Heavy metal loves fiction: the very blood of the genre is the imagination, and fantastic narratives of horror, fantasy or some other escapism make up many of the classics of the genre. Indeed, many of my fellow metal-heads got into the genre as adolescents simply because it offered more lyrical options than partying, dancing (optionally a metaphor for shagging), being in love/happy/dumped/lonely or whatever other mediocre bullshit the main-stream was throwing in their faces.
Basically, heavy metal as a genre likes to go where no-one has gone before – musically and lyrically, and many of the big names in the genre have done a few SF songs or even albums. Iron Maiden have done stacks of literature-inspired songs and a couple of them reference SF epics: To Tame a Land is Dune, Out of the Silent Planet is – guess what – inspired by the CS Lewis novel with the same name.
Bands such as Voivod, Nocturnus and Hypocrisy have pretty much made whole careers out of SF metal, and all of these have garnered well-deserved accolades. My favourite band, the mighty Arcturus, have been hopping in and out of science fiction lyrically for years, when they’re not making Moomin songs. There is some other pretty good SF-themed metal out there though, of which you might not have heard. I’m going to waffle on for a bit about some under-rated or little-known SF-inspired metal bands so if that’s not your bag, you can pretty much quit reading this post now.
Cultellarii are a doom metal band from Florida, who derive their name and their robed and masked stage personas from the series of novels called Book Of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Now, I love the BOTNS series: I love it’s depressingly-plausible setting, an exhausted future Earth: I love it’s varied cast of exotic characters; I love it’s cynical, venial and untrustworthy narrator Severian. In short, I can find a lot to enjoy in BOTNS, and it’s clear from songs like An Age of Long Shadows and The Revolutionary that Cultelarii feel exactly the way I do about this genre classic. Cultellarii aren’t completely obsessed, though, and they’ve tackled other literary subjects such as H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountain of Madness (required reading for metalheads, anyway).
Cultellarii have named themselves after knife-wielding cannibalistic assassins from the less salubrious parts of Urth, and perform in masks and robes that suit the persona of shadowy, secretive cultists. They play female-fronted metal in the doom-laden vein of Jex Thoth or Huntress. Sahg and Orange Goblin aren’t bad reference points, either. I’m sure you can tell why they appeal to me. I love doom metal, I love the Book Of the New Sun, and I love bands who dress up in bizarre costumes or corpse paint when they perform.
The world’s first Star Wars themed metal band have a awesome logo.
Sooner or later, someone was going to make some Star Wars metal, other than just covering the Imperial March. And what better name for a symphonic black metal band than that of an isolated & perpetually-frozen world?
Hoth have done 2 albums as of now, Infinite Darkness – a homage to the various space monsters of the Star Wars universe and Oathbreaker – a concept album about everyone’s favourite Sith lord, Darth Vader. Of the two albums, Infinite Darkness is a little bit more death metal, with stompy thrashy bits that’d probably be good to mosh to, if I weren’t too old for that bollocks nowadays. Some of the songs therein, particularly The Frozen Wastes of Hoth, remind me pleasantly of Immortal’s guitar work, but with flowery keyboard melodies that’ll probably disgust the kvlt and tr00. Suits me fine.
Oathbreaker is a lot more technical and contains some deliciously folky and power-metally guitar work between the ragged shrieking and early-period Dimmu Borgir-esque choruses.
Rapheumet’s Well are a symphonic death metal band, whose lyrics focus on an elaborate fantasy tale – it’s basically a science-fictionalized version of Sumerian mythology. In their own words “Our album “Dimensions” summarizes the complex saga of the Atai (ancient architects) who aid in the propagation of sentient life throughout the multi-verse. From the birth of organic matter to great wars that tear the fabric of space/time, the story of our music serves to immerse you into a world of oddities.” They have the story behind their first album Dimensions at their website, illustrated with images like the one below:
Of course this high-falutin’ (pretentious?) epic would be of little value to create a band around if the music underlying it wasn’t good. Thankfully, Rapheumet’s well can deliver: Dimensions has ten tracks of solidly-put-together death metal with synth-choral and symphonic interludes that serve to throw the brutal bits into sharp relief. There’s some really nice percussion work on a lot of these tracks, particularly At The Mantle of The Gods, and Netherworld Exile. The Stand-Out track Lair of Eishtar features some cool clean vocals as well.
Overall, this album sits nicely aside symphonic metal favourites such as the work as Summoning (although no-one does this genre as well as Summoning, of course!), The Vision Bleak and The Kovenant’s Nexus Polaris. Rapheumet’s Well are a fairly new band, and I think it’ll be well worth following them to see where they go next.
Some songs by Rapheumet’s Well are streamable at their soundcloud page.