In Ancient Greek mythology, Apollo represents order, law, beauty, reason. Dionysus represents chaos, drunkness, primal instincts, sexual urges. The battle between them is one of order versus chaos.
And the sources I mentioned above frame the battle between Batman and the Joker as one of order versus chaos.
What is very interesting to me is that in every Batman versus Joker movie/show I’ve seen so far, Batman is always framed solidly as the source of good, and while the Joker (who is obviously evil) may wreak havoc for a while, before law and order get restored at the end of the day.
Yet Todd Phillips’ Joker tells a different story.
Joaquin Phoenix plays a sympathetic Joker. While the things he does are certainly destructive and evil, the way the movie plays out, we the audience, the typical proletariat layman living in the day-to-day grind, we can actually find ourselves empathizing far more with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker than the Waynes (Batman’s parents) who isolate themselves from the problems of Gotham in their own world of wealth and privilege.
Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) is struggling to become a stand-up comedian in Gotham City in 1981. His day job is as a clown, in which he gets beat up by the hooligans on the mean streets of Gotham. He works this crappy job to take care of his ailing mother Penny (Frances Conroy). She calls him “Happy,” while deep down, Arthur is anything but. Yet he does his best to “smile and put on a happy face” to please her. But life has not been kind to Arthur. He’s had at least one stint at Arkham Asylum, was abused as a child, and because of his childhood abuse, suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to break out in maniacal laughter whenever he is anxious or stressed (which is often). (Ars Technica)
Todd Phillips’ Joker is not a diabolical mastermind, but a troubled man who fell between the cracks of a society that has betrayed him. He goes to court-ordered therapy. But when the funding for that therapy gets cut, he has nowhere to go to get help or medication. And that’s when his further descent into violence and madness begins.
Eventually, he gets fired from his day job being a clown. And while still in clown makeup, he kills three Wallstreet executives on a train. The three men started to physically assault him because of his neurological disorder. When Arthur fights back, it’s self-defense at first. But when the third guy flees the scene, running and screaming for help, Arthur gleefully pursues and kills this man. No longer out of self-defense, but because it made him happy to do so.
Immediately after the attack, Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s dad) who is running for mayor, publically condemns these three murders. Yet many of the people of Gotham rejoice because they’re tired of living in poverty, and tired of living under a wealthy elite that clearly doesn’t care about them. Protesters put on clown paint, hold signs that say ‘Resist!’ and start rioting in the city.
End the end, Arthur Fleck makes the transition from an unsuccessful, lonely comedian who no one knows about, to becoming a symbol of the city’s Dionysian rage. He stands triumphant with a circle of protesters celebrating him, protesters who are burning and destroying the city. While Bruce Wayne and his parents flee this destruction, only for a masked protester to kill and rob his parents.
The Ancient Greek Bacchae is very similar. It is a story of drunkness, intoxication and self-destruction. In this story, the cult of Apollo reigns over all. It is a cult of order and society. Yet where it once represented ideas of enlightenment and knowledge, it later came to represent a politically corrupt authority, an authority that was drunk off of power and wealth. The ruling authority was a senile group that was far removed from the people and stuck in their own ways.
The God of chaos and hedonism, Dionysus, enters the situation to shake things up. There is a vacuum of power into which he surges. As a long-haired, non-conformist, he arrives at the capital city with an angry mob. This demigod is arrested, interrogated, mocked and thrown into prison.
Yet the authorities could not imprison the violent forces of the primeval. An earthquake leveled the royal palace, destroying the symbol of the Apollonian World Order. Wild women tore cattle to bits with their own hands. Then these women proceeded to dismember the current authorities just like cattle. They played ball with their arms and feet, and then impaled their heads on sticks.
While Todd Phillips’ Joker takes place in 1981, it relates far more to our world today than any other movie I’ve seen this year. I walked out of the movie theater with chills. The character of Arthur Fleck managed to personify a rage/nihilism/antipathy of an increasing number of people who feel that the forces of law/order/society are failing them. Fleck represents a rage that is a powder keg waiting to explode.
Though Todd Phillips’ movie is not at all a glorification of nihilism and violence. Clearly, the violence caused by Arthur Fleck’s insanity is shown as deranged and evil. Rather, the movie is a character study in how these traits arise and manifest in a man who society has abandoned.
Let me tell you a secret about myself. I hate puppets. So I thought I was going to absolutely hate this show, since I was never a big fan of all Jim Henson’s puppet stuff back in the day. I didn’t even like the original Dark Crystal movie. I got bored and fell asleep. (Don’t throw things at me).
But on August 30th, 2019, Netflix released a show based on the original movie, and I begrudgingly gave it a shot.
I was very pleasantly surprised. First of all, the show is way better than the original movie IMHO (Seriously. Don’t throw things at me, it’s rude).
There’s more plot and dialogue. I feel like 85% of the script of the original movie was the Skeksis (the bad guys) making their weird HMMmmMMmMMmMMmM sounds.
Now, I will say that the show can get a bit cheesy (I mean, it’s puppetry mixed with CGI, what do you expect?) And sometimes the dialogue is a bit “As-You-Know-Bob” (characters explaining things to each other that they would already know purely for the audience’s benefit).
But aside from that, the show did a great job of creating a fantasy that is a true fantasy. It immerses you into a world that is just as magical as it is alien. And like any good fantasy, its theme is a battle between good and evil, a battle cast against the beautiful and varied landscape of Thra (the world our characters inhabit).
Like the original movie, Thra is inhabited by the Gelfling (the creatures closest to Thra). And the evil Skeksis are abusing the powers of the Dark Crystal to suck out the essences of the Gelfling. The Skeksis abuse of the Dark Crystal has also started “The Darkening,” an event in which the animals and plants of Thra are corrupted. I think there are many parallels to the environmental destruction of our world today. Just like the same parallels found in Tolkien.
There are seven different Gelfling tribe, and they all inhabit radically different terrain of the world Thra. The Dousan Clan who revere death more than life sail the Crystal Desert in their sandships, amazing constructs of crystal and bone. The Drenchen inhabit the overgrown swamp (Sog). The Sifa sail the seas. The Spiriton are a warrior race who inhabit the rolling fields south of the Dark Wood. The Stonewood Clan has made their home in Stone-in-the-Wood. The Vapra are the oldest of the gelfling, a race of white-haired gelfling who inhabit a snowy region in their city Ha’rar. And then there’s my favorite, the Grottan, gelfling with large black, marsupial-like eyes who live undergound, away from the light of the sun, in caves filled with fantastical glowing, bioluminescent creatures.
I’ve gotten sick of the fantasy genre lately because a lot of fantasy television shows just feel like modern people wearing elf ears and carrying swords. And of course, there is the epic disappointment of the way Game of Thrones ended.
Netflix’s Dark Crystal has reignited my love for the fantasy genre. Looking forward to more!
Genre: Melodic Death Metal (though this particular song is more heavy metal in my opinion)
Themes: Vikings, Norse mythology
Two weeks ago Amon Amarth released their new music video for “Mjolner, Hammer of Thor,” from their new Berserker album.
Of all the Amon Amarth stuff I’ve heard, this is their most different sounding content yet. It sounds more heavy metal than their stuff in the past. Though I’m not sure if I’m a fan, because in my opinion, I like it when a band retains something of their signature sound, while changing it up in various ways. Behemoth, for example, does a great job of that. The Satanist was very different, but if you listened to it, you could definitely tell that it was Behemoth.
With this song, and some of the other songs I’ve listened to from Berserker, I wouldn’t be able to tell it was Amon Amarth (if not for the vocals). And this particular song sounded too much like a generic heavy metal song, of which there are already plenty.
My suggestion to Amon Amarth for their next album is to get back to their signature sound, what makes them them, what makes them unique, and find new ways to evolve that sound, rather than turning into a different band entirely.
I love this song because it’s a great embodiment of what the band Nile does well, create an expansive, over-the-top soundscape with an impossible to remember title that fuses cinematic, Ancient Egyptian-esque instrumentals with the mind drilling riffs of modern death metal. It’s beautiful. If I were summoning Cthulhu, I’d want to do it to this.
This is the 10th and last track from the album Annihilation of the Wicked.
I Hath Dreamed Black and Grim, Desolate Visions
Of the Pre-Human Serpent Folk and Communed with Long-dead Reptiles.
Silently Watching Through the Ages in Cold, Curious Apathy.
The Unending Sorrows and Suffering of an Abysmal Humankind.
I Dare Not Again Surrender to the Deep Sleep Which Ever Beckons Me.
Lest I in Dread.
Shudder at the Nameless Things.
That May at this Very Moment.
Be Crawling and Lurking.
At the Slimy Edges of My Conciousness.
Slithering Forth from the Bowels of Their Infernal Pits.
Worshipping Their Ancient Stone Idols and Carving Their Own Detestable Likenesses On Subterranean Obelisks of Blood-soaked Granite.
I Await the Day When the Claws of Doom Shall Rise.
To Drag Down in Their Reeking Talons the Weary and Hopeless Remnants of a Jaded, Decayed, War-despairing Mankind.
Of a Day When the Earth Shall Open Wide and the Black, Bottomless, Yawning Abyss Engulfs the Arrogant Civilizations of Man.
Chthonic Retribution Shall Ascend.
Amidst Universal Pandemonium and Those Who Slither and Crawl Shall Rise Again Once More to Inherit the Earth.
Themes: Entropy, Space, The Cosmos, Destruction, Chaos
“A singularity is the point in a black hole where density becomes infinite, space-time bends, and the laws of physics as we know them cease to operate.
This is the perfect way to describe Mesmur’s newest album “S,” an infinitely dense soundscape that bends space and time around the listener. A meandering funeral dirge through the chaotic void that is the universe. A universe that was doomed from the start.”
This is a review I did for Dark Art Conspiracy. Check out the rest of my review HERE
What I didn’t get to mention in my review is that entropy has four phases. I think that this album has four songs to reflect the four phases of entropy. Entropy is represented by “S” and is the measurement of disorder in a system. The idea of having an album focused on creating the sound of entropy is fucking brilliant in my humble opinion.
One of the things I love about Huntress is that they are one of the few modern metal bands I can think of that are just flat out heavy metal. So much contemporary metal these days has to be wrapped within 50 different sub-genres that usually end with the word ‘core.’ Like I don’t know, what’s next? Nano-burrito-vulcan-fire-death-fist-core? Actually…that would be kind of cool.
But point aside, Huntress is a rare modern day Heavy Metal band inspired by the likes of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.
Vocalist Jill Janus (who has been awesome enough to talk with me on more than one occasion) has said that this album, “Static,” channels the “crone” aspect of the Goddess (in terms of the whole Maiden/Mother/Crone archetype), a dirty, lusty, nasty old crone.
In terms of my reviews on all three of their albums in order of release; Spell-Eater was when they were first figuring out their sound. Starbound Beast was the most exciting album, with lots of punch you in the face awesome riffs, intense Rob-Halford-esque vocals, and headbanging solos. And Static was more of a laid back, groovy type album that you listen to when you’re smoking weed and eating cheetos. All good stuff though. If you love heavy metal, you won’t be disappointed with Huntress.
Nile’s newest album “What Should Not be Unearthed” opens up like a blast of fire melting the face off a demon. They’re back heavier and faster than ever. This is quite a feat considering that Technical Death Metal has been on the way out recently. And many Death Metal bands have gone towards a more progressive or groove driven direction; which is understandable, because it’s often hard to be even heavier than what already exists, especially after Death Metal has been a genre for 20+ years.
But Nile delivers a fist full of death metal that punches you in the face with its heavy riffs, dynamic tempos, and liquid hot solos. Some of the riffs are familiar, but there are definitely some clever new licks thrown in. And of course, this album brings together what Nile fans love – fast, death metal riffs mixed with middle eastern instrumentals and scales.
KARL SANDERS DISCUSSES HIS INTENTIONS AND OPINION OF NEWEST ALBUM
In an interview with Metal Wani, Karl Sanders (Nile’s Vocalist and Guitarist) said he wanted to take a different direction than their last album, “At The Gates of Sethu.” Sethu was a very clean and technical album, written for studio perfection. But as Karl says, this newest album was all about the fans, and giving them what they want. It was also more about feeling than technicality. “Is it heavy, does it emotionally move me?”
Many interviews and reviews have already dealt with the technicalities of the music. In short, I will say in this album there are more mid-range growls than the low growls of the past (I can actually understand the lyrics!). The guitars and bass are also turned up a bit higher in volume than previous albums. As George Kollias (the drummer) is quoted as saying, “I can’t hear my fucking drums!” (Metal Wani). In terms of skill level, the song “What Should Not Be Unearthed” was apparently one of the hardest songs George Kollias has played in his life.
But what I’d like to delve into is the meaning behind the music – the vibe – the soul of the album so to speak. Topically, this is about things that shouldn’t be unearthed (yeah I know, the title says that, duh!)
The following was said about the artwork: The story behind the title goes deeply beneath everything we have already known, and we may not be ready to face. With the art I excavated the theories of an elder ancient civilization which could give the origin to ancient Egypt. That’s why you can find a new ingredient in the band imagery, pointing at some higher obscure intelligence, eroding and covered with time. (Nuclear Blast)
So there is definitely this theme of an eerie, and an ancient spirit being accidentally unleashed like some horror movie mummy.
But what no interview has discussed is the modern middle eastern implications as well.
CALL TO DESTRUCTION – OPENING ALBUM TRACK
The video for “Call to Destruction” very deliberately shows video footage of terrorist groups (like The Islamic State) destroying ancient relics. The lyrics very obviously point to this.
Call to destruction of the symbols of paganism
Grand monuments of idolatry
We must tear down these blasphemous edifices of heathenism
We must annihilate all that is pre Islamic
We must complete what the ‘Amr ibn al-‘As could not
We must tear down these relics of infidelity
Great and mighty works of blasphemy
Mountains of ancient heresy
Sacrilege encased in stone
From thousands of years before the Prophet…
So there is no mistaking that this is a theme (at least for that song).
Nile doesn’t just discuss the ancient Middle East, they also discuss the modern Middle East as well sometimes. For instance, in the “Those Whom The Gods” detest album, there was the song Kafir, which is the word for “heretic” or “unbeliever” in Islam.
So now it’s time for my conjecture (JUST MY OPINION, NOTHING OFFICIAL): I think the Islamic State’s destruction of ancient relics is relevant to many of the themes of other songs in the album. That may have been unintentional or intentional on their part (I don’t know). I just saw a theme: a theme in terms of unearthing or destroying relics of ancient history that should remain untouched. And the actions of IS/ISIS fit into that theme. “Rape of the Black Earth” discusses destroying entire blocs of history, objects that have not been disturbed for millennia, and temples of the Gods defiled. “Age of Famine” also references unheard of atrocities, noble women becoming slave and whores, and children being dashed against walls, and people turning against each other…hmm that sounds familiar to what’s in the news.
Now am I saying this is what this album is all about? No I am not. Karl himself said this wasn’t a concept album.
Or maybe the whole album was really just Karl describing his hatred of unearthing the precious Earth metals that create cell phones (see interview).(Or maybe that’s a joke…)
The last song is “To Walk Forth from the Flames Unscathed.” So perhaps this is somewhat of a hopeful ending to an album with several songs about the destruction and violation of ancient history.
Evil to Cast out Evil is a killer track. Check that out to get a further taste of the delicious mayhem that is Nile’s newest album.
“Flesh” is the newest song to be released by Huntress. The song comes from their album “Static,” which is scheduled to be released on September 25th. Vocalist Jill Janus (who has been awesome enough to talk with me on more than one occasion) has said that Static channels the “crone” aspect of The Goddess (in terms of the whole Maiden/Mother/Crone archetype). And from what I can see, it’s gonna be a dirty, lusty, nasty old crone indeed.
The song itself is about a female serial killer who transforms into a demon seamstress and preys upon women. She desires their flesh for fashion (like a demonic, lesbian, Buffalo Bill if you will).
Musically, it’s a fun, catchy, hard rock song.
Starbound Beast was such a killer album that it’s really going to be hard for them to top it, but I’m still looking forward to seeing what they can do nevertheless.
When I went to their concert this week I was looking forward to their classics more than their new stuff; you know, songs like “Breaking the Law,” “Living after Midnight,” and “Turbo Lover.” You’re not allowed to be a fan of Heavy Metal and not like those songs. I won’t allow it!
However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that “Halls of Valhalla,” probably the newest song they played at the show, was my favorite song of the whole concert.
There are fewer things more cool than Vikings. There are also fewer things more awesome than Judas Priest. Therefore, Judas Priest singing about Vikings and Valhalla produces an infinite feedback loop of awesomeness that will probably end up causing the eventual implosion of the universe.
I’m just glad I got to be alive to witness such amazing musicians play live. Rob Halford’s pipes are still divine, and their new guitarist Richie Faulkner, who they got to replace K.K. Downing, was brimming with energy and talent. He added a ten minute guitar solo into the middle of “You got another thing comin,” that completely unhinged my jaw from my face. If anyone in Baltimore Maryland finds my jaw floating around somewhere in the pier, please let me know.
With that said, enjoy the song above and pay homage to the Metal Gods.
I can’t resist sharing some pictures I took at the show.
I was in the lawn, so these aren’t the best pictures ever, but here they are.
Genre: Folk Metal. Encyclopedia Metallum also says that this band plays Melodic Death, my interpretation is that they are more of a Folk Metal band, but maybe I haven’t heard enough of their material.
Themes: Pagan Gods, Kings, War, Nature
Country of Origin: Poland
This video is definitely a good start for a band’s first official music video. They successfully blend together traditional instruments like the bagpipes, tin whistle and violin with guitars, bass and drums. They are obviously highly influenced by Arkona, especially with vocals. The female singer of this band, Adrianna Zborowska has a particularly powerful and enchanting voice. My only criticism is that I don’t think the female and male vocals are as in sync with each other as they could be. I know that doing the whole pretty melodic vocals with harsh growls is a very difficult thing to get just right, and honestly the only song that I feel has this dynamic perfectly is Dark Tranquility’s The Mundane and the Magic .
And of course the imagery of the video itself was beautiful – forest, ritual, ancient pagan garb and all.
My Behemoth poster fell off the wall as I was listening to this – Behemoth is too heavy for my walls.
Anyone jumping out of their skin in excitement for when Behemoth’s The Satanist comes out on February 4th? Currently my skeleton is running around my apartment headbanging to this song. The Satanist is available for pre-order on Amazon, which means you can have the album shipped to your house the day it is released, listen to it first and gloat about it as all your friends stab themselves with envy.
With that aside, let me proceed to shamelessly gush about this song as if it were my teenage crush. In a previous post I discussed another song from this album: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel. In that song, as well as the one above, I notice that Behemoth has adopted a more Black Metalish sound for this album. The guitar has somewhat of that chaotic all over the place Black Metal sound. I also love the tone they chose for the bass, it is haunting and melodic. It knows when to step into the spotlight when the rest of the music calms down, and hold things together with a bittersweet melody.
Really enjoying the two songs I’ve heard from The Satanist. Can’t wait to get my talons on the actual album.
Did Amon Amarth just make a movie or a music video? Amon Amarth’s highly awaited “Father of the Wolf” video was just released on January 17th 2014 (yesterday!) Fans who wondered why the video took so long to release now only have to look at the theater quality production behind the video to see why. The song itself is part of Amon Amarth’s newest album “Deceiver of the Gods,” so of course the theme is going to be heavily centered around Loki.
Personally, I actually feel like the introduction to the video was a bit too long. I think it would have been better of they incorporated the cinematics mostly with the music, with perhaps a 1 or 2 minute introduction. I think too much talk in the beginning kind of takes away from the music – or maybe I’m just being an extra splintery stick in the mud.
But with that aside, enjoy the video. It will leave you with a strange desire to play Skyrim and take over the world.
Also, Amon Amarth is headlining at a series of kick ass shows in the U.S. Don’t miss em!
AMON AMARTH + ENSLAVED + SKELETONWITCH
Friday, January 17 – Las Vegas, NV @ House Of Blues
Saturday, January 18 – Phoenix, AZ @ Club Red
Monday, January 20 – San Antonio, TX @ Backstage Live
Tuesday, January 21 – Dallas, TX @ House Of Blues
Wednesday, January 22 – Houston, TX @ House Of Blues
Friday, January 24 – Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage
Saturday, January 25 – Tampa, FL @ The Ritz
Sunday, January 26 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution
Monday, January 27 – Orlando, FL @ House Of Blues (*no Skeletonwitch)
Wednesday, January 29 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
Thursday, January 30 – Norfolk, VA @ The NorVA
Friday, January 31 – Silver Springs, MD @ The Fillmore
Saturday, February 1 – Boston, MA @ House Of Blues
Monday, February 3 – Philadelphia, PA @ TLA
Tuesday, February 4 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
Wednesday, February 5 – Huntington, NY @ Paramount
Thursday, February 6 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Small’s
Friday, February 7 – Chicago, IL @ House Of Blues
Saturday, February 8 – Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights
Sunday, February 9 – Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theatre
Tuesday, February 11 – Denver, CO @ Summit Theatre
Wednesday, February 12 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Murray Theater
Friday, February 14 – San Francisco, CA @ The Regency
Saturday, February 15 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
Sunday, February 16 – San Diego, CA @ House Of Blues (* No Enslaved)
There were two reasons I was initially excited to see this movie: a fascination with Ancient Celtic Myth and the fact that this was Pixar’s first movie with a female protagonist as the lead. Yet watching this film left me feeling like this was the “C” student who I was expecting to make an “A.” On this blog, I admit to feeling silly for criticizing a movie made for children. Over all, the movie wasn’t terrible. I still walked away from it being somewhat entertained. But there was also something about this movie that left me feeling frustrated.
PIXAR’S FLIMSY ATTEMPT TO CREATE A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER
I feel like “Brave” was Pixar’s attempt to make a strong female character, since they have been criticized for being something of a “boy’s club.” Yet instead of coming off like a strong, female Celtic warrior the likes of Boudicca (a woman who destroyed three Roman towns and nearly kicked the Romans out of Britain), Merida – the lead – remains a prissy, self entitled teenager who seems more likely to whine about doing her math homework rather than leading her clan to greatness.
NOTES ON THE MOVIE ITSELF
Brave itself is a movie that takes place in an idealized 10th century Scotland. The animation and scenery is remarkable, in this aspect, Pixar does not disappoint. Directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman both also have Scottish roots, which gives the film some authenticity.
The beginning of the movie seemed promising. Merida is a princess with remarkable archery skills. She wants to be a powerful warrior like her father, King Fergus. Yet she remains trapped by her mother with the responsibilities and traditions of being a “prim and proper” princess who doesn’t “put her weapons on the dinner table.” Eventually the day comes when it is time to marry Merida off to the future leader of another clan. Politically successful marriages were vitally important to the survival of a clan. These marriages were key in bringing peace to two different clans that may have ended up declaring war on one another. The Ancient Celtic Goddess Brigid herself played an important role in bringing peace to two warring tribes after her son was killed in battle.
Different clans come together in order to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage. The sons of all the clan leaders end up being quite unsuitable – suitors. In cliché movie fashion – they are all miraculously a bunch of bumbling doofuses who can’t tell an arrow’s tail from their own faces. I understand the element here was to introduce comedic relief. Yet I found it incredibly disappointing that ALL of the men in this movie were incompetent. The mighty king Fergus can’t even give a speech without his wife’s assistance. This element made the movie more frustrating and stereotypical than funny in my opinion.
The reality is that the Scottish clans of these times had an intense focus on warfare and raising up powerful warriors. The son of a clan leader would’ve trained his whole life in different skills of battle: sword fighting, archery and hand to hand combat. The idea that all the suitors would be this incompetent is just as insulting as it is stupid. But then again…I remind myself that this is a kid’s movie and I must suspend some expectation of reality here…
With a lifetime focused on physical training, like throwing logs and boulders, it’s likely that the Scottish Suitors may have looked something like this. Heart melts! Merida, if you don’t want any of the suitors, I’ll take all four. Mwahhaa!
MERIDA VIOLATES TRADITION
Merida ends up competing for her own hand in marriage – which violates all protocols of tradition – and wins. This horrifies her mother – the Queen – and increases the rift between the two. After a fight, Merida ends up running away. At this point in the story, I was expecting some heroic adventures and deep life lessons. Instead we get some wacky hijinks where Merida ends up using a witch’s spell to “change her mum” – the most vague request you can make of life altering magic – and ends up turning her mother into a bear. This is bittersweet considering that King Fergus is a mighty bear hunter.
Perhaps there may be some mythological significance to this transformation considering that shape shifting magic was a common theme in Celtic Mythology and that Artio herself was a mighty Bear Goddess.
However, getting back to the movie plot, the rest of the movie tediously makes its way through Merida trying to turn her mother back into a human. There are a lot of shenanigans that ensue which provide some slapstick humor and some clumsy plot development.
BRAVE IS NOT SO BRAVE
(Now that’s what I call Brave!)
Our heroine also does not prove to be very “brave” either. When she comes close to having a fight with a real bear she ends up screaming and curling into a ball out of fear.
Eventually Merida discovers that she must “mend the bond destroyed by pride.”After this revelation, I was hoping some life lesson would emerge about the destructive effects of pride – but in the end this was all muddled by some vague lesson of each person being allowed to choose their own path. Merida does not end up getting married, the unsuitable suitors go home, and there is not much clear indication of what happens to the rest of the clan as a result.
The reality is that the clans would’ve probably declared a brutal war on one another, destroy their alliance and bloodshed would ensue. Merida’s actions did nothing to benefit her people or her family. The desire to doom the future of one’s entire clan for one’s own selfish interests is not “brave,” it is selfish and “prideful” and frankly is a perfect description of what is wrong with modern values today. Actual Celtic history is replete with tales of women who knew how to fight – and there were women who even had their own fighting schools. Yet most Celtic men and women did what was good for their tribe and not necessarily what was best for themselves. If we are to learn from the past, we must learn to do what is best for those around us – not simply living for our own selfish ends.
LACK OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT OR STORY ARC
I think the problem here is that the boys at Pixar really had no idea how to develop a powerful female lead. They couldn’t conceive of an independent and strong female without also making her selfish and prideful, not really heroine material. A good character is also someone who has some kind of challenge to overcome. I suppose the challenge here was to mend the bond torn by pride – but she didn’t really end up making any major sacrifices or concessions for her prideful behavior. She was also a great archer from the get-go, so there wasn’t really much to develop on that end either.
WANT TO A GOOD KID’S MOVIE ABOUT A FEMALE HERO?
A much better children’s movie about a strong female lead was Mulan. She joined the army not out of some childish fantasy, but in order to save the life of her father, who was becoming too old to realistically defend himself in armed combat. She also isn’t a “Mary Sue” who ends up miraculously being good at combat either. Mulan was somewhat clumsy in the beginning and actually has to train and work hard in order to become a powerful warrior. In the end, she makes tough decisions and harsh sacrifices in order to save the nation of China. What’s even better, is that Mulan the Disney movie was actually based off a true story.
While Mulan was fighting to save the nation of China from Hun invasion and inventing clever war tactics, Merida was busy throwing tantrums and getting freaked out by Bears.
WANT TO SEE SOME STRONG CELTIC WOMEN WHO ACTUALLY EXISTED?
Ahab: Crazed sea captain in the American Novel Moby Dick. Fond of touching phallic objects, hunting sperm whales and candle lit dinners with homo erotic cannibals.
Band Location: Munich, Bavaria
Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
In one of those dark, morose moods? You know? The kind of mood where you’re angry that a giant sperm whale took your leg and you’re too incompetent to get revenge on the beast? Maybe this song is what you need. It’s got the onerous, trudging pace of a death march and the eerie melancholy to match. As I listen to this song I can just imagine old Ahab yelling at his crew, and like any good captain, dutifully getting most of them killed in a selfish bid for revenge. Most of the songs by the band Ahab actually are about the novel Moby Dick.
The significant thing about this movie to me wasn’t just the dwarf battles, the beauty of the elves, or the godly power of wizards. The most powerful thing to me was that in a world full of magical, mythical beings, it is the simple folk who are the heroes. Tolkien chooses Bilbo Baggins, a mere hobbit, to be his protagonist. Bilbo leaves behind a domestic life of worrying about his doilies and when he’s going to eat second breakfast – to running from Orcs, finding treasure, dining with elves, and exploring the depths of Goblin infested mountains.
Why does Tolkien choose a Hobbit for his hero? Gandalf explains:
“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of everyday kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”
In triumphing over evil, we often think we need some kind of superman to step in and save the day. That we need the most powerful of armies or the most famous individual. But sometimes the most effective thing, can be a simple act of everyday kindness and hospitality. Even you – yes little old you – can make a difference! How many would be suicides or shooters were prevented by someone who had enough love and kindness to be that person’s friend? How many times has your life been saved by that friend or neighbor who took the time out of their day to help you out?
This movie is a reminder to me that we can’t forget the everyday, simple kindness of folk. That perhaps, the modern evils of our time reflect a more isolated society where people take less and less time to help one another out – let alone even know their neighbor’s name. There has been a loss of kinship and brotherhood in this “every man for himself,” “me first,” “consume as much as you can”generation.
It was ultimately the hoarded wealth of the dwarf king Thrór that lured the dragon Smaug to destroy his kingdom. Smeagol too is broken down into a pathetic and lonely creature as a result of his obsession with his precious – the ring. As values shift towards self ascension and money, the world ultimately gets subsumed by a great evil. Maybe we should be a little more like the hobbit and less like a Smeagol in our every day lives.
Brought to you by the world’s greatest fusion band.
Genre: World Fusion, African poly-rhythms, Gaelic folk, Middle Eastern Mantras
Location: Melbourne Australia
Yulunga is the leading track on Dead Can Dance’s album Into The Labyrinth. This album was a groundbreaking event for the band, because it was the first album they completed on their own without the aid of guest musicians, as well as the first album to have a major label release in the United States. Into The Labyrinth is the album that put ethnic musical influences at the forefront of the band’s sound.
“Yulunga” itself is a type of spirit dance referred to in the Aboriginal Australian Kamilaroi language.
It is also a rainbow serpent Goddess in an aboriginal dream time legend of the Watagora people. These are the people who lived in what is now “New South Wales.” In the legend they were a happy people who spent their days hunting kangaroo, wallabies, emus and catching eel in what is now called the “Duck River.”
These blissful days came to an end when strangers entered the ancestral lands of the Watagora people. The Watagora warriors made several attempts to defend their land, but all to no avail. So then the Watagora elders made an appeal to the spirits for help. At first there was no answer. The Watagora thought that the Gods had abandoned them. But then a rainbow serpent appeared in the sky and chased the strangers away. You can read the rest of the story here.
The video for this song itself is a breath taking montage of nature and dance (aren’t you glad I posted the HD version?). The footage is from the film Baraka (an experimental documentary film with no plot that seeks to evoke emotion through a cinematic look at different world cultures).
At the end of the video – if you pay attention – you’ll notice that there is just the briefest glimpse of a little girl watching a rainbow shining over a river. Perhaps a symbol that the dance of life will go on.
Need some music to sword fight and pillage to? Check out my Amon Amarth favorite. Yes, yes I know this song came out back in 2008, but I love it so much that I decided it must be spread on the internet like a 13th century plague. Okay! Bad example! But I digress. The Twilight of the Thunder Gods album as a whole stood out to me more than the other Amon Amarth albums. As vikings they upgraded from raiding monastaries, to pillaging the Vatican and burning the pope’s underwear. Okay, bad example again!
Yet there is definitely something different about this album. Could it be that they got the guitarist Roope Latvala from Children of Bodom to play a solo track on this song? Could it be that they got the Cello metal folks from Apocalyptica and the vocalist, Lars Petrov from Entombed to contribute to other songs on the album. Nah. I just think they were a little extra viking the day they made this album.
Side note: apparently the sword fighting in this video is not that accurate – but is the sword fighting in any metal video that realistic?
“Those glory days vanished into the past fury of time is taking your life. No one can ride forever! At the end of all paths light turns dark and death”
Country of Origin: Spain
Style: Melodic Death, Celtic, Folk
Lyrics: Paganism and Battles
The gentle, clean guitar starts the song with a sense of ease and peace. Only to be blasted away by the power of the Celtic style violin and keyboard. The chanting in the background brings you to an ancient time of battles and heroism. Melodic death growling vocals are backed by the chanting – and it works to give the song an epic quality. My only criticism is that the guitar riff at 4:05 sounds like the opening riff of Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams” cover, even the tones sound the same at that moment!
But aside from that, these guys are no Withering Rose – regardless of the song name. Their music definitely has a heroic quality that makes you want to bring the glory days back again.
From scythe to scythe and measure to measure, this song is driving and pumping. The melody builds and gains power like an amassing swarm of Orcs. Speaking of which, the band is named “Be-lakor,” after a demon in the table top game Warhammer. These nerds hail from a land of untamed monsters and salty sandwiches. Lustria, the jungle where the lizard men roam you say? No, but that was a good guess. They actually come from Victoria Australia. The singer sounds like a mighty warrior himself and reminds me of Joahan Hegg (Amon Amarth Vocalist).
They are a melodic death metal band that builds on themes of nature, paganism, gaming and Greek mythology.
So if you need some mood music while you swing your scythe into some oozing green orc skulls, check this song out.