Friday, April 8, 2011

Early viking imagery and lyrics in Heavy Metal

Early Viking imagery on LP covers comes up with the 1984 comp, Dutch Steel (which either consciously or unconsciously touches on the Viking and other Germanic tribal history in The Netherlands and other low lands  in this is also touched on in the Frisian-born rune magick writer, Freya Asywnn's book. (1)

Even earlier than Dutch Steel on the viking style was the compilation Metal Maniaxe (Ebony Records, 1982). Ebony was the home to bands such as Ebony label home of NWOBHM bands such as Grim Reaper, Savage, and Chateaux.

I think he's only sporting the pentagram because it's Ebony's logo.

Additionally, Iron Maiden twice invoked the viking theme with their 1981 and 1982 songs "Invasion" and "Invaders". The original "Invasion" was sung by Paul Di'Anno and was released several times. First on their vinyl debut, 1979's The Soundhouse Tapes, followed by the Harvest Records release as the B-side to "Women in Uniform" (a cover of the Aussie 70's rockers, Skyhooks). Lastly. it appeared again on the 1990 CD version of the "Women in Uniform" EP Here's a few of Invasion's lyrics:
The Vikings are coming,
You'd better get ready for we're having a fight
The longboats are coming,
Looking like dragons in the dead of the night
Muster the men from all the villages
You'd better get ready to fight with your enemies

Beacons are burning,
I'm giving the word to get ready to fight
The battle is nearing,
You'd better get ready to fight for your lives

Muster the men from all the villages
You'd better get ready to fight with your enemies
The Norsemen are coming, The Norsemen are coming
The warnings are given, The Norsemen are coming...

Apparently the band wasn't satisfied with this version and once Bruce Dickinson took over vocals they changed the lyrics and the structure to become the still viking focused and equally awesome, "Invaders".

Flashing back to 1978, in Sweden, Heavy Load was a band with a strong Judas Priest-influence. Although fairly unknown outside of Sweden their early 80's LPs managed get into the UK, Germany, Norway and parts of the USA. (Anyone remember the "imports section"?, I do!).However, their influence has been pretty minimal outside of hardcore collectors and tribute acts like Helvetets Port who even show a copy of their classic Death Or Glory LP in their "Lightning Rod Avenger" video. (2) Commercially speaking it may not been to their benefit to be outside of the era's the usual Deep Purple/Rainbow-styled "hårdrockare" norm of Silver Mountain, Universe and Yngwie Malmsteen. (3) Over a decade before anyone said they played "Viking Metal", HL's Wahlquist Brothers sung lyrics such as:

"Thor is riding the sky again  
Hear the thunder feel the pain
When we hear the heathen cry
We draw our swords
And the Christians will die,
Feel the pain, feel the pain" (4)

Heavy Load also had several albums covers that took in viking or at least the romanticized version of vikings (horned helmets, shown here (5) as well as below.

A magazine interview (6) quote from the band says "What we're about as a band (is) reviving the viking spirit that's so much part of our tradition."

Although other covers went for more of the party rock n' roll tradition.  

The halmark for the later, Viking/Pagan sound came predominately from a trilogy of albums by Bathory (which of course you should be familar with!) 1988's Blood Fire Death, 1989's Hammerheart and 1989's and 1991's Twilight of the Gods (all titles from Black Mark).

Norway did take to the Viking theme in Metal until the formation of Enslaved who's early sound was strongly influenced by Bathory along with the closer to home bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone. As great as they've been there's been plenty said about these bands. Nowadays, the theme has lost much of its appeal as its ranged from boring folk LORPing-beer hoisting silliness (7) to all-out ignorant shit i.e. - NSBM-tards using viking/Germanic imagery.

1 - Freya Aswynn's has collaborated with Current 93 and Sixth Comm. She is also known for her writings and magick work with runes. "In some sense, one could say she has been to the Runes what Timothy Leary was to LSD." from discussion with Christina Oakley Harrington at Treadwells London
2 - That said, HL's sales in Sweden were often quite strong: "...their first release out selling AC/DC and Black Sabbath for nine weeks in 1981" (Kerrang!, Issue 37)
3 - From "Son Of The Northern Light" the last song on their good but weirdly sung/produced debut Full Speed at High Level (Heavy Sound, 1978)
4 - Both Silver Mountain and Yngwie wrote songs titled "Vikings" (Shakin' Brains, Roadrunner, 1983) and "I Am a Viking" (Marching Out, Polygram, 1985). Jens Johansson later played with Yngwie's Rising Force. His stint in the band was mostly known for doing a highly unnecessary variation of "Dueling Banjos"-gone-metalic-rococo with Herr Malmsteen. On a similar note there's a song by the NWOBHM act Blitzkrieg (featuring the mighty vocals of Brian Ross) called "Vikings".
5 - I'm aware that the artist for Heavy Load's LPs also seemed to predict ultra-bright blonde look of a certain former Ichiban but that's probably coincidence. Me thinks he was more influenced by a continuation of Dust's Hard Attack sleeve by the legendary Frank Frazetta.
6 - I'm not sure of the mag or which band member but it's over on this FB page
7 - So says me who used to go ape for Finntroll and Korprikilanni.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"Although other covers went for more of the party rock n' roll tradition. "

It's becouse it's bootlegs and released without HEAVY LOAD's permission or knowledge.