinson singing, as a fan, to other fans:
It is a land that’s rich in spice
The sandriders and the “mice”
That they call the Muad’Dib.
He is the Kwisatz Haderach.
He is born of Caladan
And will take the Gom Jabbar.
Metallica — “The Call of Cthulu”
On the other hand, Metallica’s “Call of Cthulu” (Ride the Lightning) is an instrumental, and therefore features no explicit reference aside from the title–and its morbid mood–to Lovecraft’s stories. But, after all, who but Lovecraft could find the words to express the horrors of Cthulu?
Blue Oyster Cult — “Black Blade”
Blue Oyster Cult went one step further than any other band with this one: Not only is “Black Blade” based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric novels, Michael Moorcock himself wrote the lyrics.
The Sword – “To Take the Black”
Based, of course, on George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. No one, no one, is more metal than the Sword Brotherhood of the Night’s Watch.
Blind Guardian – All of Nightfall on Middle Earth
And here come the most hardcore fans of all: Blind Guardian, a German metal band who wrote an entire album based on The Silmarillon, called Nightfall on Middle Earth.
Megadeth – “Five Magics”
This is admittedly the most tenuous connection of all. Years ago, as a geeky middle schooler, I picked up a copy of a now out-of-print Del Rey paperback called “Master of the Five Magics” by Lyndon Hardy, persuaded that it had to have inspired the Megadeth song “Five Magics.” The song does seem to be, like the book,
about an apprentice wizard, though I have no proof of any further connection. I ended up enjoying the novel immensely, however, and will have to track it down someday to see how it holds up.