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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Behold Arkngthand, Norway's Hottest Game of Thrones Metal Band

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 9:44 AM

ARKNGTHAND Guess who plays tambourine!
  • ARKNGTHAND Guess who plays tambourine!

The final episode of Game of Thrones' first season is nearly upon us—and so far, HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy series has been remarkable. With excellent performances, a dogged faithfulness to the spirit of the books, and a truly astounding number of boobs, the show has satisfied old fans while bringing legions of new ones to a notoriously dweeby genre. If future seasons are as as good as this one, Game of Thrones is bound to be a classic.

But you know what's already a classic? Songs of Ice and Fire, a 2009 concept album based on the first book in Martin's series, A Game of Thrones. Majestically and enthusiastically performed by Westeros' Norway's hottest metal outfit, Arkngthand—wait. Yeah, I have no clue how to pronounce that either. Take it away, Encyclopaedia Metallum:

Arkngthand is pronounced "Arkentand". The name Arkngthand comes from the Bethesda Softworks videogame The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It is a set of Dwemer (Dwarven) ruins.

Huh. So the same Norwegian dudes who made an album based on A Game of Thrones also took their name from an über-nerdy videogame? You don't say. (Sadly, Encylopaedia Metallum goes on to note that in 2010, Arkngthananagntatd changed their name to "River of Brakelights"—a decision that I'm guessing was inspired, at least in part, by the band's discovery of Cruis'n USA.)

Anyway: Songs of Ice and Fire is packed with songs inspired by A Game of Thrones... and it also has skits! Below, you'll learn about such metal masterpieces as "The King Has Arrived," "Learning to Fly," and, "A Clash of Kings"—but before you do that, I'd like to take this opportunity to burn the album's cover art into your retinas. The below image is what you will now see every time you close your eyes for the rest of your life.

SONGS OF ICE AND FIRE And immaculately polished kitchen floors.
  • SONGS OF ICE AND FIRE And immaculately polished kitchen floors.

Oh, shit yes. Here we go.

[DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: As noted in our June 30, 2011 issue, "Arkngthand is a Dutch band. They are not from Norway." So... shit. I guess every time you see "Norway," just replace it with "the Netherlands"? Man. Sorry, Arkngthand. I should be banished to the Wall for my incompetence.]

Songs of Ice and Fire begins with audio that I assume was recorded at one of Norway's many indoor Renaissance Faires. Entitled "Last Summerdays," this ambient, pastoral mood-setter features gently clucking chickens, prancing horses, and the wholesome chatter of friendly peasants. iTunes informs me that this track is one minute and four seconds long, but according to my internal chronometer, it is approximately 142 hours in length. But never fear: After a fearsome sound effect of mightily slamming castle gates, ARKNTHRAKN KICKS SHIT INTO GEAR WITH "THE KING HAS ARRIVED"! Unless you're some weaselly little dipshit like Joffrey, you should prepare for what you're about to hear by cranking your speakers right the fuck up.

Yes, yes, there's the music, true—but Arkngranthnd's finely honed lyrics are just as important. Read along!

A true king's parade, in its pride and glory
The stag from King's Landing, fear the mob's story
Twelve banners waving with the northern winds
This is where it all ends, this is where it begins!

So long since I saw you, my friend!
You haven't changed a bit!
So long since I saw you, my friend!
You seem to have changed!
Where's the Demon of the Trident?
Is your perfume of blood and leather gone for good?

Splendor and beauty!
Our king has arrived!
Knights and the bannermen!
Our king has arrived! [Repeat chorus 47 times]

Naturally, Arknthreikkengln follows up that smokin' number with, um... another skit. This one's made up of dialogue between King Robert and Ned Stark, with Robert asking Ned to take the job of Hand of the King. (SAY NO, NED. FOR GODS' SAKE, SAY NO.) This portentous exchange sounds exactly like what you'd imagine it would sound like, assuming you imagine it would sound like two of Norway's finest dinner theatre actors awkwardly reading a fantasy novel out loud to each other after consuming several bottles of NyQuil. Then it's time for "Learning to Fly," a thoughtful ballad about a small boy who "learns to fly" after some sisterfucker shoves him off the top of a tower.

Again, though, it's the lyrics that really hit home, here, even where Arkenthorinoakenshield's DWEEDLEE DWEE DWWEEEEEE DWEEEE DWEEET DEEEEEE metal doesn't:

The day of a thousand goodbyes
Roamin’ Winterfell, my wolf at my side
The way to southern paradise
I’ll meet the Kingsguard, a real horse I’ll ride!
Leavin’ behind Snow and Grey Wind, blood bonds rescind
One more time, climb the broken tower, counting the last hours

And then I looked into your eyes
And saw the green reflections of her majesty!
The things you’ll do for love!

Every flight begins with a fall
Now is it just a dream?! Where did I lose control?

"Snow and Grey Wind, blood bonds rescind"? Someone found a rhyming dictionary! But I digress: What a poetic reflection by a young boy as he plummets to his near-certain death. See, this is why I'll never be in a metal band like Arknngkt: (A) I'd have insisted on calling the band Valyrian Steel, not Arkglunnt, because c'mon, and also (B) I'd have written more accurate lyrics, like

The day of a thousand goodbyes
Roamin’ Winterfell, my wolf at my side
The way to southern paradAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAFFFFFUUUUUUUU

By now, you might have noticed something: This music isn't very good. As the esteemed "MetalMike" at The Metal Crypt asks in his review of Songs of Ice and Fire:

Let me start by asking a question: did you ever wonder what it would sound like if Creed or Nickelback made a Power Metal album? Of course you haven't.

Just to make sure MetalMike and I aren't crazy, I asked the Mercury's resident metalhead, Jay Williams, for his thoughts on the album's closing number: the seven-minute-plus saga "Clash of Kings." (Which, yes, takes its title not from A Game of Thrones, but rather from Martin's second book in the series, which will serve as the basis for season two of the show. Good catch, Sansa!) Ten bucks says Arkthrrrnd has emailed HBO and asked that this song replace the show's current theme for the next season. Ten more bucks says HBO marked their message as spam.

Take it away, Jay.

Oh no. I fucking hate adventure metal. If you are a goateed/pasty/sweaty/LARPer dude that just doesn't understand why Surge was taken off the market and own a sword with a dragon on the pommel, then chances are you are stoked on this band.

I would write more about this album's other songs—like "Truth in a Fool's Word," "The Waterdancer," "At the Head of the Serpent," or another skit/interlude, "Dark Wings, Dark Words," which contains no actual dark words, just a jaunty, Medieval Times-esque musical refrain accompanied by a squawking crow that won't shut up—but fuck it. Sorry, Arkenengghtkgt: Purely for the purposes of this blog post, I'm 99 percent sure I've listened to this album more than anyone else on the planet, but I just can't do it anymore. I'm moving on to another album I just picked up. It's by this new outfit called, let's see here, "River of Breakeligh"—oh, son of a bitch

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