Gryla & the Yule Lads

The yule lads

Now that the hipsters have ruined Krampus for everyone (“About 20,800,000 results” in Google), I predict that the fad for Xmas 2016 will be all Gryla and her brood of Yule Lads: Sheep-Cote Clod, Gully Gawk, Stubby, Spoon Licker, Pot Scraper, Bowl Licker, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler, Sausage Swiper, Window Peeper, Door Sniffer, Meat Hook, & Candle Beggar. Gryla is a child-eating ogress and the Yule Lads, her sons, each come on a different night (December 12-24) to cause mischief. The Lads seem pretty innocuous for trolls, but since most of them are stealing food in the winter in Scandinavia, when freezing and starvation would be very real dangers, their antics were probably pretty scary back in the day.

Anyway you have eleven days to prepare for their onslaught.

Gryla catching lunch

Dimmu Borgir, one hopes, is working yuletide concept album on them. (Dimmuborgir is supposedly the home of Gryla and her family.)

Published in: on December 2, 2016 at 8:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Gratuitous violins?

Check this out — Jelonek.  Great song despite the reference to vampires in the title.

Maybe it’s not as ass-kicking as some of the viking metal, but it is damn good.  Bonus: prog metal without crummy singing.  (If you can’t belt like Bruce Dickinson or do a death metal growl, I’d pretty much rather have no singing in my metal.  I should like stuff like Rhapsody of Fire but I can’t get past the operatic vocals.)

One of the cool things about working at a library is working with librarians.  A music librarian sends me the occasional link to stuff like this (also this, Eluvite).  Broadens my horizons.

I still think this (Hawkwind’s “Motorhead”) is probably my favorite use of a violin in metal though.

Published in: on November 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm  Comments (6)  


Black Sabbath (original line up) to record a new album and tour.

Thank you, my sweet lord Satan!

Published in: on November 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Shadowrun/GURPS Cyberpunk soundtrack, circa 1991

When Shadowrun first came out in 1989 or 1990, my gaming group got way into it, at least for a while.  We eventually moved on to using GURPS for almost every setting, but we also flirted with Cyberpunk 2020.  Anyway we were ready for a break from D&D and the fusion of near-future science fiction and punk rock appealed to us.  I used to really dig having appropriate music to the mood for RPGs too, so I made a couple of “mix tapes” for our sessions.  The tracks were a collection of punk rock and “industrial” music, with some heavy metal  — and of course Devo — mixed in.  (In fact my knowledge of industrial music was pretty much restricted Ministry and similar “industrial metal” bands.)

Here’s tape one:

  1. 53rd & 3rd / Ramones
  2. Ace of spades / Motorhead
  3. Judy is a punk / Ramones
  4. Stigmata / Ministry
  5. Blitzkrieg bop / Ramones
  6. Rawhide / Dead Kennedys
  7. Iron fist / Motorhead
  8. Pink pussycat\Mr. DNA / Devo
  9. Motorhead and Somebody put something in my drink / Ramones>
  10. Thieves / Ministry
  11. Chainsaw / Ramones
  12. Emergency / Motorhead
  13. Shortest straw / Metallica
  14. Gimme gimme shock treatment / Ramones
  15. Moral Majority\Hyeractive child\Kepone factory\Dog bite / Dead Kennedys
  16. Test / Ministry
  17. Chemical warfare / DK
  18. White riot / The Clash
  19. Friendly fascism / Consolidated
  20. Let’s lynch the landlord / DK
  21. Clampdown / The Clash
  22. Warthog / Ramones
  23. Orlock,” a song that was the mirror image of another of their songs, so that the chorus had “Yo yo” instead of “Oi oi!”
  24. When? / Bad Religion
  25. Drug me / DK
  26. Stoned / Consolidated
  27. Give you nothing / Bad Religion
  28. Drug raid at 4AM / Lard
  29. Your emotions / DK
  30. You know what you are / Ministry
  31. Kill the poor / DK

I guess you can see I was really into the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys, and Motorhead then.

The second tape was from the following year and was a little more diverse, as I’d discovered “alternative music” and the game Underground, which carried all the cyberpunk themes to their most extreme and humorous conclusions — rather like the novel Snow crash —  :

  1. Unacceptable / Bad Religion
  2. Kill yourself / S.O.D.
  3. Burning inside / Ministry
  4. Give it / Helmet
  5. Bomber / Motorhead
  6. Rambozo the clown / DK
  7. Jerry was a racecar driver / Primus
  8. Bodies / Sex Pistols
  9. Territorial pissings / Nirvana
  10. Mate, spawn, & die / Lard
  11. 502 / Megadeth
  12. Family man / Red Shift <my college roommate’s band>
  13. That’s progress / Jello Biafra & DOA
  14. Unsung / Helmet
  15. Gimme gimme gimme / Black Flag
  16. Jesus built my hotrod / Ministry
  17. Beers, steers, & queers / Revolting Cocks
  18. Negative creep / Nirvana
  19. I’m so bad (baby I don’t care) / Motorhead
  20. God save the queen / Sex Pistols
  21. Tommy the cat / Primus
  22. Positive aspect of negative thinking / Bad Religion
  23. I executioner / M.O.D.
  24. The end of the world / Dag Nasty
  25. TVII / Ministry
  26. Holiday in Cambodia / DK
  27. I’m a boinger / Billy & the Boingers
  28. Trashed / Black Sabbath
  29. California sun\I don’t wanna walk around with you / Ramones

Looking back on both collections, I guess my selection process amounted to: does this song have a pessimistic outlook? Are there mechanical/industrial sound effects in it? Is it just odd?  Is it heavy?  Answering yes to two or more questions must have been enough.

I unearthed these two tapes recently (and many others from my college days) and have been listening to them a lot on my commute.

Published in: on August 29, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (3)  
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Lazy Sunday post: song lyrics II

The Hero (from Amon Amarth’s Twilight of the Thunder God)

The blade I swing
Is black as night
Black as my soulless heart
It bears the burden
Of many lives
But I don’t feel remorse

I lent my sword
To anyone
Willing to pay the price
No regrets for
What I’ve done
A mercenary’s life

But there I was
On battleground
Until I felt the jaws of death
Cut into my flesh
Defending old and weak
But I did not retreat

Now, here I lie
In my own blood
And strangers cry for me
I’m prepared to meet the gods
I wish they’d let me be

I don’t deserve
Their sympathy
I know who I am
My soul is death and misery
I am an evil man

I rest in my blood
Soon I will face the gods
Strangers cry for me
I wish they’d let me be

Show no sympathy
Shed no tears for me
I know who I am
I am an evil man

I know who I am
I am an evil man

Man I like this song. The music is like molten lead being poured out of a ladle, and the words are fairly badass yet also just dorky enough to make you think of a D&D character.  I’m not entirely sure if the protagonist of the song is dying after fighting to protect the old & weak or was killed by a defender of the old & weak.  Probably the former, so I kind of imagine a “Seven Samurai” sort of scenario where a very bad man takes a job helping defend a village and dies heroically but as he dies, rejects the villager’s mourning, for after all he might just as well have been one of the marauders that day.  Hard core.

Published in: on February 27, 2011 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Barely treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality

“May your sword stay wet, like a young girl in her prime”

— Man O War, “Hail & Kill”

“Anoint my phallus with the blood of the fallen”

–Nile, “Ithyphallic”

I had a few more seriously stupid heavy metal lines in mind and intended to make a list but these two deserve to be appreciated on their own. I mean, you could probably just paste in the entire opus of GWAR for similarly silly lines, and yeah, I know these guys don’t take themselves all that seriously. “Hail & Kill” and “Ithyphallic” stand out for me because they are fairly awesome musically IMO but the silly lyrics kind of spoil things.

Feel free to add you favorite slightly retarded metal lyrics to the comments.

Published in: on September 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm  Comments (5)  
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Deadliest Warrior: Ming vs. Musketeer, and God vs. Godzilla, and Sabbath vs. Zeppelin

This was another unusual match-up, because for a change the combatants were actually pretty close chronologically. Unsorted comments:

  • The “Nest of Bees” was cool. Going twice as fast as normal arrows would make them harder to dodge or block, except that they leave those smoke trails which makes them so easy to see.
  • The three-barreled pole gun looks a lot like the an English weapon sometimes called a holy water sprinkler, which was also fitted with spikes to make it an excellent bludgeon. They have some in the tower of London (or had them, I think the collection of weapons is now in a museum in Leeds)*.

(The three gun barrels are in the head, arranged the same way as the Ming pole gun)

  • Again with the cutting over thrusting, although at least the Dao could thrust to some extent. I think they really need to consider how much more reach a thrust has over a cut.  I’d have loved to see some sparring with blunted, rattan, or otherwise safe swords between the fencer and the Wushu swordsman.  The dramatization at the end should have had more sword fighting.

*Regular morningstars** and flails are also sometimes called holy water sprinklers, which is confusing.

**Flails are sometimes called morningstars too, which is also confusing.***

***Flail can of course refer to a weapon made of one or more balls, with or without spikes, on chains and fastened to a haft, or to a small spiked club fastened by a few links of chain to a longer pole.****

****Medieval weapon nomenclature is is just confusing because there were no standards. Gary Gygax’s heroic effort to classify polearms demonstrates this. If I recall correctly he included morningstars among the polearms.  I might just be thinking of a later Dragon Magazine article though.

Since you made it through the footnotes, here are some bonus fights from the Scorpio Diamante letters. (This is all me, I answered these before he got a chance to reply. This dates back almost year before Dio was eaten by a dragon, so some of the analysis is out of date.)
>>Godzilla vs God?
Godzilla. God, if extant, would be too busy to show up for the match and forfeit.

>>Zeus vs Thor?
A little tougher. Z is king of the Greek pantheon, Thor is a major Norse god but not the boss. Both are gods of thunder. Z hurls lightning, T hurls a big hammer that never misses and can kill any giant or troll with a single blow. Thor has two goats pulling his chariot; Zeus has a huge harem of women and boys. But Thor spends much more of his time fighting than Zeus does, and besides being the strongest god also has a belt that doubles his strength making him frigging strong. On the other hand, Norse gods can be killed, while Greek gods are immortal. But we know Thor doesn’t die until Ragnarok. Thor by KO.

>>Led Zeppelin vs Black Sabbath?
Another tough call.
(1) Both bands are handicapped by loss of drummers. Bonham is dead, Bill Ward has heart problems that take him out of the contest.
(2) Sabbath sold their souls for rock & roll; Jimmy Page sold his soul but the terms have not been revealed and we can’t rule out martial powers.
(3) Page’s occult connections are pretty strong but Sabbath’s bassist Geezer Butler was also into black magic for a while, and the large metal crucifixes Sabbath wears may fend off Page’s sorcery, even if they are worn ironically. (4) Tony Iommi of Sabbath plays lead guitar despite missing several finger tips, and still looks pretty mean; Jimmy Page now looks almost exactly like my paternal grandmother.
It would come down to which lineup of Sabbath we are talking about. Ozzy obviously would fight with berserker strength and disregard for injury; Ronnie James Dio is puny (but most likely a wizard or warlock, putting him on even terms with Jimmy Page). So the Ozzy and Dio lineups of Sabbath seem to have a solid edge. I can’t speak fro the later lineups of Sabbath. But in most scenarios I think Sabbath has it.
Also Zeppelin ripped off a bunch of blues musicians, Sabbath ripped off the Devil himself with the “Devils’ interval” or tritone they used in so many songs. Props to Sabbath for that.

(I should disclose that I like Sabbath a lot more than Zeppelin so I’m probably biased but I think my analysis is mostly objective)

Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Landscape with the fall of Icarus

The Triumph of Death post has been popular, as has Mad Meg, so I thought I’d hitch my my wagon to one more awesome Brueghel painting, Landscape with the fall of Icarus.

The myth of Icarus & Daedalus is fairly well known, and like many Greek myths deals with hubris, but of course it’s also a charming Father’s  Day tale.  Daedalus, a Greek inventor, builds wings of feathers and wax and has his son Icarus test them out, warning the lad not too fly too close to the sun, Apollo’s chariot, with the inevitable result.Frederick Leighton’s “Icarus & Daedalus,” and the creepiest illustration of the myth I could find.

I must have first heard of the myth in D’Aulaires’ Greek myths, which I checked out of the library often in grade school, although by far I like their Norse books more (Norse gods and giants and Trolls).

Anyway, when Iron Maiden released their song “Flight of Icarus” (1983) I was already way into Black Sabbath (to the exclusion of almost everything else) but I did catch the video on MTV or USA’s Night flight, and really liked it.  The Iron Maiden song is fairly sparse lyrically but basically reads the myth as a tale of how parents fail their children, or perhaps more broadly how everyone and everything fail everyone.  Good times.  It’s an really boring video but a great song.

Some time after that I’d name several RPG characters after Icarus, more because it seemed like a very metal name than anything else.

So without further ado,

click to embiggen

You’ll notice Icarus is not very prominent in this painting at all.  A small cloud of feathers, a splash, and one leg kicking out of the sea.

W.H. Auden wrote a fairly awesome poem about this painting:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

As did William Carlos Williams:

Landscape with the fall of Icarus

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Well, that’s about all the exegesis Brueghel’s painting probably needs.

Landscape With The Fall of Icarus
by William Carlos Williams
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning
Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The triumph of death

Click to embiggen. This pic is pretty big, and swarming with detail. (more…)

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 10:55 am  Comments (10)  
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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.


Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 5:21 am  Comments (7)  
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