The other day I stumbled across some photos of the late
Ronnie James Dio’s LA home, which is for sale. If you wondered what kind of place a metal God lived in, well, here’s your
The Teutonic touches, like the beer stein collection and the gothic windows, made me think of other Gods: the characters in the Wagner Ring
cycle that has just recently begun a run here in NY.
That production uses a high-tech set and video projections to evoke the Rhine
maidens swimming across the stage and other events in the story.
So, I wondered to myself, wouldn’t this be a natural fit?
Dio already lived in a kind of Valhalla, and the imagery and themes of metal
bands often deals with death, destruction, and demons, so metal bands have those
elements in common with the Wagner epic as well. Why not do a Ring cycle (or
maybe an abbreviated version as the whole thing runs 15 hours) with the music
played by metal musicians and sung by them too? The sets would be like Dio’s
house, a home fit for the Gods, and there could be spectacular live performance
scenes, which some bands already stage as myth-laden rituals. Here’s a live
shot of a Rob Zombie concert:
And the Gods, assembled:
Other metal genres are less ghoulish in their themes and
imagery, but are no less appropriate to this concept. Here is the band SUNN O))), an exemplar of doom and drone
metal, along with other bands like Earth.
While still others are blatant in their Norse, Viking and
Teutonic themes, this Swedish band sings about Valhalla and about having Odin
on their side:
Rammstein, a band composed of
former East Germans, is known for shows featuring amazing pyrotechnics, and for
lyrics that deal with politics, sometimes controversially. As the ring cycle
ends in the destruction of Valhalla and the end of the reign of the Gods, there
are some big metaphors at work that would seem to resonate and run parallel to
what this group is doing already. Here’s a shot from one of their shows.
Many metal musicians possess incredible technical facility. These bands often feature songs in odd time signatures and with complicated
fingerings, and the groups frequently possess a cohesiveness that leaves pop bands
in the dust. Which is to say: they have the chops to handle Dick Wagner’s
scores, no problem. They could probably even find a real dwarf to handle the
Alberich role (the creator of the all-powerful ring) which would mean we
wouldn’t have to imagine that a big actor/singer is actually small.
Has no one done this already? Have I just not heard of it?
Or are some of these bands sort of already doing it (or something very like it)
piecemeal, episodically—picking out random scenes and moments from a parallel
mythology? They’re definitely swimming in the same waters. Many of these groups
place a high value on their integrity; with such non-pop looks and themes they
aren’t about to get radio play, so their “authenticity” and being true to their
genres is of prime importance. That might be why no one has risked the ridicule
of a high-concept piece should it fail or be unpopular with their fans. Or
maybe they feel that tackling an old opera is superfluous, as they are doing
the same thing, but with original music, and updated imagery.
[See also: 12.12.09: Art Funding or Arts Funding]