Records of the Week With Jon and Ted #6
Each Friday, Editors Ted Nubel and Jon Rosenthal will share their picks for Records of the Week — not necessarily what's out this week, just whatever's on our mind or on our record players.
Dio's foray into full-on concept albums was a strange one, to say the least. It might not be the most well-known of his music—tragically the case for everything after Dream Evil, though—but it has a lot of things going for it. Though there's some computerized-voice narration putting together a meta-narrative, It tells a fairly generic tale about a fantasy world beset by evil, except that everything has weird names and nothing makes sense. But don't worry: at the end of the album is "The Magica Story," where Dio tells you the whole thing. Great for pretending Dio is reading you a cozy bedtime story!
Musically, it's a slower-paced offering than his early work and not quite as dynamic: expect plodding, in-the-pocket riffs backed by the super-tight drumming of Simon Wright (AC/DC) with Dio's voice putting the whole thing together. It differs from predecessors Strange Highways and Angry Machines in that it's not nearly as bitter and cynical, and focuses more on traditional heavy metal than the sometimes weirdly-modern vibe I get from those two records. It's doomed as fuck, too, and tracks like "Lord of the Last Day" are easily in my favorite Dio material ever -- plus the poignant ballad "As Long as It's Not About Love." Can't say why, but this is the Dio album I revisit the most. Maybe it's because the bizarre Holy Diver bootleg shirt I have has a "Lord of the Last Day" lyric as a backprint.
Sadly, this album was planned to be the start of a trilogy -- with his untimely passing, that didn't play out, but one track from the planned albums, "Electra," is included in the 2013 reissue of Magicka.
Bak de Syv Fjell
A fun little relative obscurity this week—Bak de Syv Fjell (trans. Behind the Seventh Mountain) was a Norwegian folk/black metal band which was briefly active in the mid-1990s, only releasing a short demo and this 7", From Haavardstun. Boasting mighty, melodic riffs and catchy but still downplayed clean vocals (no screams here), the From Haavardstun 7" EP, which is impossible to find even with an edition of 1000 copies, is a perfect example of black metal's post-Bergtatt school of composition.
The duo of the mysterious "Haavard" (not to be confused with Ulver's Haavard), who completely left the black metal scene after this 7" EP, and Einar "Kvitrafn" Selvik of later Wardruna fame, Bak de Syv Fjell opted for the triumphant and direct as opposed to black metal's oft wandering and miasmal atmospheres. There were rumors of Haavard and Kvitrafn picking up where they left off in 2007, and a website was even made, but nothing really happened after that. Part of me wonders what would have happened given Kvitrafn's ritual/world music background, but, alas.