Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blind Guardian - War of Thrones



Since I am on a big “A Song of Ice and Fire,” kick right now, I may as well run with it. I said it a little while ago and I stand by this bold statement, “George R.R. Martin has done it, he has given us the next ‘Lord of the Rings’” it feels odd to quote myself, but whatever. The popularity of this books series is huge, and rightfully so it is excellent, and evidently progressive metal and rock musicians took notice a while ago.

The book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” began 1991 when the first book “A Game of Thrones,” was published, and it appears metal musicians have been written songs about the series for about half the period of time between then and now.

As you must know I am not the only amateur music critic out there on the internet blogging, in fact I am really just an insect within the swarm. As I search for new music I often end up at one of my colleague’s sites and listen to what they are recommending. When I typed “songs about ‘A Game of Thrones’” this is what I found;

http://skyatlantic.sky.com/news/10-songs-inspired-by-game-of-thrones

I would like to thank Sky Atlantic, for their fine work, and the kick ass knowledge I now have of these songs. To sum up their ten songs in a brief effort, Hammerfall – Take the Black, is great, John Anelio - George R. R. Martin Is Not Your Bitch, is entertaining, and the heavier versions of the televisions’ themes were interesting. Also worthy of note is how the majority of the songs were about the Nights Watch and Jon Snow. There is a lot of fantastic imagery north of the wall and Snow is probably the series’ primary protagonist so it understandable that song writers would be drawn to that. Lastly, the presence of Blind Guardian, a German power metal band who more or less write songs exclusively about fantasy literature, no fantasy based metal music list would be complete without them.

Blind Guardian have written songs about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, Arthurian lore, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, most notably the album “Nightfall,” which is a concept album about “The Silmarillion,” which I freaking love. In the example on Sky Atlantic they show us the song “A Voice in The Dark,” which is about Bran Stark’s dreams of falling and the three eyed crow. It is a decent song, but on the Blind Guardian album “At The Edge of Time” there is at least one more song about “A Song of Ice and Fire,” titled “War of the Thrones,” which in my opinion is a far superior song, and not mentioned on Sky Atlantic list of “A Game of Thrones,” songs.

“War of the Thrones,” is a song from the perspective of Jon Snow. The song does a good job of capturing both the isolation Snow feels while hearing news of his former family and friends going to war, a war that he cannot be a part of. Also the song describes the desolation of north of the wall very well. The first line, “nothing will ever grow here,” I believe is one of the first things Jon Snow’s observes about the winter wastelands in the book in those exact words. There are lyrics about grey shadows and endless battle and suffering, and all that good stuff.

What I really like about Blind Guardian in their songs there is a sense of ambiguity, and through this a stronger sense of poetry. All the songs the other metal songs about “A Song of Ice and Fire,” are rather specific, making very direct if not blunt references to the book. They call characters and locations by name, and describe in full detail events that take place in the novel series. While by contrast Blind Guardian songs create strong images about the world of Westeros without going into specific details, it feels more natural, like this is how someone who actual lives there might describe what they are seeing and feeling. Musicians who write step by step mentions of their lives are few to none, it is far more effective poetry to draw simple ideas that build to a great whole, Blind Guardian do that here, and in every other song of theirs’.

I could break down every line for you, or I could just let you study the lyrics yourself;

"Nothing will grow here
Icy fields - blackened sorrow
Legacy of a lost mind
Feed my void
What you're waiting for

I'm too late
It is more than a game
The river reveals
Now I'm in between these lines
I cannot escape it seems
Sail on, my friend

All I ever feel is
All I ever see is
Walls they fall
When the march of the Others begins

All I ever feel is
All I ever see is
Rise and fall
When the War of the Thrones shall begin

While I sit there in silence
Come and talk to me
I can't free my mind
It is all I'm begging for

While I sit there in silence

Will it ever end?
Will I find what I'm longing for?
Will I ever walk out of shadows so grey?
I'm condemned, I am hallowed
Icy fields they won't hurt anymore

Will you walk with me?
Any further
There at world's end
It's me
I sing

I cannot escape it seems
Sadly I sing

All I ever feel is
All I ever see is
Walls they fall
When the march of the Others begins

All I ever feel is
All I ever see is
Rise and fall
When the War of the Thrones shall begin

Away
Watch the river it flows
Now and ever
I cannot believe in more
And now my time will come
Carry on

Will I ever learn from the past?
Will I fade away?
Will I ever stay where the shadows will grow?
There is luck at the gallows
I will free my mind
Soon it will show

Let it rain
There'll be no spring
My dream is a mirror
It reveals a matter of lies

All I ever feel is
All I ever see is
Rise and fall
When the War of the Thrones will begin

All I ever feel is
All I ever see is
Rise and fall
When the War of the Thrones has begun

Leave a fee for the tillerman
And the river behind"

There are a lot of lyrics in this song, but you see what I mean, if you have read the books you can probably piece together the specific references, however if you have not read the book you are still left with your mind able to experience what this world is like and understand the fears and hopes of those who live there. Blind Guardian guides you to grasp the feelings and setting of this world even without knowing all the fine details within supporting it all.

If there is one way into my heart, it is music like this, powerful rock ballads about epic fantasy. I love it. What a great song, what a fantastic world we live in where bands are ballzy enough to write music like this.

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

- Colin Kelly

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The National - The Rains of Castamere


And who are you, the proud lord said,
That I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
That’s all the truth I know.

In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
A lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
As long and sharp as yours.

And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
That lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
With no one there to hear.
Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall,
And not a soul to hear.

And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
That lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
With no one there to hear.
Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall,
And not a soul to hear.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The National - Sorrow



“A Game of Thrones” Season 2 - Episode 9 – Blackwater, ended with a nice rendition of “The Rains of Castamere.” “The Rains of Castamere,” is one of many poems contained within the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” written by genius George R.R. Martin, also it is just about the only poem I bothered to pay much attention too whilst reading the series. I could on and on about “A Game of Thrones,” (Go Stannis!) but that’s not what this is about, this is about the band that performed “The Rains of Castamere,” for the television series.

I knew the voice was familiar when I heard it the first time and I probably should have put my finger on it right away, but I was so caught up with “A Game of Thrones,” the series and the characters I was not thinking about it. The voice was Matt Berninger, and the band is The National. That National has been around since 1999 but I only recently discovered them. I like The National, but I like them a little more now after hearing them perform one of George R.R. Martin’s poems/songs, which is a totally awesome thing to do.

This is not the first time I have stumbled into a song by The National in the media of film. I stumbled upon The National whilst watching the first true mixed martial arts movie “Warrior.” Joel Edgerton plays a Rich Franklin caricature (teacher/fighter) and Tom Hardy plays his brother, a Brain Stann caricature (U.S. mariner/fighter). They participate in a tournament featuring real life mixed martial artist like Nate Marquardt and Anthony Johnson, also professional wrestler Kurt Angle plays a Fedor Emelianenko caricature. If you knew all the names I just mentioned you get a hundred cool points. Anyway “Warrior” is an okay movie, at the end when the brothers must fight each other and the dramatic end to the fight approaches the soulful The National song “About Today,” plays. It is probably the best moment in the movie.

However as charming as The National has been with songs like “The Rains of Castamere,” and “About Today,” there is a third song I would prefer to divert your attention too, “Sorrow.”

The National are a very melancholy band... oh god I finally used that word in a review, “melancholy,” which of course is just a fancy way of saying “sad.” The National are a very “sad” band, so a song title like “Sorrow” fits them like a glove. I watched a live performance of theirs on youtube.com where lead singer Matt Berninger felt the need to explain to the crowd that he was not, in fact, a manic depressant. However after some good natured teasing from his fellow band mates Berninger settled for admitting he was a slight manic depressant.

I have heard other critics compare The National to bands like Leonard Cohen and Joy Davison. I think every music critic likes to compare every band to Joy Division. Joy Division wrote some morbidly sad songs, and Leonard Cohen had an unearthly talent for summing up painful emotions in short sentences, and I must concur that general feelings of tolerating unhappiness is present in all three examples but as far as sound is concerned I would dare say The National have more in common with their indie British counterpart Editors.

If you remember all the way back to April you will recall me reviewing Editors and having some very nice things to say about them. The National has a few things in common with Editors, both are high quality Indie rock bands, both have solid acoustic melodies, and both have strong front men with manly voices. Matt Berninger does not quiet have the deep pitch of Editors Tom Smith, but he does sing like a man, proper and strong, admittedly this may be an intangible compliment. Despite the absolutely desperate things he sings, Berninger never really sounds weak; there is always a cold complacency in this tone. I believe this strong accepting voice of depressing truth is no better felt than in “Sorrow.” Perhaps saying The National is like Editors is an unfair statement, The National formed three years prior to Editors.

I really like the lyrics so here they are;

"Sorrow found me when I was young,
Sorrow waited, sorrow won.
Sorrow that put me on the pills,
It's in my honey, it's in my milk.
Don't leave my hyper heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don't wanna get over you.
I don't wanna get over you.

Sorrows my body on the waves,
Sorrows a girl inside my cave,
I live in a city sorrow built.
It's in my honey, it's in my milk.
Dont leave my hyper heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don't wanna get over you.
I don't wanna get over you.

dont leave my hyper heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.

Cause I don't wanna get over you.

I don't wanna get over you."

Those are sad lyrics. I especially like the lines “It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk,” that strikes up some very haggard visuals. Sorrow takes away the joy from everything, even nourishment, even flavor. Perhaps even better than that is the simple but effective line of “I don’t want to get over you,” that is such an endearing line. It takes strength to love when heartbroken, and the nation that someone would cling to loving someone even when their gone, that is just so romantic, it also so very sad, but it is romantic. It’s a heavy song, but it is a good one.

To sum things up, The National is a powerful melancholy/sad indie rock band, “Warrior” was a mediocre movie, everyone should be watching “A Game of Thrones” by now, Stannis Baratheon is the one true king, and until later this month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly