Thursday, April 19, 2007

a whole heep of dungeon rock

I think I have finally discovered the canonical "dungeon rock" band.

Not Zeppelin, not Sabbath, not Tull, not Purple, not Queen, not Rush...

Uriah Heep.

Just look at these song titles:

  • High Priestess
  • Rainbow Demon
  • Lady in Black
  • The Wizard (no, not the same song as on the first Sabbath album)
  • The Magician's Birthday
  • Bird of Prey
  • Gypsy
  • Traveler in Time
  • Poet's Justice
You don't even need to hear these songs to know that they are prime Dungeon Rock: early 70's prog-influenced noodle rock meets early 70's sword-and-sorcery fantasy themes.

If all you've ever heard of the Heep is "Stealin'" or "Easy Livin'", then you haven't heard the musical mirkwood mayhem that these blokes were capable of throwing.

"The Magician's Birthday" is so over the top that you keep telling yourself it has to be a parody, except that there is every indication that it is being played completely straight. Imagine Rush's "Bytor and the Snow Dog" without the lampshade hanging. The vocal arrangements are the sort of thing Freddie Mercury would come up with if he spent more time reading the Monster Manual and less time looking for somebody to love. There's a "wizard's duel" section where the duelists (both voice-acted by vocalist David Byron) clearly state what spells they are casting for the benefit of the audience. And a part that can only be described by saying "And oh how they danced, the little children of Stonehenge". It's perfect.

"Gypsy", apparently the first song from the band's first album, features probably the most relentless, grinding guitar and organ riff ever produced before the era of loops and samples. !!!!Spoiler warning!!!! The lyrics are about falling in love with a gypsy girl, whose father (the leader of the gypsies) then takes you into a shack and beats you to unconsciousness.

"Byrd of Prey"... I won't even attempt to describe. Just fire up your favorite P2P client and steal it from somewhere. Now.

And then they are also capable of producing moments of true genius that I am incapable of describing with any ironic detachment whatsoever. The aforementioned "Easy Livin'" is a true classic of 70's rock. As for "Sweet Lorraine"... here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron. Here is a song which will break your heart.

And of course "July Morning", which has inspired an unofficial national holiday in Bulgaria.