Monday, November 21, 2005

New Review, wine, and music

I posted my review of E.E. Knight's Dragon Champion yesterday. This was a solid coming of age story about a rare gray dragon. Knight shows some great characterization and solid world building in this one. I liked his Vampire Earth novels a bit more, but this is still a very strong book. And he did what every writer should do – he has me interested in the characters and looking forward to where he next takes the story.

We had some friends over this past weekend and I discovered how well a good red wine can compliment beef, in this case Chateau Breon, which Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff cooked to absolute perfection. I would normally be very happy with a Guinness or other rich beer to accompany my beef experience. However, our friends brought over a nice red wine and I figured I’d give it a try. I’m not a big wine drinker, but I do enjoy it on occasion. This was something of a blend of a Merlot and Chianti, wonderfully smooth with no after taste. I’ll have to try wine with my steak more often.

It is always interesting when two types of art/entertainment cross. I'm speaking of music flavored with fantasy and science fiction. Listening to Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime got me thinking of this once again. For those not in the know, this is probably Queensrÿche’s most critically acclaimed album (Fuck Silent Lucidity, MTV killed that thing) and tells the story of a junkie, a nun/prostitute in a dark grim future where Dr. X is leading a cult to overthrow the government. Though not blatantly science fictional, the elements of a disillusioned populace, a dark big brother like figurehead, and a cult preparing a revolution fit the bill for me. This album ranks very highly in my personal canon of "great albums."

Less known (outside of those who are metal fans like myself), though no less interesting and entertaining is the band Dream Theater. Many of their albums are concept albums and boast a wonderful line up of great musicians. I've liked the majority of songs I've heard by them is Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory which deals with past lives.

The German group, Blind Guardian based their album, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, on Tolkien's Silmarillion. The album starts out with clashing swords and some spoken words. Another German based group is Helloween, with their epic Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, the songs Dr. Stein, Future World and the epic Halloween.

Rush is a group that has flirted with fantastic elements, particularly their 2112 album, which tells of a dystopic future and the talisman of a guitar.

David Bowie was flirting with the genre with his The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars as was The Who with Tommy. Even though Tommy isn't quite sf, it does play with the Christ Figure so popular in fantastic fiction. Alice Cooper’s horror-themed music is also germane to this discussion as well.

Of course a discussion of this nature would be incomplete if Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were not mentioned. Many of Zeppelin's songs are just about outright homages to Tolkien (Misty Mountain Hop, Ramble On, The Battle of Evermore). And Sabbath, who took their name from the Karloff film, is perhaps the defining group, in terms bands with fantastical elements in their songs. From their song The Wizard, to the epic and legendary Iron Man, and the song Black Sabbath, the dark gothic feelings their songs evoke is unmistakable, often imitated and perhaps the most influential sound in all of Heavy Metal. The imported three disc set: Black Sabbath: The Ozzy Osbourne Years is one of my most cherished CD compilations.

I’m sure I missed some, let me know.

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