The Power Metalhead & The Sea

October 4, 2011 in Thematic Playlist by Arno Callens

Whether it’s vikings in longboats, pirates on a quest for gold, or drunken sailors with which no one knows what needs to be done; the sea has inspired many a power metal band to set out on a voyage under the scalding hot sun or the countless stars of an ocean night. And even though some of us are sick of the Alestorms and Swashbuckles of this world, let’s not forget their rum-induced swagger goes back to the mighty Running Wild, kings of buccaneer metal. Plus, the salty waters are not only sailed upon by perpetually inebriated Scotsmen, there is a treasure trove of power, progressive, symphonic  and folk metal out there, fascinated with the same themes of freedom, endlessness, solitude, bravery and getting royally pissed. Even if only for one song. We, the good people of Black Wind Metal, offer to be your captain through these perilous pools and guide you on a mystifying journey from shore to shore in ten shimmering songs. Open up a bottle of your preferred alcoholic beverage and above all: hold on to the mast, mateys!

DISCLAIMER: To give other bands a chance, I didn’t include any Running Wild-songs, because there’s just too many great ones. And if you have any suggestions for more aquatic anthems, please let us know!

1. Stormwarrior – Heading Northe (Heading Northe)

The Journey: Northe, of course! To the land of the Norseman, where the northern winds will welcome back the sons of the Northe! Also: other northern things!

The Beauty: With the energy and power Stormwarrior puts in this song, you can call up a mighty storm to shatter a fleet of Viking ships, but I guess that would be defeating the purpose. Forever concerned with the lore of the Norsemen, it is no wonder Stormwarrior once put themselves on a longboat and set sail to the shores of the countries they’re not even from.

2. Falconer – Northwind (Northwind)

The Journey: Not much of a seafarer this one, as he can’t wait to get to the shore. Just like Stormwarrior’s, it’s a song about coming home to the North.

The Beauty: Mathias Blad is basically God, and his soft voice is already sending shivers up your spine during the first moments of his strong comeback album. A perfect mixture of power and folk, this is an unforgettable song and a beautiful opener to a fantastic record. I wonder why anyone would be hungry for dry land on a journey like this.

2. Keldian – Vinland (Journey Of Souls)

The Journey: As the title suggests, Keldian’s rare earthly song tells the tale of Norsemen sailing for what is now known as North America.

The Beauty: Even though Keldian is usually concerned with adventures in outer space, this is no strange territory for them. Many songs on their second album “Journey Of Souls” deal with settlers travelling to a new colony, be it the Northern Star (“Lords Of Polaris”), one of Saturn’s moons (“Hyperion”) or the limits of the galaxy in general (“The Last Frontier”). “Vinland” has a very romantic intro, but its speedy verses and climactic chorus are drenched in the spirit of adventure. As if we still needed to be convinced of this band’s talent for varied and atmospheric power metal, they even added a merry folk-inspired bridge to the proceedings.

4. Thaurorod – Warrior’s Heart (Upon Haunted Battlefields)

The Journey: A sad story about a lonesome warrior sailing from coast to coast to prove himself in countless battles. But wherever he goes, he is alone, carrying an unspoken burden with him.

The Beauty: A new player in the field of progressive symphonic power metal, Thaururod made a splash with their debut “Upon Haunted Battlefields”, of which this is the opening track. It perfectly sets the mood for an album of epic proportions, combining complex rhythmic structures with haunting melodies. It’s not a big stretch of the imagination to imagine yourself as the warrior, leaving all behind in search for more glory and honor, even though inside he remains empty and cold.

5. Orden Ogan – We Are Pirates (Easton Hope)

The Journey: Somewhere between the Caribbean, Tortuga and Singapore, probably. But who knows, half the crew was pissed on rum, anyway.

The Beauty: Not only does this song follow the basic structure of Running Wild’s “Riding The Storm”, original member of the German pirate legends Majk Moti provides the guitar solo. Not plagiarism, but homage (see also their cover of “The Battle Of Waterloo”), Orden Ogan apply their wonderful combination of progressive, power and folk metal to the pirate genre, and the result is an instantly classic track, meant to be played and shouted along to live.

6. Wuthering Heights – The Mad Sailor (Salt)

The Journey: Straight to Davy Jones’ locker it seems, although we have to trust the word of an insane an intoxicated narrator.

The Beauty: Speaking of bands who combine prog, power and folk; Wuthering Heights is another winner. With some fantastic lyrics courtesy of mastermind Erik Ravn (“Abra macabra, baby!”) this is a pure old-fashioned sea shanty set to distorted guitars. The chorus is impossible to forget once you’ve heard it, and I bet it’s even better when you’ve drained twelve bottles of rum. Excuse me while I go try that out!

7. Dark Moor – Canción Del Pirata (Ancestral Romance)

The Journey: Probably not too far away from Orden Ogan’s, but it’s all in Spanish and I’ve only been studying that for three days, OK?

The Beauty: Dark Moor’s first song in their native tongue, and it’s probably more comprehensible than half their lyrics in gibberish-English. The refrain roughly translates as “My ship is my treasure, freedom is my god. My law is the fury of the wind, my only fatherland is the sea.” You know, all that Jack Sparrow-stuff. It’s probably one of Dark Moor’s strongest songs to date, vibrant, kinetic and with immortal melodies in abundance.

8. Serenity – New Horizons (Death & Legacy)

The Journey: What better way to follow up a Spanish pirate tune than with a song about someone who was actually seen as a pirate in the eyes of the Spanish? Francis Drake wasn’t only the second person to sail successfully around the world, he was also an infamous English maritime strategist and vice admiral during the defeat of the Spanish armada in the 16th century. It earned him the nickname “El Draque” or “Franciscus Draco”, which means “Francis the Dragon”. How power metal is this guy?

The Beauty: That’s a lot of history, but only one of the many fascinating stories Serenity tells on their third album, “Death & Legacy”. I described the feeling of this song in my review of that album: “From the opening ‘Set Sail To…’ segueing into ‘New Horizons’, we’re catapulted onto the bow of a 16th century explorer’s ship, cruising the high seas to the blank edges of the map.” Yeah, I just quoted myself, but in my defense: I still feel the same way. Plus there is no beating a line like “…and the fire of the cannons lights the way.”

9. Solar Fragment – Come Hell Or High Water (In Our Hands)

The Journey: A mix between “Warrior’s Heart” and “We Are Pirates!”, this seems to be about scarred individuals on a quest to maim and murder, because something must’ve pissed them off once.

The Beauty: Again there is prog, power and folk aplenty here. Solar Fragment adds a touch of aggression though, and they make slaughter and rape sound positively giddy in that firecracker chorus. Best not sing along to this too loudly in public, people might give you strange looks. The song starts out with some nice acoustics, but becomes a ball of glorious fury from a relatively unknown band that should be up there with the greats. It’s probably all that stuff about rape that holds them back.

10. Myrath – Braving The Seas (Tales Of The Sands)

The Journey: The path of a pirate sire, it would seem, with scuttling of towns and ships included. Wooden leg sold separately.

The Beauty: I always associate pirates with skull and crossbones, rum, eye-patches, Johnny Depp, and trinkets of gold, but never quite with anything geographically south of the New World or Europe. Yet here is a song from a Tunisian progressive metal band about pirates navigating the waves and such. The band’s trademark Middle-Eastern influences add an unheard-of scope and intensity to the lyrical material, making this a unique entry in this list and proving that there are still different approaches to the central theme of it.