Sunday, November 19, 2017

Metallica - The Thing That Should Not Be



I find Metallica a difficult band to talk about. A band of Metallica’s success, quality and legacy, has lots to talk about, and I know a lot about them, however the gulf between what I know and what hardcore Metallica fans know is sizeable. It is like talking about the Beatles, there are some people out there that know so much about them, it feels almost pointless to try to contribute anything new to the conversation.

You know what I also know a lot about, H.P. Lovecraft.

I wrote what I would consider to be my best Music In Review to date in 2013, and it was focused around Metallica’s “Call of Ktulu.” I combined my knowledge of heavy metal music and horror literature to create what I think is a nice commentary on both subjects. So, I feel like I should continue to play to my strengths.

I think it is safe to say that Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” is one of the greatest metal albums of all time, and I believe it is the most beloved album by Metallica fans. Basically no one needs me to elaborate further on that point.

Within the album “Master of Puppets” the two most popular songs are “Sanitarium” and the title track “Master of Puppets.” Obviously both songs are fantastic. “Sanitarium” is about being in an insane asylum, and poses the interesting situation that a sane person could be unjustly placed with the asylum and the life they live there within would drive them insane, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Master of Puppets” meanwhile is about drug addiction, and the drug is the master and user is the puppet, a very metal piece of poetry. Again though, no one needs me to point out how awesome these two songs are or what they are about, they are both infamous and everyone knows how fantastic they are.

Does everyone know “The Thing That Should Not Be?” I mean does everyone know what the thing that should not be is? Because I can help with that.

“The Call of Ktulu” may have been the first Lovecraft inspired song by Metallic but not the last. Traces of Lovecraft are in many of Metallica’s songs, and mostly with similar themes like insanity, like the afore mentioned “Sanitarium.” The song “The Thing That Should Not Be” is rare insofar that is explicitly mention beings and other things in it’s lyrics from Lovecraft’s works. Every line in fact appears to reference something from the Cthulhu mythos.

“Messenger of fear in sight,
Dark deception kills the light.”


This opening line is a touch vague, as there is a lot of dark deception in a lot of literature, horror and otherwise, Lovecraft or not. However, I suspect this is a reference to Nyarlathotep. Nyarlathotep is the message of the father god Azathoth. Nyarlathotep is a shape shifting, mind reading, trickster sort of like a much crueler and much more monstrous version of Loki from Norse mythology.

"Deep One" by Kingovrat
“Hybrid children watch the sea,
Pray for father, roaming free.”


This is a reference to the deep ones. In the book “Shadow over Innsmouth” it is discovered that the people of Innsmouth, a fictional new England town, obtain their wealth several generations ago when a sea captain made a deal with the deep ones, these andromorphic frogs with fish faces who dwell at the bottom of the ocean. In exchange for wealth, the deep ones wanted Innsmouth’s women, and thus the descendants of Innsmouth, the current generation, were mixed raced slimy hybrid frog people. The praying for father, roaming free, is possibly a reference to Cthulhu, the god the deep ones worship, however I suspect it is a reference to Dagon, the original frog/fish monster man Lovecraft created in the book of the same name. Also, Dagon is mentioned briefly in “Shadow over Innsmouth” where he is referred to as Father Dagon.

“Fearless wretch,
Insanity,
He watches,
Lurking beneath the sea,
Great old one,
Forbidden site,
He searches,
Hunter of the shadows is rising,
Immortal,
In madness you dwell.”


It is possible the chorus could be taken to be either Dagon or Cthulhu, but I suspect the mention of things like “immortal” and “great old one” is more likely to be in reference to the elder god Cthulhu, with the “forbidden site” being the lost city of R’lyeh, the very place Cthulhu rests.

"The Crawling Chaos"
by Ramsimation
“Crawling chaos, underground,
Cult has summoned, twisted sound.”


The Crawling Chaos is the title and description used to describe the afore mentioned Nyarlathotep. While being a shapeshifter his true form is a tripodal worm like monster with no discernable neck or eyes, with a writhing mess of tentacles and indeterminate number of arms sprouting from his body. When taken a more human form he leads the cult of Azathoth.

“Out from ruins once possessed,
Fallen city, living death.”


This is most likely a reference to Cthulhu and the lost city of R’lyeh. I suppose it is possible that it could be reference to “The Nameless” city, another dead city and title of another Lovecraft book.

“Not dead which eternal lie,
Stranger eons death may die.”


This verse is a modification of:

“That is not dead can eternal lie,
And with strange eons even death may die.”


This passage is from the Necronomicon and appears to a few Lovecraft stories, most notably “The Call of Cthulhu,” and also “The Nameless City.” The passage is about the old gods, and how they cannot die and are merely resting, in the case of Cthulhu, which is doubtlessly the elder god Metallica is singing about, the great monster sleeps beneath the sea, undying and when enough time has passed he will awaken and horrors unimaginable will be wrecked upon the world. Even death may die? Maybe this is to suggest a fate far worse than death? Perhaps there is an end even to the elder gods if enough time and strange events were to pass?

And lastly:

Cthulhu by unknown
“Drain you of your sanity,
Face the thing that should not be.”


Given the strong presence of Cthulhu in this song, and his overall popularity and obvious influence on Metallica, the thing that should not be, could conceivably be Cthulhu.

However, the crawling chaos, Nyarlathotep was also mentioned, and it is sort of strange to say this, but Cthulhu is physically the most human looking of all of Lovecraft’s elder gods, the easiest to visual make sense of. So perhaps the thing that should not be is the cult leader, Nyarlathotep, in this true form as an incomprehensible mass of nonsense.

There is still another possibility, Azathoth. Azathoth true form is even harder to describe or make sense of than Nyarlathotep’s, and it is effectively his cult that has been mentioned whenever Nyarlathotep is referenced as the leader thereof in this song. Azathoth is the most powerful elder god, with it being believed that all of reality is simply his dream and should he ever awaken all of reality would cease to exist. That is certainly a thing that should not be.

We could also invoke Yog-Sothoth, whose appearance is an insanity inducing storm of tentacles, eyes and teeth, but he is not mentioned anywhere in the song, even tangentially, so it is highly doubtful Metallica is referring to him.

It is not entirely clear what the thing that should not be is, because there are so many things in Lovecraft’s works that should not exists even within the crazy continuity he had created. However, the best guess is probably Cthulhu.

So, let’s recap; the obvious, Metallica, great band, “Master of Puppets” is an amazing album and the title track and “Sanitarium” are great, probably the best songs off the album. The less obvious is “The Thing That Should Not Be” is possibly the third best song on the album “Master of Poppets,” and the very thing that should not be is most likely Cthulhu.

I hope I helped.

- King of Braves

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ghost - He Is



Sometimes when you write out your thoughts and feelings you learn a lot about yourself. I guess I must come to terms with the fact that I really like songs about Satan.

Maybe it is the rebel in me, that like the rebellious nature of Satanism and Satanist. It could be that the spirit of rock and roll is that of revolution and defiance and from a biblical perspective the devil could easily be interpreted as the more rock and roll as he literally rebels against an all-powerful god. I like the complicated character that Lucifer has become over his many iteration and the complex entity that he has now become in fiction.

There are a lot of reasons to enjoy the fictional character Satan, and there are even more reasons to like the metal band Ghost, which includes all the reasons to like Satan. Satanic music, and Satanic metal are not new, nor is adopting a persona, but Ghost is something special. I think I have made that clear with my two previous reviews. I crushed hard on Ghost when I discovered “Square Hammer” and I have confidently declared Ghost as the best Satanic band ever with the best satanic song ever in “Year Zero” however Ghost has a fantastic playlist and they have another song that should probably, or possibly, be considered their very best and that is “He Is.”

“He Is” to the best of my knowledge the only song in the history of music that comes across as a love song about the devil. A lot poem to the devil. Who would think to do such a thing? Tobias Forge apparently.

The theme of Ghost is Satanism, and its presentation and visuals incorporate much of what one would expect for demonic imagery, however there is also the aspects of parody present. Everything about Popestar was a parody of the Catholic church, and obviously the Pope. While Popestar is the most painfully obvious example of this Christian parody, it is far from the only action in inversion. It is not just he visuals as well, but also the sound, again, the obvious example is the inclusion of choirs and chanting, however there is only song like “He Is,” and it’s parody come from Christian rock.

I believe you would be hard pressed to find anyone who respects or enjoys “Christian Rock.” Rock songs with Christian themes or messages are fine, but when the music comes second, the music suffers. Ghost, turning things upside down has effectively made a Satanic Christian rock song in the form of “He Is.”

When you pause to asses the content of some Christian rock songs, you should soon discover that the message of love for Jesus is venturing uncomfortably into the realm of being in love with Jesus. This adds an unintentional element of comedy to the genre, and Ghost, mimics this wonderfully in “He Is.” It is a ballad done in the style of Christian rock song, about their affinity for the devil. It is so intense in it’s phrasing that admiration becomes love, and the love is so passionate, that it comes across like a love song.

Who knew that this was exactly what the world needed. Again, Tobias Forge apparently.

Since discovering Ghost and “He Is,” I have on several occasions related this allegory and explained the great joy of this song. I received the expected reaction every time, a great surprise that such a song could exist and an even greater disbelief that is was beautiful.

If you pause to inspect the lyrical content of “He Is” you should soon discover that it is very poetic, and indeed beautiful.

The first verse:

“We're standing here by the abyss,
And the world,
Is in flames.
Two star-crossed lovers reaching out,
To the beast,
With many names.”


The chorus:

“He is.
He’s the shining in the light,
Without whom I cannot see,
And he is,
Insurrection, he is spite,
He’s the force that made me be.
He is.
Nostro Dispater,
Nostr'Alma Mater,
He is.”


The second verse:

“We’re hiding here inside a dream,
And all our doubts,
Are now destroyed.
The guidance of the morning star,
Will lead the way,
Into the void.”


And the chorus repeats twice more thereafter.

It is impossible to argue that this is anything other than high level romantic poetry. The combination of ideas within “He Is” is such an unexpected creation that many doubt it’s existence, or fail to believe the quality of the final art piece.

Any jackass can sign about Satan, but a genius is required to make a song like “He Is.” A parody of Christian style, an inversion of expectation, and a daring to be so bold to so openly adore the devil. It should not be a real song, but it is, “He Is.”

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ghost - Year Zero



“Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub.
Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer….”


Since I discovered them last year, I have been listening to a lot of Ghost. Despite my best efforts I have had a difficult time over the past couple years of discovering new music I like, fortunately European metal has not let me down, as Avantasia, Sabaton and Ghost all had new content released last year. I talked about all three last year, but I feel like Ghost, the new comer to my music collection, deserves more discussion.

In my opinion Ghost is the most interesting musical creation in recent history. A satanic concept group where all the band are masked ghouls except for the creator and front man Papa Emeritus who is a sort of satanic pope. There was a full commitment by the band to stay in character, and play along that they were legitimate Satanist, and actual ghouls, and this made for amazingly fun live performances.

It has since been revealed that the many of band members have been replaced and none of the original line up are currently active, thus confirming the potential immortality and quasi stage show nature of the band. It has also been reveled that all three Papa Emeritus who have thus far fronted the band were in fact what most people suspected all along, the same person, and due to a legal battle between past members and Emeritus his name has become public and he is in fact Tobias Forge.

Now I have to go and learn about Forge’s earlier work.

My first discovery of Ghost was their 2016 single “Ghost Hammer,” the only original (non-cover) song from their LP Popestar. I loved it. It was greatest song about Satan I had ever heard; but not for very long.

I went to see Ghost weeks after discovering them, and since I was only familiar with “Square Hammer” and a passing knowledge of the rest of their music I was in for a night of discovery. I heard many songs I would love instantly that night, like “Gheleh/Zombie Queen” and “Monstrance Clock.” However, nothing hammers and thunders quite like “Year Zero.”

I just really like the album Infestissumam, as all three songs just mentioned are from it.

It was an impossible to forget performance that sent me home directly to find these songs, I needed to hear “Year Zero” again, and have done so probably two hundred times since then. I have try to pace myself when talking about a band, not to repeat talking about them again for at least a year, and I have literally been waiting a full year to write this. If you are comfortable with, or enthusiastic about, satanic metal music, then listening to “Year Zero” is a must.

In “Yero Zero” the drums are roaring thunder, and everything is built around it and the marching base line. It is a perfect example of a heavy metal song, as it is both loud and powerful, but it is also deadly. Demonic chanting of the many names of Satan, and Emeritus sings of the futility of man’s struggle.

“Since dawn of time the fate of man is that of lice,
Equal as parasites and moving without eyes.”


That’s the first line, it really sets the mood.

It is a song of the hopeless of our plight and the pointlessness of our existence, as the next line makes perfectly clear.

“A day of reckoning when penance is to burn,
Count down together now and say the words that you will learn.”


Which brings us to the chorus, the amazing chorus.

“Hail Satan, Archangelo,
Hail Satan, Welcome year zero.”


The chorus is less sung by Emeritus and more shouted by him. It is a dark invitation that cannot be refused, welcome to year zero. The Satanic invocation adds that something extra that makes the song even more metal; even more badass. Ghost is literally yelling at us “hail Satan.” There is no subtlety in this chorus, there is no room for it. “Year Zero” is the most in your face, Satan worshipping song I have ever heard, and it takes no prisoners.

On an amusing side note, I find it charming the way Emeritus pronounces “Satan” in the chorus, instead of saying “seyt-n” he says “sawt-n,” I do not know if there is some deliberate reference being invoked or if this is an accent thing. I mean Forge is Swedish, but the Swedish do not pronounce Satan like that. Emeritus speaks in what I believe it meant to be a fake Italian/Vatican accent, which blends with his natural Swedish accent creating a very unique voice, so maybe Emeritus just pronounces Satan like that, you know… only he never does at any other time, and he says Satan a lot. Why “sawt-n?” Maybe I’ll never know.

When considering the greatness of a song like “Year Zero” it is a fair conclusion to draw that it is in fact the best Satanic song ever, not necessarily the best song about Satan or Ghost’s best song, however it is the best tribute to Satan ever, and given that most Ghost songs are effectively just that, “Year Zero” stands high among a very fine playlist.

More Ghost Soon.

- King of Braves

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wax Fang - Dawn Of The Dead Of The Night Of The Hunter




It is the nature of progressive rock to be very experimental. It is also only natural to be highly psychedelic. Musicians have been creating what we consider progressive rock for over a half century now which raises the question, how do bands continue to be “progressive” in rock and roll. The best advise I could give would be, embrace the strange.

Wax Fang is a strange band. I have been listening to them a lot for the past several years and somehow, they continue to surprise me. They are a perfect blend of experimental, psychedelic and strange.

Effectively a two man group, Wax Fang hail from Kentucky, Scott Carney performs lead vocals, guitar, keyboard, piano and others instruments, meanwhile Jacob Heustis plays the bass and keyboards and also provides the backing vocals. They used to have a drummer named Kevin Ratterman. Wax Fang have been making music since 2005 but their popularity surged significantly when they had a successful tour with fellow Kentuckians My Morning Jacket, followed by a very interesting appearance on American Dad.

I would like to tell you that I liked Wax Fang before they were cool, but I would be lying, I discovered Wax Fang through American Dad. I do not watch American Dad regularly but my favorite episode is the strange space rock opera that was “Lost in Space,” where… well it was strange. There is a scene where the aliens probe Jeff’s mind to see his memories of Hailey, and what we see is a not true love, and it is done as a sort of music video for Wax Fang’s song “Majestic.”

Majestic on American Dad:

I had thought about doing a review on “Majestic” but I failed to strike while the iron was hot. That episode of American Dad aired four years ago (2013), also “La La Land” the album that houses the song “Majestic” came out ten years ago (2007). No mater how I view it, I am late to this party. “Majestic” is a great song, and I think a lot of people know that without me writing anything about it. However, despite their recent surge in notoriety, Wax Fang remains a cult band, most of their work is unknown, and they have songs other than “Majestic.”

With a title like “Dawn Of The Dead Of The Night Of The Hunter” it is only natural I would be take notice. “Dawn Of The Dead Of The Night Of The Hunter” is a long title for a song, but I knew immediately the references at hand, Wax Fang had combined the title of two famous movies, “Dawn of The Dead” and “The Night of the Hunter.” “Dawn of The Dead” 1978 is George A. Romero’s second installment in his zombie movies, and in my opinion the best one. “The Night of The Hunter” 1955 is a classic film about a religious conman terrorizing a poor family after serving time with the condemned father who confessed to hiding ten thousand stolen dollars. The music video contains clips from both movies as well cuts from 1974’s “Deathdream,” which is about family wishing their son home from Vietnam after he has been killed, and he shows up as a vampire, or something, it is not entirely clear, the movie is pretty ambiguous.

The visuals created by the combination of these three movies are rather memorizing, and the video attached I found to be very enjoyable, regardless if you have seen any of the films in question or not. There are a lot of fan made videos online, a stupid quantity really, so I naturally assumed that is exactly what the video attached in this blogpost for “Dawn Of The Dead Of The Night Of The Hunter.” To my surprise that is the official music video. I knew George A. Romero never copyrighted any of this works, which made him significantly less wealthy and also kind of a hero, and I guess the other two films are also in the public domain. I would say it was clever to do such a thing, Wax Fang using clips from, presumably movies they really enjoy, to make a music video that are not protected properties, but it actually speaks to another side of the band, they are a humble bunch. I have no idea what Heustis and Ratterman look like, they are perfectly content to let their music to the talking for them, and instead of a focus on the two musicians we get an interesting art piece combing a great song and three films.

I went and watch “Deathdream” because of this video, and had I not seen the other two films before I surely would have been inspired to seek them out too.

Wax Fang does not follow convention when it comes to song writing. Their lyrics are choppy and pacing is deliberately erratic, there is a blend of short and long sentences making up the content, and yet it works. It is intentionally jarring, the shorter sentences have a deeper impact by the longer presence they hold.

There is an added element of strangeness in Wax Fang songs, for they are very experimental in all things.

“Come to get you,
They’re crawling out of mirrors, into your rooms,
They walk out of the shadows,
Nothing you can do,
Don’t bother trying to hide ‘cause, they’re gonna find you.
It’s just a matter of when.

And when they do, they’ll take you by the arms and tear you in two,
Your spirit from your body,
They’ll make you choose, which one you get to keep and which one you lose,
'Fore you make your decision, listen here.”

I am unsure if the lyrics are meant to be literal and describing some sort of demons ripping the souls out of people, or if it is entirely metaphorical about society forcing to choose to artistic or productive. Will you give up your creative soul or your needed body? There is a lot to take in. The first few listens is was expecting some talk of zombies or conmen, but I suspect the name is more tribute than anything else. Given the lack of identifiable connection between the three films and the song’s lyrical content, and also the vast possibilities for interpretation of those said lyrics, it could be believed that “Dawn Of The Dead Of The Night Of The Hunter” is an embrace of the nonsensical, but I do not believe that. I have not pieced together exactly what this song is about, or what the title has to do with anything, but I think something very deep is being sung about here, and I look forward to figuring it out, or someone commenting below.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Thermals - Here's Your Future



The Thermals are a hip trendy band out of Portland Oregon. I have heard them described as an indie rock band and also a punk rock band, those two styles are very different from one another, and yet weirdly The Thermals could be argued as either one. When I first heard them, I thought the Thermals were best described as a modern punk rock band, one of those soft pop punk bands, you know the type, but I must admit there is an indie influence present. Whatever, all these subgenres are getting hard to keep up with anyway, I guess The Thermals are an indie punk band, and no, I am not sure how they pulled that off.

With a quick listen, The Thermals would not necessarily seem like the sort of band I would get into, what with their somewhat nerdy, somewhat hipster ways, but here we are now, talking about them.

The Thermals
The Thermals is a three-piece band, fronted by Hutch Harris on lead guitar and lead vocals, and his now wife, Kathy Foster who plays bass and does the backing vocals; these two are effectively The Thermals, as they have gone through a few drummers at this point. I like Hutch and Kathy, while I am still learning about who and what they are, they seem really nice, and also, I like their music.

I first discovered The Thermals in November of 2012. I remember the date because I published a Music In Review called “27 Songs about the End of the World” which included The Thermals’ “Here’s Your Future.” You can read that review here: http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2012/11/27-songs-about-end-of-world.html

At the time, I had never heard of The Thermals before, but I really like “Here’s Your Future” it had great energy, and I liked the prophetic doom of the chorus “here’s your future.”

Since that time, youtube.com has consistently recommended The Thermals to me, surely because I have listened to “Here’s Your Future” so many times on that platform. In that time, I have grown to be very fond of other Thermals’ songs like “Returning to the Fold” and “Never Listen to Me.” I have listened to many of their albums and live performances but my enjoyment seems to be primarily linked to their 2006 album “The Body, the Blood, the Machine.” Despite everything I have heard and learned to love by The Thermals, nothing compares to that first love, nothing is quite as great as “Here’s Your Future.”

As part of “27 Songs about the End of the World,” “Here’s Your Future” is indeed about the world’s end, specifically it is about biblical Armageddon.

“God reached his hand down from the sky,
He flooded the land then he set it on fire.
He said, ‘Fear me again. Know I'm your father.
Remember that no one can breathe underwater.’
So bend your knees and bow your heads.
Save your babies, here's your future.”


This interpretation of god is pretty damn brutal, and thus fairly accurate to the old testament. Rarely we see god presented in such open harshness, not only is he threatening his audience, but he is threatening their children, even more than that he is promising an eternity of abuse, “here’s your future.”

From that dramatic opening verse, we break into Noah’s flood:

“God reached his hand down from the sky,
God asked Noah if he wanted to die,
He said ‘No sir,
Oh, no, sir.’
God said, ‘Here's your future.
It's going rain.’

So, we're packing our things,
We're building a boat.
We're going create the new master race,
Cause we're so pure.
Oh, Lord, we're so pure.
So here's your future.”


Then we discuss Jesus:

“God told his son, ‘It's time to come home,
I promise you won't have to die all alone.
I need you to pay for the sins I create.’
His son said, ‘I will, but Dad, I'm afraid.’"


There is a rather obvious message in this song that is critical of the Christian god. It is very difficult, even for the staunchest apologists, to ignore the cruel and destructive nature of god’s actions in the original white light faith text. Those stories took place in savage times, full of violence and death, so we should expect no less from a god representing spirituality and morality of that era. Still, few, present god in such a linearly frightful way as The Thermals have here. The menace is not only extreme and immediate, but immortal, the shouting of “here’s your future” is of severe significance because it implies that this nightmare is continuous, forever, and given that god is the one enforcing this never-ending tragedy, we are powerless to stop it.

Other songs by The Thermals come across almost positive towards Christianity, and this seemed to somewhat conflict with the content of “Here’s Your Future,” but I come to believe the more upbeat and encouraging religious moments in The Thermals repertoire are mostly sarcastic, but also reflective of a rather neutral perspective on the topic. I do not believe Hutch and Kathy hate religion or Christianity, I suspect they have a passing fondness for it, but are ultimately critical agonistics, and that is why songs like “Here’s Your Future” and “Returning to the Fold” can both exist on the same album.

I thoroughly enjoy a good critical bashing of religion, but agnostic subtexts had nothing to do with my initial love for The Thermals or “Here’s Your Future.” As I said, the energy and pace of “Here’s You Future” is fantastic, the dread of a fearful future shouted at us by Harris with such unrelenting aggression makes for a very intense and powerful song of doom, and the end of the world.

Back in 2012 I knew one day I would be writing this review and promoting this song. “Here’s Your Future” got it’s hooks deep into me all those years ago and never let go. It is probably one of the best songs of this decade that I have discovered.

- King of Braves

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Nobuo Uematsu - Terra & Aeirth's Themes


Terra's Theme

Aeirth's Theme

Nobuo Uematsu has lived a rather interesting life.

Not ever musician gets to live the dream of being a famous composer or rock star, many of them play small gigs and burn out or must find a day job. Many others end up working for movies and television, or worse, advertising. Some, end up working in video games.

Uematsu started his career with Square in 1985, and while he has worked on many, many, video game soundtracks he is best known for his work on the Final Fantasy series. Despite the restrictions of 8-bit games allowing only a handful of different sounds and therefore notes to be available, Uematsu was able to create many very catchy and impressive short tunes that would naturally be repeated over and over during game play. It is a unique challenge that most musicians never face, creating a short, maybe thirty second instrumental song, with a maximum of eight notes, that needs to be enjoyable to hear in repetition a multitude of times. In the modern era, many would know and agree that this is a talent worthy of respect, but it took decades for Uematsu, and the uncanny music industry he was involved in, to be recognized.

As video games advanced, Uematsu was able to produce more and more elaborate songs for the soundtrack of Square’s games, and this perhaps best heard by the natural changes to the “Crystal Theme” or “Prelude,” this jingle is included as the opening song to every Final Fantasy game and has become something of a tradition for the series, and with every incarnation Uematsu modifies it just a little, added a little bit here and there. Thankfully someone has compiled them all into one video:

All Crystal Themes:

You can really tell when a new game system is introduced, Final Fantasy Four was the first in the series on the Super Nintendo and it is the first version to have a melody. Final Fantasy Seven was first of the series to be on the PlayStation and it’s “Crystal Theme” is the first one to be a full and complete song within itself. The seventh one is my ringtone.

It is difficult, maybe even impossible, to pinpoint the moment when Uematsu had broken through. At what point did the soundtracks of Final Fantasy, or perhaps another game, connect with people in a powerful enough of a way to earn Uematsu and the entire profession of video game musician credence? Final Fantasy Seven was the most popular in the series and was the first to have fully orchestrated songs, so that seems like a logical point, but a lot of Seven’s popularity stemmed from the unprecedent success and popularity of Final Fantasy Six, arguably the best game on the entire Super Nintendo Entertainment system, and partially because of a famous opera scene when a very nearly opera song was created with the limitation of 16-bit computer programming. The game’s prior has amazingly popular songs as well, but Final Fantasy Ten was the first in the series, on the PlayStation 2, and the first that felt like a full fledged interactive movie, and its soundtrack was absurdly popular. What was the breaking point for recognition from the fans of the games and what was the breaking point the generally music listening audience?

We may never know.

But what we do know is that it happened.

In 2002 Uematsu decided he would take his popular video game songs from the Final Fantasy series on the road, as a mother fucking rock band, appropriately called The Black Mages. It was a logical next step for his musical career. The Black Mages would release four studio albums and eventually transform into the Earthbound Papas which tours like The Black Mages did, but have not released any albums to date.

In 2011, at least I think it was 2011, the impossible happened, multiple Final Fantasy songs were entered into the Classic FM Hall of Fame. The popularity of Uematsu and his video game music had become so mainstream that his songs were now considered among the greatest pieces of modern classical music, which is great, because there are.

This is where the story reaches the final arch of Uematsu adventure. I do not know if Uematsu dreamed of being a great composer or rock star and had to settle for writing music for video games, or if his ambitious in life were more mundane and temperate in his youth, nonetheless he accomplished everything a musician could hope to accomplish. He had a successful career doing something different with his talents, but from there he was able to become a rock star, as well as a world renowned classical composer. Uematsu is the Beethoven of video game music.

All of this, and the song of the hour has had no mention. For me, the music of Uematsu, and Final Fantasy, have a similar appreciation, popularity and power to the games from which they stem. Every Final Fantasy game is different and everyone has a different favorite, but the debate about which game in the series is greatest often comes down to two by die hard fans, Six and Seven.

As stated before Final Fantasy Seven is to this day the most popular, whether or not it sold the most copies, most everyone will agree it is the most popular; but that does not make it necessarily the best. Final Fantasy Six was lightning, it pushed the Super Nintendo to it’s limits and was revolutionary in every aspect of RPGs. Fourteen playable characters, all with unique abilities, personalities and back stories. Sixteen-bit spirits that had multiple stances and movements that enabled them to emote every possible emotion. A story that was highly interesting, an unforgettable villain, great game play, and yes, an excellent soundtrack. It is highly possible the only reason Final Fantasy Seven was so successful was do to the excellence of Final Fantasy Six. By riding the popularity of it’s predecessor and receiving a huge marketing campaign that was fueled entirely from Six’s successes, Final Fantasy Seven became the most popular of all time in the series.

As you can tell, I am firmly in the Final Fantasy Six camp. Perhaps I am biased, the time in my life when I had the most time to play video games was the heyday of the Super Nintendo, so I may always be more in love with that system and its games than anything else.

Cloud and Aeirth -
by Yoshitaka Amano
“A love that will never be, and a hatred, that always will.”

That was how they advertised Final Fantasy Seven. It was a powerful single sentence that revealed to insightful a lot of what to expect in Final Fantasy Seven. The love interest would be lost, and the villain would never be forgiven.

When we examine the list of the most popular songs by Uematsu, many from Final Fantasy Seven take the front stage, notably the antagonist, Sephiroth’s theme “One Winged Angle” or the tragic love interest, Aerith’s theme appropriately called “Aerith’s Theme.” The hatred that would always be and the love that could never. A lot of people cried when Aeirth died.

Terra - by Yoshitaka Amano
Aerith’s theme is possibly the greatest song Uematsu has ever written, but I am very partial to Final Fantasy Six, and I am very partial to it’s primary protagonist, Terra, and also her theme.

I never thought of Terra’s theme as exclusively hers. It first plays when you reach the overworld map, so I always thought of it as Final Fantasy Six’s “Overworld Theme,” but apparently it is Terra’s. This is possibly my favorite my favorite song from Final Fantasy Six, and in turn is possibly my favorite Final Fantasy song.

To be honest, a heavier reimaging of Terra’s theme is what really makes me love it so much. I have had a very difficult time tracking down the create of this remix, but I believe now to be someone called Ailsean, and it is called “Terra in Black.”

Terra in Black:

There is a fun parallel here. The two magical women of the two most renowned Final Fantasy games have themes that have stood out, at least to me, as the two best songs by Uematsu. The more spoken game of the two having the more known sorceress and theme, but an undying and endearing fan favorite keeps the other preposterously popular. In the end I cannot really choose between the two, so let us have both, Terra and Aeirth the mystical women of the two most important Final Fantasies, and their beautiful themes given to us by man living the music dream.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Miracle of Sound - Sovngarde Song



I wrote a post about Miracle of Sound in June 2013. Miracle of Sound is a one-man band created by Gavin Dunne, and under this banner he had created this beautiful song about the video game “Bioshock Infinite” and I was forced to realize that some nerd making a song about a video game could result is an amazing piece of art. To me it was a sign that the whole world was changing, and music production could now be seized by anyone thanks to the internet and we could hope and dream of such things that previously sounded absurd; it was going to be awesome, and it is.

Gavin is many ways is a perfect sort of musician for what I like to write about. A talented, largely unknown entity, with a very interesting concept and story, and most importantly good songs. I suspect there is literally no one in my social life who listens to Miracle of Sound, except the one friend who discovered his music with me, and probably my roommate. There is nothing I want to do more than share music with people they have never listened to before, and I hope they enjoy it at least as half as much as I do. Miracle of Sound is a perfect Music in Review band.

Now the to point.

I have been facing some financial difficulties lately so I decided I needed to do something to keep myself out of trouble. I needed some cheap means of entertaining myself, so when the July Steam sale happened I bought Skyrim.

I had played Skyrim before at a friend insistence, he was right to push it on me, it was an insanely fun game with a huge fantasy world to explore and I really enjoyed it. When I do the math, at this point, Skyrim has effectively cost me $0.15/hr of game play; a very affordable means of entertainment. I have successfully stayed out of trouble.

Now back to Gavin Dunne and Miracle of Sound.

Gavin has written multiple songs about Skyrim. I mentioned in my “Dream of the Sky” review that a friend and I got drunk on mead one New Year’s in honour of “Nord Mead” a rock and roll drinking song:

Nord Mead:


Another comical song is “Khajit Like to Sneak,” which is my least favorite of this set, but he does a pretty good job of making his singing voice sound like a Khajit:

Khajit Like to Sneak:

Gavin has also written an instrumental called “Winter Still” inspired by the themes and score of the game which I find very enjoyable:

Winter Still:

One of my favorites is Gavin’s duet with Malukah “Legends of the Frost” which is very beautiful and sounds like it really belongs in the game:

Legends of the Frost:


When I started writing this I forgot how many songs about Skyrim Gavin had written, but with all of that chronicled we must now discuss the best Skyrim inspired song by Gavin “Sovngarde Song.”

For those unfamiliar with Elder Scrolls lore I will have some quick information by methaphor that should assist in making deeper sense of the song’s content. Skyrim is a province in the continent of Tamriel, it is effectively Scandinavia and its inhabitants, the Nords, are effectively Vikings. Lastly Sovngarde is Valhalla.

This is a mystical song, calling us into Skyrim, and the mythos of the Elder Scrolls using relatable Scandinavian and Viking like imagery that is fitting of both the real culture and fictional setting. But there is something unique about the customizable protagonist in Skyrim, the Dragonborn, as they are titled, is born with the soul of a dragon and thus has the Thune, or voice, of a dragon and can use it to great affect to unleash great force sending their enemies flying backward or stunned sternly in their place. Which gives us this perfect line:

“And my voice is my violence.”

Bravo Gavin. This is the best possible sentence anyone could have ever hoped to have included in a song about the Dragonborn. It could be taken as symbolic, that the words of this warrior are of war and rage, or it could be taken as musical, as this song is about battle and bloodlust, but this line must be taken literally, the voice of the Dragonborn is aptly described as violence.

The chorus is equal parts Viking and Nord and could and probably should be song on appropriate occasions for celebrating either:

“And we stand tall,
Sons of the snow,
We will not fall,
Under these blows,
For our hearts they are hardy,
Our spirits are strong,
And our voices are lifted into,
This Sovngarde song.”


As satisfying as the chorus is, I would be remiss if I did not point to the highest energy part of the song where tempo picks up and the volume rises, and this great battle lyrics come roaring out of Gavin:

“Conquer the anger and ravenous rage!
Make it a part of your power.
Pummeling down let your bloodlust engage!
Under your force they will cower.”


Just badass is what that is.

And like any great song, the tempo slows and returns to the same mellow melody that brought us in, and ends with a feeling of mythic wonder, in a frozen land.

It need not be said, but I really enjoy “Sovngarde Song,” but more so I really enjoy Gavin’s 2016 remastering of it:

Sovngarde Song 2016:

Everything is just a little more rock and roll in the this version, which in turn makes everything a little more battle strong which is not only more appropriate but likely necessary to properly capture the spirit of Skyrim.

In summary, Vikings are awesome, Skyrim is great source of entertainment, and Miracle of Sound is a highly unique and enjoyable musical creation in whatever subgenre of music we can classify it as.

- King of Braves