Appendix M

My Appendix M

The “appendix N” of the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide has become a bit of a shibboleth for the gamers and grognards of the “Old school” revival (a movement I am watching with delight from the sidelines).  To some extent I think they fetishize Gygax’s reading list, although the Old Schoolers mostly admit to over-thinking things.  But I do think it is very worthwhile to examine the list, if not to make sure you’re doing D&D “right,” then at least to discover some great stuff that might otherwise be buried by the mountains of Tolkien rip-offs and throwaway series from the last couple of decades (beginning in my opinion with Dragonlance and including almost everything that is published as a trilogy+).

DestroyYouAlot (at the blog Mighty thews & Non-Euclidean Geometry) has already given a good overview of the influence of D&D and fantasy on heavy and “extreme” metal so I won’t talk about the bands he’s covered, for the most part. (Oddly, he doesn’t quite get the lyrics to The Wizard right…)

Rather, I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the music that I associate with D&D, and have some suggestions for inspirational listening.

Black Sabbath

I can’t say for certain when I discovered Black Sabbath, although I’m fairly sure it was a summer in 1980 or 1981 when my brother got their second album, Paranoid, as a birthday present from my sister.  We’d both noticed and really liked the song “Iron man,” which was on the radio a bit on the rock stations our sister listened to.  The cover certainly evokes D&D with a trippy looking warrior.  (The album was going to be titled ‘War pigs,’ after another song on the album, but the record company didn’t want to invite controversy with such an anti-war statement!)  The songs on this album tend more toward science fiction (Planet caravan, Iron man) and the apocalyptic (Electric funeral, War pigs) rather than straight fantasy, but their first album in particular had strong elements of fantasy, especially the song “The wizard” (which, depending on who is asked, is about Gandalf the Grey or about a drug dealer).  Here is the art for the “Paranoid” single, which would have been right at home in the original D&D booklets:

Led Zeppelin

I barely listen to them anymore, but they do deserve props for songs explicitly mentioning Middle Earth (Ramble on, The battle of Evermore, Misty Mountain hop) and of course certain segments of their concert film “The song remains the same” which explicitly link their music with fantasy tropes.

Uriah Heep

I had their “Best of” album on cassette and wore it out listening to The Wizard, The Lady in Black, and so on.  More recently I’ve been able to hear more of their output, and it generally confirms their fantasy cred.

Jethro Tull

I only recently got a chance to hear the “Broadsword & the beast” album, although I’d seen it once on one of my many forays into record stores as a child and would have bought it on the strength of the cover alone, but I usually had no money.  I don’t think a lot of their work is explicitly about fantasy themes but their heavy use of folk instruments and quasi-Medieval sound kept them on heavy rotation in my youth.  I know the connection was made by others, too — one of my friends in high school who I played D&D with wondered if their compilation album “M.U.” stood for magic user (nope, Musician’s Union, thanks for playing).  Witch’s promise, Songs from the wood, Broadsword, and many other songs deserve a listen.

Marillion

I’m only really familiar with this bands first several albums, but their compilation of B-sides includes “Grendel,” an epic about Beowoulf’s monster, based more on the John Gardener book than the original but absolutely great, even at 10 minutes or so long.  The band’s name was originally Silmarillion but shortened to avoid lawsuits from Tolkien’s estate.  “Grendel” is the only song of theirs that I think deals with fantasy themes, though.

King Crimson

Some of the older stuff (which I prefer to the later incarnations of the band) dwells on all kinds of esoteric and occult stuff.  In the court of the Crimson King and Red are my favorite albums but Lark’s tongues in aspic, Starless, Lizard, and In the wake of Poseidon are all good too.

3 inches of blood

A new band, and apparently the members do play some D&D; pretty much every song is about killing or being killed by monsters.

Amon Amarth

The most listenable “Viking metal” band IMO, their songs are pretty much all about Norse mythology and Vikings.  Like 3 Inches above, they don’t take themselves too seriously, which is a real plus for metal bands.

Hawkwind

Somehow I missed these guys, despite having heard of them many times and knowing Lemmy of Motorhead got his start in this band.  Their music seems to be ½ hippy psychedelia and ½ metal.  I decided to track down some of their stuff after reading The Elfish Gene (a great autobiography of a D&D nerd).  More sci-fi than fantasy, but pretty good, particularly the early 70s albums with Lemmy.

Mago de Oz

Based on their album art and name, I can tell they are into fantasy stuff, but I don’t understand Spanish so it could be just window dressing.  Their cover of Uriah Heep’s “Lady in black” is really good, although I understand they completely changed the lyrics.

The Sword

These guys play really tight heavy metal, although the singing is not very lucid.  Their songs are mostly about Norse myths, Robert E. Howard’s Hyboria, and Robert Jordan’s novels.  (I’m not familiar with Robert Jordan but get the feeling he is a poor man’s REH).

Whew, that’s enough for now.

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Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 5:21 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. […] de ce soir, explorant les méandres d’un blog JdR récemment découvert je suis tombé sur ce billet consacré aux sources d’inspiration musicales pour le JdR. Malheureusement, le billet en […]

  2. It’s been a long time since I bothered to listen to either, but IIRC Marillion and Hawkwind both seemed to be almost tribute bands to the Gabriel era Genesis and Pink Floyd respectively. 1974 Genesis and earlier, in particular, I recommend for some good fantasy prog rock. Not all of it mind you, but it’s there and well done. Right there with you on Zep of course. I’ll check these others out, thanks for sharing.

    • @Marillion — definitely. Fish, the singer, admitted that he tried to pattern both his voice and his career after Peter Gabriel! Even went solo after the same number of records. The rest of the band may have thought otherwise.
      @Hawkwind — not sure I agree; they went a lot heavier but I suppose they are simillar. I can only take some of their output but the good ones are very good.
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I think you could add Blind Guardian to that list as well.

    Also, what no Metallica? 🙂

    • I never associated Metallica with DnD.
      Blind Guardian certainly fits the RPG-based criteria (didn’t they base a whole album on a DnD campaign?) but I don’t really care for their sound.

  4. Hawkwind collaborated with Michael Moorcock, who was a quasi-member of the band and wrote lyrics for a time, and contributed spoken word space-opera chunks on their epic “Space Ritual”. To me they are only related to Pink Floyd’s early Syd Barrett-era space rock sound, with heavier (and less imaginative) riffs, and none of the melodies. Never quite seemed to be as awesome as I had hoped they would be. The live stuff is okay, but the studio stuff is remarkably wooden.

    • Sonic Attack is frikking hilarious, intentionally so or not (I think Moorcock looked down on the band a little). My favorite stuff of theirs is the early work with Lemmy (The watcher, Lost Johnny, Silver machine, and of course Motorhead, with the some of the rockingest fiddles ever).


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