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Old 06-04-2014, 01:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Epic Metal ****ing Rules!

One of my favorite forms of music is metal that would be described as "epic". This is a nebulous term, and I imagine it means different things for everybody, but to me it's metal that does one or both of the following things: makes you, not just think of, but want to take up a sword and do battle and/or invokes images of grand fantasy-type themes, be it Tolkien or mythology. But it's hard to pin down exactly what this means, as there's plenty of power metal that references fantasy themes, but not all of it strikes me as "epic". Blind Guardian for instance has their moments, but generally I wouldn't describe them as epic metal (Nightfall In Middle-Earth would qualify though). It's hard to describe, but I know epic metal when I hear it. I feel it in my chest. Best way to describe it would just be to talk about stuff that does strike me as "epic".


Bathory



The obvious choice. Their Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart, Twilight of the Gods, Blood On the Ice, and Nordland albums are the embodiment of all that is epic. One can't listen to them without fantasizing about sailing the oceans of the frozen North and dying a warrior's death on the blood-strewn field of battle. But there's more to this band than just normal sword and sorcery schtick. Quorthon loved his country (Sweden) and it's heathen past and brings this love across by invoking the atmosphere of a Scandinavian epic. Even the imitators don't sound like Bathory. They can't.




Just a perfect song. The repetitive, crushing guitars (Viking metal-era Bathory's trademark) just make you feel like you're on a Viking longship bidding goodbye to the beautiful coastline of Sweden on your way out to sea, the prow of the boat rising on the crest of the waves before crashing down with a spray of brine. I can't listen to this song without a feeling of pride welling up in my chest, which is weird since I'm Irish as a potato.




I don't think I can think of a Bathory song that so perfectly expresses the love that Quorthon felt for his homeland. It's reverential, but also wistful and sad. He looks to the past with hope, but sees the present and feels anger at what has become of "this home of once brave". I imagine he's speaking specifically of how the Christian church destroyed the ancient Scandinavian culture and erased as much as it possibly could of its history and teachings. But whatever your feelings on Christianity, this is a beautiful song. I don't know why, but "Nordland" makes my chest swell, while this song makes my skin tingle. Not sure why the difference.




The first first song on Bathory's first "Viking metal" album, Blood Fire Death, this song is the perfect introduction to this period of Quorthon's career. The keening wind, the cries and hoof beats of the horses, and the ever-building choral singing of the musicless intro, "Oden's Ride of Nordland", provide the perfect prelude to the raw embodiment of war that is "A Fine Day to Die". When I mentioned a song making me want to take up a sword? That's this song.


*Side note: When I typed the thread title, I accidentally capitalized the "u" in "Fucking" and went back to fix it. I knew it was going to get censored, so it didn't matter one way or the other, but I had to do it anyway.
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Old 06-04-2014, 03:33 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Sweden's coastline is... unimpressive.
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Bathory is always a favorite of mine. Quorthon is a genius in my opinion. I understand what you mean by epic metal being a bit hard to pin point in terms of what exactly makes it epic. I think bands like Summoning while okay for occasional listen over do it and just come across as a bit cheesy. And generally, that's the same problem I run into with a lot of power metal, too. While there's no doubt its 'epic' it comes across as a bit over done and cheesy. Then again, perhaps that makes no sense coming from me considering I love epic doom metal. Anyway, I'm rambling.
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Old 06-04-2014, 10:48 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Old 06-05-2014, 11:14 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cicatrice View Post
Bathory is always a favorite of mine. Quorthon is a genius in my opinion. I understand what you mean by epic metal being a bit hard to pin point in terms of what exactly makes it epic. I think bands like Summoning while okay for occasional listen over do it and just come across as a bit cheesy. And generally, that's the same problem I run into with a lot of power metal, too. While there's no doubt its 'epic' it comes across as a bit over done and cheesy. Then again, perhaps that makes no sense coming from me considering I love epic doom metal. Anyway, I'm rambling.
I will repudiate your claims with this post...


Manowar



Yeah... I'm sure there are many out there who see Manowar as nothing else but an embarrassment to metalheads everywhere, but **** you. Manowar rules, and they can be as epic as Sigurd's toilet paper, and about as classy. If Bathory is the Tolkien of epic metal (intelligent and well written), then Manowar is Conan (big beefy arms). Now don't get me wrong, not all Manowar qualifies as epic metal. "All Men Play On Ten" is not epic metal. It's stupid. I love it. But it's stupid. Here's some of the others...





This and "Dark Avenger" were the odd men out on their first album. Most of Battle Hymns wasn't much more than Judas Priest worship, but these two songs hinted at a "grander" vision, a vision that they would explore more with the next album, Into Glory Ride. It's true for Bathory as well, but I think the reason I don't find a lot of power metal to be particularly epic is the speed. Epicness (not a word) requires you to use your imagination, and too many notes can fill in all the spaces your mind is supposed to go, while a slower tempo allows your mind to fill in the blanks. This song is certainly slow and heavy, and with lyrics imploring you to "Kill! Kill!" the grinding riff/drum combination invokes a martial atmosphere of armies on the march that speaks to an ancient, primal warrior instinct (I'm wearing sandals). Cheesy as **** this song may be, but there's a majesty there too if you can quit taking yourself so seriously long enough to hear it.




Holy **** nuggets this song is badass. If Manowar are good at one thing, it's making you want to do things, whether that be bang your head, or draw your sword. From the word "Go!" this song is a shot of pure adrenaline, with Eric Adams' vocals sweeping you up with his charisma and passion in order to make you a soldier of metal (that's as cheesy as it sounds, but Manowar couldn't give less of a ****). Whenever I listen to this song there is a blade in my hand so almost-real that I can almost decapitate the nearest poseur. It's epic in the most brainless way possible, but if Helm's Deep had a theme this would be it.




I don't think it's possible for this band to not sound cheesy, yet they can still summon honest-to-god majesty sometimes. Not bowing in the face of adversity isn't exactly the most original of themes, but Manowar manage to make it into a soaring epic that demands nothing less than total commitment to... well, whatever. Metal probably.




Manowar's second album is one of the most epic things I've ever heard. After the first song the whole thing is pretty much straight epic metal. Any one of those songs could go here, but I figured I'd mention this one. It's probably the only metal anthem that I'd describe as "epic" (most Manowar songs are about metal to some extent, but this one is just more explicit) and only Manowar would have the lack of common sense to even try, let alone accomplish such a task. The slow, martial beat that could be the backing track to Conan the Barbarian killing a dragon while getting a blow job is instead calling the hordes of metal to battle. Glorious.

Just don't watch the music video. It is not epic.




A true Manowar battle song doesn't just call the metal faithful to arms, it invokes the moment of victory, when your blade is about to fall upon the neck of your enemy (be he poseur, orc, or your manager at Burger King). It is at once both promise and fulfillment, since victory is of course assured. "Hail and Kill" is perfect at this. At this very moment I can almost see my old manager fleeing before the hooves of my war steed as I bring my great war hammer down upon his douchebag head.
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Old 06-05-2014, 06:06 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Don't get me wrong from time to time I love that cheese factor, but I can't handle it all the time. As for ManOwar I used to love them back in the day, but I've kinda gotten away from them. Fun for the occasional listen, but not something I listen to a lot. Not knocking this overly cheesy stuff or people who are fans of it, btw. Simply saying I can't listen to much of it.
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Old 06-06-2014, 12:53 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Iron Maiden




Iron Maiden aren't a band I generally think of as epic. They have their moments of almost-but-not-quite, like "Invaders" or "The Trooper", but I see them more as kissing cousins of epic metal. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is the only song I can think of off the top of my head that really qualifies. The long length, the engrossing story, the musical change-ups, and possibly most important, the spoken word interludes with actual quotes from the original poem all make this true blue epic metal of epictastic proportions.


Saxon





Saxon have never even gotten to first base with epic metal. They're a working class biker metal band to the bone. So "Crusader" is really an anomaly in their catalog. I suppose it's the British history aspect, as Saxon are pretty open about their love of country. It makes it slightly embarrassing as a result, since this is not what I'd consider to be... politically correct. It glorifies the Crusaders in a way that is totally one-sided, but it's more in a way that pays homage to their ancestors rather than openly demonizing Muslims. Either way, it's epic as ****. Too bad the rest of the album sucked.


Black Sabbath





This isn't an epic metal song. I'm just including it to show just far back this aesthetic goes in metal. From the first song on the first album of the first metal band this kind of larger-than-life storytelling element has been a part of this music. It just seems to go hand in hand with the escapist, outsider nature of metal. And whether it's sword and sorcery or religion it adds up to similar results. Fantasy and religion both have mythology as a common ancestor after all.
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Last edited by The Batlord; 06-06-2014 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 06-06-2014, 08:49 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I like this one

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Old 06-07-2014, 11:06 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Immortal


I only actually started listening to this band recently, as in like a week ago, but already I can't live without them. Any extreme metal that touches on epicness does so generally in an avant garde kinda way, like Drudkh or Borknagar (another new discovery), but Immortal do so in a direct, Iron Maiden kind of way. And so my simple headbanger's heart loves them like a fat kid loves cake topped with only the most grim and frostbitten icing.




First Immortal song I ever heard and for years the only one. No idea why, as it's long been a favorite of mine. Not quite as lengthy and prog-tinged as At the Heart of Winter, which was the beginning of their more trad-metal influenced style, this song is straight forward and bitchin' to the max. It's break neck, Maiden-ish galloping metal from the off, providing a perfect theme to an epic battle. And with the cold, black metal(ish) guitar work it's perfectly obvious that this battle involves Vikings. And if it couldn't get any more epic, about halfway through the song Abbath cries "Who battled strong to win these wars/One by one... we took your lives!" and then is unleashed one of the most badass song changes I've ever heard. The riffs surge, and the blast beats are replaced with a double bass assault that feels like the thunderous hoofs of war horses as if Immortal's undead cavalry have begun their charge and are taking the heads of all those foolish enough to stand in their way. ****, this song rules!

One thing I love about Immortal is that even though they introduced traditional metal and a ****load of melody into their sound they never forgot they were an extreme metal band, and what that means is that you get Iron Maiden with blast beats. It's like they said, "Unholy dudes, I want to headbang in a more traditional manner, but I don't want to be a pussy about it." And it was good.




The first song from the first album from this, their epic period, sets the tone. Tremolo black metal riffing that evokes the frigid winds of the North cross paths with trad metal riffs that flow with energy and all are linked with blast beats. I think just about any Immortal song would be perfect for a medieval battle honestly. It's a simple thing they're going for, but it's the execution that is where the genius is. On this album they were much more complex than the previous song. The constant song tempo changes make you feel like you're being taken on a journey through the bleak Scandinavian wilderness, and by the end you're ready to take another one. Luckily there are six more journeys after this.
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Old 06-09-2014, 09:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cicatrice View Post
Bathory is always a favorite of mine. Quorthon is a genius in my opinion...
I have not always agreed with you on several things, but I agree with you here. Quorthon wasn't just a genius, he was a divine being living among mere mortals.
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