— “When the dragon awoke, trouble flared again” (Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney, line 2287)
If you grew up on fantasy stories, dragons (in this post’s case, European dragons, the nasty, fire-belching, gold-hoarding, knight-slaying kind) were probably some of the first monsters you were introduced to as a child. They’re probably some of the first monsters you fell in love with as well (I still want to grow up to be Maleficent). It’s hard to imagine a time when dragons were a novel concept; thousands of years of elaboration and adaptation upon the draconic have produced dragons that are variously awe-inspiring, cute & cuddly, and totally metal, but rarely are they frightening or repulsive anymore (the Gaping Dragon from Dark Souls was probably the last dragon that made me recoil in horror). If we’re willing to get a little creative, though, dragons could be scary again. Let’s consider the fundamental features of these beasts, and what those features say about their role as antagonists.
Despite the fact that my game Jokers & Journeys has been part of the BLP catalogue since last November, I don’t consider myself a game designer just yet. The reason why has something to do with this principle from Things We Think About Games: “Having played chess does not qualify you to answer ‘yes’ when you are asked ‘do you play chess?'”
In case yall couldn’t tell from our barrage of selfies and excited squealing this past weekend, BLP had an absolute blast at Arisia. We came, we sold stuff, we met a whole ensemble of really rad people and came away with our heads full of new ideas. In this Going Around we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the most meaningful moments and events that happened for each of us during the weekend.
Sometimes, it’s nice to gaze up into the stars and get some perspective. You might contemplate the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, or try to hold in your mind the fact that even the emptiest bit of space you can see is filled with stars too far away for us to see from our planet. You might wonder if there’s intelligent life looking back at us, and what their memes are like. Maybe you’re tracing one of the constellations, ancient storytelling tools drawn through light-years of space, shapes that will last the course of human history several times over before the ever-shifting universe pulls them apart. Maybe you’re just thinking about Carrie Fisher or Carl Sagan. This week, our panel of contributors share with you some of our favorite stories that take place in the final frontier.
Turns out I had a little more to say about each of these albums than I though. It also turns out that rapid-fire publishing nine posts over eight days isn’t a great idea, so I’m clumping most of my favorite albums of 2017 into this post on this final day of the year. Here are my takes on weirdo-pop icon Fever Ray, prog theatrics from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, a slab of supermassive riffs from Ground, a lightning-fast thrash assault from Lich King, and Igorrr, dear god, Igorrr, what have you wrought?
Distinguished readers, here is the 2017 album that took BloodLetterPress by storm, the one that we’ve had playing at most of our in-person meetings this year, the latest offering from the man we’ve come to view as the voice of a generation. Neil Cicierega, perhaps best known as the creator of Lemon Demon, Potter Puppet Pals, and countless other internet follies, has graced us with a third mashup album.
If you’ve ever been under a weighted blanket, or dozed off in the trunk of a car during a hot summer, you know the sensation I’m trying to invoke when I say that Ex People’s debut Bird is a comfy doom album. Comfy doom is the kind of music that Windhand plays, the kind that Cloudkicker invoked on Subsume, the feeling of getting overwhelmed by something heavy and soft that pins you down and gets you cozy. It doesn’t need to be scary or capital-e Evil; its power comes from its ability to flatten, to neutralize, to disarm. “You’ll be eating out my hand,” vocalist Laura Kirsop promises on the track “You Creep”. It’s a cool subversion of the macho posturing that some elements of metal fall back on, and given Ex People’s roots in punk and riot grrrl, it’s certainly intentional.
The London quartet bring the low end like nobody’s business on Bird; at its grooviest, this album’s kinetic energy is the kind of meaty lumbering you might expect from an entire slumber of megatherium. But the blunt instruments of the rhythm section don’t just twist and crush aimlessly though the earth; this is not just a collection of nice riffs that become stale after twenty minutes. Ex People craft a heady soundscape, nestling you in layers upon layers of textured guitar, beautiful loud-soft dynamics, and a perfectly matched vocal performance even as you’re driven forth by the low end. Guitarist Calem Gunn said it best in an interview with Metal Hammer: “There’s a unique, addictive feeling to be wrought from playing low and slow. Weight and the absence of weight.” Bird is a colossal creature borne aloft.
I jolt awake, swaying hard in my hammock. It is cold. Six masked figures loom over me. High above them, the moon cuts a perfect curve through the Pit’s dirty plexiglass skylight.
“It’s prank night, frosh. You in?”
The stage-whispering figure looming over me has the face of a vampire bat, a wrinkled, hairy thing. Twin fangs gleam beneath two jutting yearling antlers. The six figures looming over me are all wearing antlered vampire bat masks.
“Yeah,” I grumble, pulling my blanket close, “I’m in, I guess.”