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Mythology and Metal part 1: Blind Guardian and Tolkien

by MetalRevolt on December 7, 2016
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Author : Alessio

Blind Guardian is perhaps the most famous metal band to have been inspired by the deep legendarium of J. R. R. Tolkien. In 1998 came Nightfall in Middle-Earth, based on the Silmarillion and the music that weaves the stories of this rich mythology. Other songs in the repertoire of the group have continued this enchantment, songs like The Bard’s Song and Lord of the Rings. Already during the sixties and seventies, many bands of the rock and metal scene had begun to get inspired by the Professor.

Led Zeppelin were among the first to feed on these emotions and feelings, thanks to the imaginative words of Robert Plant and sophisticated harmonies woven by Jimmy Page. Recall the famous Ramble On, contained in Led Zeppelin II (1969), the magnificent and evocative The Battle of Evermore, which mixed together Tolkien’s mythology with the myths of Anglo-Saxon tradition, and Misty Mountain Hop, with its references to The Hobbit, both contained in Led Zeppelin IV (1971), without forgetting bands like Black Sabbath and Rush. It was in the next decade that the first bands directly inspired by the works of Professor were born. The Cirith Ungol, the US group, take their name name to the homonymous pass, located in a plateau region in the region of Ephel Dúath (name, among other things of an italian avant-garde metal band ), a vast mountainous area west of Mordor. Great successes were also forged between the folds of the Norwegian black metal scene: Varg Vikernes, the mastermind behind Burzum, word in the language of Mordor meaning “darkness”, is an avid reader and connoisseur of Tolkien’s works.

Its same pseudonym, Count Grishnakh, is borrowed from a character from Lord of the Rings. Even Fenriz, Darkthrone’s drummer, was inspired by Tolkien for his project Isengard, the fortress name that will be inhabited by Saruman the White, and above all, the Austrians Summoning, that use the melodies of a more symphonic and epic black metal and unite those with original verses from the Professor. But it is not only dark and perverse seduction of evil that inspired musicians, but also light and hope, the epic and tragic. Bands like the Finnish Battlelore and Nightwish drew from the latter issues.

However, references to the work of Tolkien by these bands are odd, different, and, strange to say, without that poetry that, in other cases, has marked their songs. They don’t add a thing to what Tolkien wrote, almost as if they were nothing but a mere shining star and the Professor a distant sun, which doesn’t let the stat shine in its presence if not of reflected light. Blind Guardian, however, were the first and so far the only, to place themselves on the same floor of the author, with the same shamelessness and arrogance that allowed them to “impersonate” Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, to make them flesh and blood, distorting their holiness and making them feel human.

Yet it is this pride, dictated by the great love for these works, to stand at the base of the poetic grandeur of the Teutonic group. The prospect, in every song, is overturned. We are used to seeing the scene : the stage lights go off, everything is silent until a greenish and translucent light illuminates the lonely figure of Hansi and gently, the Siepen guitar begins the slow and beautiful phrase that is opening Bard’s Song. So, here’s the poetic greatness of Blind Guardian, here is the total innovation of Tolkien’s read made by the group : from the first song of the first album, they are nothing but bards. The Bard’s Song is a hymn, the declaration of a status and a role that since the beginning of the Krefeld group is cut and sewn. Majesty, the first song that we will analyze, so far from Bard’s Song for many reasons, both structural and temporal, is but natural, the main forerunner of it. Hansi endorses the Tolkien stories, the model according to his wishes and inclinations, he sits down and tells his audience about the ancient Greek bards and the bards of the Celtic tradition. The plot is never in flux, everything has already taken place and we all know how it ended, we know it even in its recesses.

blindguardian

This allows the bard to sing a particular episode, theme or time to create a rhapsody that goes to enrich the main story, which allows him to investigate and rummage in every plague of it, even exposing the protagonists to the scrutiny of a psychological insight, to see them under different lightning. Thus, a static topic, is renewed every time you hear and read every new details and impressions.

Majesty:

A tour-grinding comedian , a boyish rhythm and a carnival, the serene confidence and benevolent naivete, a happy waltz before the thunder and the nightmare. Majesty is the first track on the debut album, Battalions of Fear. A violent song, characterized by that peculiarly Teutonic taste for speed and power, to be precise, and a melancholy romantic aesthetic beauty. The love for the romance of German mold, based primarily on the dichotomy between harmony and candor of Greek classicism, and the wild and stormy crimson of the the skaldic tradition is clear right from the start. The organ gets replaced by the nightmare of the storm, which creeps in the folds of Olbrich’s and Siepen’s riffs and in the voice of Hansi.

Now the time has come for me to leave these lands; Take my charge with pride sacrifice.

At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.

‘I will take the Ring,’ he [Frodo] said, ‘though I do not know the way.’

The song opens with an act of will: Frodo decides to take on the burden to bring the One Ring to Mordor to destroy it. In Tolkien’s text, we note that the will of the Hobbit is instinctive. There is a total unawareness of the risks and consequences of the act, underlined by the ambiguity of the way used by the Professor, which can mean both “street” and “way.” The Hobbit knows neither the means nor the way to accomplish its mission and, therefore, does not know that it might lead to find both. No lies, therefore, by the victim of the holocaust: there is in him the burning desire of sacrifice and glorious death that has inflamed Cato’s ideas, nor his gesture is mere sublimation of a tragic and pathetic destiny, like the one that pushes Achilles choose a short but glorious life. The words come out of his mouth before you can really believe.

frodo

The total lack of reasoning is the basis of his will, which is pure instinct and impulsiveness, a primal call to duty, a feeling that Latin would have called piety. Before the great Powerful gathered at the Council of Elrond, Frodo stands as a giant because of his own recklessness that led him to reclaim his freedom with much courage and love of those who were chosen for this purpose as guardians and protectors.

And it is precisely because of his ignorance, denoted also by the neutrality of the expressive tone of the professor, the Hobbit has not turned into a pathetic, tragic hero, but comes out humanized, a magnanimous and generous figure.

Elrond, the lord of Rivendell, is aware of the consequences of the act of The Hobbit. Frodo Baggins bears a heavy burden, takes place among other unforgotten friends Elven such Hador, Húrin, Túrin, and Beren, accepts a destiny of glory and affectionate remembrance. Hador died in Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame, along with his son Gundor. Hurin and his son Túrin, however, suffered a perverse punishment: the first, came out defeated and captured in Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, because he refused to reveal the location of Gondolin to Morgoth and mocked him, he was placed on one of the highest peaks of Thangorodrim, the mountains behind which lurked the fortress of Angband, and chained to a polling station, was sentenced by the Dark Lord to observe the ruin of his race and his son Túrin, which may become famous for killing the dragon Glaurung, but that stain of ignominy, by loving and marrying his sister, Nienor, to arrive at suicide.

Beren was forced to see the downfall of his reign, to live a fugitive until he was killed by a bite of Carcharoth before Lúthien, his beloved, could pray Mandos to give him a new life. Therefore, the lord of Rivendell, sees clearly that finding the way and the way to destroy the Ring of Power will be a corrosive sacrifice and an enterprise in which the Hobbit will lose everything in order to save what he loves . In Majesty, however, the poetry of unconsciousness Frodo, loses all vitality. The sacrifice is clear from its very beginning, everything is already decided and planned. The first verse of Majesty is characterized, from a musical point of view, by a dichotomous choice: the guitars sketched the rhythm and the bass voice embroider line. The singing is typical of the early work of the group: very narrative, more detached, almost apathetic and distant from any emotion, distant and ancient, yet Hoosier, wonderfully evocative as the voice of the blind Demodocus at the court of Alcinous.

Running and hiding, I’m left for time to bring back the order of divine;

Hunted by goblins – no Gandalf to help with swords in the night.

O, The last part of the game: decision of death and life.

“Blood for Sauron”, they’ll call tonight – the final battle cry.

Running and hiding, I’m left for time to bring back the order of divine;

There exists no tale and Hobbits are crying for all children of death.

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