Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles (2014)

Going out into left field again with a double LP, Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles, from Numero Group. It is a 16-song collection of obscure 1970s bands with names like Stone Axe, Wizard, Medusa and Hellstorm. The D&D connection should be self-evident.

Heavy metal is, in a lot of ways, Dungeons & Dragons’ older brother. Born out of Led Zeppelin’s obsession with Lord of the Rings and Black Sabbath’s thunderous occult riffs, metal is a natural soundtrack for roleplaying games (seriously, listen to the first Bolt Thrower album and try to not think of Warhammer). Metal and RPGs attracted outsiders of similar stripes. They also courted controversy by embracing a certain amount of sinister imagery. Both got burned, yet both went on to become mainstays of the cultural landscape.

You’d probably be hard pressed to describe the tracks on Warfaring Strangers as heavy metal. This is early stuff, made by kids who never went anywhere, who were imitating their musical heroes and acting out sword and sorcery fantasies through music. It is about as removed from modern metal as the modern gaming industry is from the wargaming scene of the early 70s. Check it out on Spotify, though, you might find a solid groove or two (my favorite is probably “Sorcerer,” by Junction or “Slave of Fear,” by Stone Axe).

The art direction is kind of worth the price of admission on its own. The cover looks like the back of a million school notebooks from the 70s and 80s. The interior art is drawn on blue lined graph paper. It is glorious.

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