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JRR Tolkien - A Metal-pioneer?


No other author has had such a big influence onto a complete genre of music like the Fantasy-author: J R R Tolkien, creator of such masterpieces like "Silmarillion" and of course "The Lord Of The Rings".

The affinity of many Metal-musicians and -fans towards the Middle Age and Fantasy is well known, but what is the reason for this remarkable impact? Well, of course it is not pure coincidence that it is Tolkien, who is this source for inspiration for so many bands and artists, with "The Lord Of The Rings" being the very first Fantasy-epos that has reached a place in world-literature, the majority of this genre usually looked down at as mere fairy-tale-stories.

So what was/is it that makes Tolkien's works stand out that much above the legions of roughly comparable books and creations? First of all the sheer incredible depth. Tolkien not "only" created his own world with all its races (which in many cases were genre-defining, taking in various myths as well: dwarves, elves etc.), but also gave his "Middle-Earth" a complete creation, a amazingly detailed history of all races and cultures that have their own scripts, languages and even grammar, containing everything that a "real" culture has as well.

But back to Metal.

Countless bands and artists have generously drawn inspiration from Tolkien, be it for bandnames, pseudonyms, song-lyrics or whole concepts, here as an adaption, there as a direct reference. Within that there are no limitations as to what the name originally had been assigned to, persons, places or symbols, where it is remarkable that the darker, more sinister names seem to possess a bigger attraction than others...

There also are parallels in the styles of the bands that use Tolkien, where you still have to divide it into band-names and concepts. Where concepts are concerned, there again are two different points. Sometimes bands devote one song to the works, like LEFAY's "To Isengard" and "Lord Of The Rings" or the German BLIND GUARDIAN, who had at first "Lord Of The Rings", then "The Bard's Song" and "Somewhere Far Beyond" off the album of the same name. Also Norwegian TRISTANIA titled on of the songs off their "Beyond The Veil"-album Tolkien-esque "Simbelmynė". But due to the little time, the topic, of course, is only touched lightly.

Concept-albums about "The Lord Of The Rings" are less common, though, among others Germany's STORMWITCH ("War Of The Wizards", with changed names) and BLIND GUARDIAN ("Nightfall In Middle-Earth") and Austria's RIVENDELL ("The Ancient Glory") can be named as examples here, while Russia's RAKOTH devoted their debut "planeshift" to the other works of Tolkien.

An absolutely exceptional position where Tolkien and Metal are concerned is taken in by the Austrian two-man-band SUMMONING, which bases its complete concept as a band onto "The Lord Of The Rings". Album-titles like "Lugburz", "Minas Morgul" or "Dol Guldur" showcase this as well. But on those they do not tell a whole story over the complete album, but pick various parts of the complete work to transfer them into their brand of Metal.

While looking at the pseudonyms, you have to realise that apparently in the Black Metal-genre Tolkien is a mandatory lecture for musicians. Persons' names just like places are taken up here, but mainly, like mentioned above, the darker, the more sinister, the more evil ones.

Now here a list of bands and artists, who have lent Tolkien's creations for their own purposes, just to show the influence. Of course this list does in no case claim to be complete...

Rivendell, Arathorn, Minas Tirith, Minas Morgul, Isengard (twice), Gandalf (also twice), Moria, Count Grishnack, Lugburz, Ancalagon, Marillion (short for Silmarillion), Morgoth, Rhūn, Amon Amarth, Gorgoroth, Fangorn, Lothlorien, Mordor, Ephel Duath, Morannon, Dagorlad, Elbereth, Morgul, Nazgul, Shagrath, Shadow Host, Cirith Ungol, Cirith Gorgor, Evereve, Khazad-dūm, Nargothrond...

So without a doubt Tolkien has had a bigger influence onto the complete genre of Heavy Metal than any other author before, but still the question "Why?" remains unanswered...

Alexander Melzer

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