Game of Thrones is back this week, and we’re celebrating its return by raising our pitchers of mead and embarking on a week-long feast of all things fantastic (which we mean, of course, in the traditional/geeky sense of “related to the fantasy genre”). Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper party without some music for the bards to play, so we’re commencing the week with a bumper selection of songs and albums inspired by classic fantasy stories. Join us as we put on our robe and wizard hat and set out on an epic quest to create the ultimate sword-and-sorcery playlist!
Led Zeppelin — “Ramble On”
The classic, for all that J.R.R. Tolkien himself apparently hated it. Plant’s lyric makes several references the events of The Lord of the Rings, although he adapted them from a quest to destroy the One Ring to the rather more rock ‘n’ roll quest to get laid: “On the darkest steps of Mordor, I met a girl so fair/ But Gollum and the Evil One crept up and slipped away with her.” Aw, Robert. We’re sure that there were plenty more girls where she came from.
Blind Guardian, generally
Also on the Tolkien front, but taking the whole idea way, way further than Led Zep ever did — we’re talking a band who recorded an entire album based around The Silmarillion here. The album in question is 1998’s Nightfall in Middle-Earth, and while it’s definitely the band’s most gloriously geeky moment (and possibly the most gloriously geeky in recorded history), their entire back catalog is strewn with Tolkien-inspired music.
Summoning — “Mirdautas Vras”
And if Bind Guardian doesn’t do the trick… well, if your fantasy-lovin’ friends don’t go for an entire freaking lyric sung in the Black Tongue of Mordor, we don’t know what to tell you.
Final Fantasy — He Poos Clouds
The fact that Owen Pallett’s second album contained eight songs tied to the eight schools of magic in Dungeons and Dragons should be plenty good enough to qualify it for inclusion on this list, even if the album itself wasn’t also so good (and very, very strange, clearly.) As per an interview Pallett did with music blog You Ain’t No Picasso at the time of the album’s release: “Each song is supposed to be about identifying each of the forms of Dungeons and Dragons in our day to day life. It’s meant to be kind of a truth and an untruth, because all the songs are about these schools of magic, but they seem to each deny the existance of magic at the same time… Basically, the whole point of the record is kind of a death record in a way, because it’s like when you as an atheiest, or me as an athiest, are confront your own mortality, which athiests don’t often tend to do, it’s a pretty fucked up thing.”
Blue Öyster Cult — “Black Blade”
Plenty of bands have written songs inspired by fantasy novels, but Blue Öyster Cult took the idea to a whole new level when they enlisted the services of their favorite writer to actually pen a lyric for them. They did so with this track off Cultösaurus Erectus (yes, that’s really the name of the album), getting Michael Moorcock to write a song from the point-of-view of Elric of Melniboné, the iconic albino warrior who’s the (anti-)hero of many of his novels.
Hawkwind — The Chronicle of the Black Sword
Moorcock clearly took to the idea of working with musicians like a dragon to a city full of tasty-looking dwarves, because he revisited the idea a few years later, collaborating with Hawkwind on an entire Elric-inspired album.
The clue’s in the name, really — British neo-power metallers Dragonforce have made an entire career out of combining sword-and-sorcery lyricism with mind-melting guitar solos. (Also, if you can play “Through the Fire and the Flames” on Guitar Hero, we bow down to you and your +5 Axe of Epic Fretboard Destruction.)
Metallica — “The Call of Ktulu”
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn! Metallica were right into Lovecraft circa Ride the Lightning — as well as this epic instrumental, “The Thing That Should Not Be” took a whole lot of inspiration from The Call of Cthulhu, ranting about a great old one in a city beneath the sea and quoting Lovecraft’s line, “That is not dead which can eternal lie/ And with strange aeons even death may die.”
Rush — “Rivendell”
One more Tokien track for good measure — a quiet acoustic song that sounds like it could have walked straight off the soundtrack to Baldur’s Gate or somesuch. You will be entirely unsurprised to see that someone has made a YouTube video mashing up “Rivendell” with footage from The Lord of the Rings. (Also, remarkably, this isn’t even the geekiest thing that Rush ever recorded — that honor goes to the entire 2112 album, which we’ll doubtless discuss if we get around to a sci-fi version of this feature.)
The Sword — “To Take the Black”
Inspired by George R.R. Martin himself. Game over.
In preparation for the return of one of our favorite shows, we’ve declared it Game of Thrones week at Flavorwire. Click here to follow our coverage.