Fantasy has always been a furrow well ploughed by metal bands, providing a rich vein of stories as bombastic, epic and glory-seeking as the genre itself. With the sixth series of the biggest TV epic ever produced, ‘Game Of Thrones’, about to launch itself onto our screens, and the seventh season about to start filming literally around the corner from his front door, what better time to prise our Ireland editor off his place on the North Wall, shake off his battle dust and pick ten of his favourite fantasy-inspired metal anthems for our latest playlist?
Game Of Thrones & More – Heavy metal songs inspired by Fantasy – PlanetMosh Playlist
Some songs are not on Spotify so we have included a Youtube link for those.
Manowar – Defender
Any play list of metal songs inspired by fantasy really has to feature Manowar at some stage, doesn’t it? After all, there are many who would argue that the band live in their own little fantasy world anyway! Nearly every Manowar songs features swords and battles to some degree. Their 1987 album ‘Fighting The World’ made history, as it was the first metal release to be recorded and mixed entirely digitally. Released as a slow speed 12” single, ‘Defender’ featured a spoken word performance from the late Orson Welles: this was actually taken from the 1982 demo of the song, recorded during the sessions for Manowar’s ‘Battle Hymns’ debut, on which Welles also narrated the track ‘Dark Avenger’, as the actor died two years before ‘Defender’ finally saw the light of day. ‘Defender’ was later re-recorded for the ‘Battle Hymns MMXI’ project, with Sir Christopher Lee taking over the narration.
Mastodon – White Walker (not on Spotify)
It’s well known that Brann Dailor, Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds are massive fans of ‘Game Of Thrones’ -and it’s an admiration that is reciprocated, as producer Dan Weiss is also a Mastodon fan, and personally invited the band to appear a Wildlings. The band promptly arranged their tour dates to allow them to perform in Belfast (where the majority of the series is filmed) and simultaneously take up the offer. Appropriately, the guys met a suitably gruesome end and then were brought back to life by the White Walkers to whom this track, from the ‘Catch The Throne Vol II’ mixtape is dedicated. Listen On YouTube
Horslips – Dearg Doom
Ok, it’s not quite metal, and it’s not quite fantasy, but it has a heavy-as-fuck kick-ass riff. Taken from the band’s ambitious 1973 concept album ‘The Táin’, which is based on ‘The Cattle Raid Of Cooley’, one of the most infamous of all the early Irish legends, dealing with the war between Ulster and Connacht over a prize bull. Ironically, the two provinces are still fighting, though these days it’s over bragging rights on the rugby pitch!
Grand Magus – Steel Versus Steel
Like ‘Lord Of The Rings’, British fantasy author Michael Moorcock’s character Elric of Melniboné has featured in literally hundreds of metal songs, with acts such as Diamond Head, Blue Oyster Cult and Hawkwind not only being inspired by the creation but often collaborating with the writer himself. Elric also has an indirect connection to ‘Game Of Thrones’ as, when King Joffrey Baratheon asks the what he should name a new sword, with which he is presented at his wedding feast, someone in the crowd shouts out “Stormbringer” (which, of course, was the name of Elric’s sword, for those who have not read these magnificent books).
Anthrax – Soror Irrumator (not on Spotify)
Another massive ‘Game Of Thrones’ fan is one Scott Ian, who went awol before one of the band’s Belfast shows a few years ago, when he wandered off to try and find the studio where the series is filmed. When they returned to the city two years later, the entire band was given a guided tour of the set. In fact, they originally intended to record the drum tracks with the Iron Throne as a backdrop but the logistics didn’t quite work out… however, keep a very careful eye on the new series and you might just catch a glimpse of a certain guitarist… Listen on YouTube
Cruachan – Beren And Lúthien
Although Cruachan’s lyrical influences very much draw on Celtic mythology, they’ve also had a long standing love of Tolkien; in fact, guitarist Keith Fay originally played in a black metal band called Minas Tirith before switching tack to folk metal reflecting his Irish heritage. Tolkien retold the story of the mortal Beren and the elf-maid Lúthien several times, most notably in ‘The Book of Lost Tales’ and later in ‘The Silmarillion’, and its central theme of an ultimately doomed love between a man and an immortal was reprised in ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ itself. The song is taken from Cruachan’s 2014 ‘Blood For The Blood God’ album.
Uriah Heep – Traveller In Time
For the majority of the 1970s, the Heep were synonymous with the synthesis of heavy metal music and fantasy themes. There is perhaps no finer example of this moulding of genres than their seminal 1972 album ‘Demons & Wizards’. It was their first album to break into the UK Top 20 (just about) and also spawned the anthemic and iconic ‘Easy Livin’ – which, somewhat ironically, never even bothered the UK charts on its single release.
Blind Guardian – Twilight Of The Gods
The German power metallers have always used the works of Tolkien, George RR Martin, Stephen King and others as a launch pad for their own musical stories and to inspire the creation of their own mythical worlds. The band’s latest album, ‘Beyond The Red Mirror’, is no exception, as it is an epic concept work, continuing the story of ‘Imaginations From The Other Side’. To be fair, we could have easily assembled a playlist using solely Blind Guardian songs but for this feature we went with ‘Twilight Of The Gods’.
Rhapsody Of Fire – Steelgods Of The Last Apocalypse
When it comes to combining fantasy and metal, you can’t really get much more epic than Rhapsody Of Fire’s five album Emerald Sword Saga, released over the course of six years between 1997 and 2002 (when the band were, of course, still known by their original name of Rhapsody). But, then, Luca Trulli always has believed in doing things on a grand (and grandiose scale). We really could have picked any song from this magnus opus, which tells the tale of the Ice Warrior and his quest from the Emerald Sword, with which he can defeat the evil Dark Lord Akron, but we’ve plumped for this belter from the denouement piece, ‘Power Of The Dragonflame’.
Cirith Ungol – Cirith Ungol
Although they came to prominence in the 1980s, this Tolkien-inspired crew had been hanging about in the extremely un-Middle Earth-like environs of California since 1972. Although they took their name from LOTR’s treacherous ‘Pass Of The Spiders’, they never really addressed the books in their material, preferring instead to stick to more straightforward sword and sorcery themes. And to confuse matters even further, the artwork for all of their four albums (they split in 1992) was taken from American paperback editions of the abovementioned Elric novels. This, one of the few direct references to the origin of their name, is take from 1984’s ‘King Of The Dead’ album.