By Adam Steininger
Geeks love metal more than the computers on which they listen to it. They yearn for heavy metal that was forged by Orcs in the mountains of Mordor, smuggled halfway across the universe on Serenity and then discovered by Silver Surfer while scouting for delicious planets.
The ten bands below aren't necessarily geeks themselves — many could rip the head off a vile beast with their bare bear hands. They are just universally beloved by geek mortals of Earth because of their diction and artistic execution. So take up arms, climb upon that faithful steed and unsheathe thy reading glasses for this deciphered binary code of the best geek-metal bands.
See also: The 20 Greatest Metal Albums in History
In a country full of bullfighters and fiestas, it seems unlikely that anything geeky would exist, even more that it would be a respected metal band. But apparently the brains in Spain stays mainly in the plain, and also in heavy-metal music by Wormed. The band spends much of its discography unearthing lyrical themes of astronomy, astrophysics, biology and human evolution with an extremely deep and complex analysis. Stephen Hawking has to be one of the few that can fully understand the band's big-brained lyrics in songs like “Pulses in Rhombus Forms,” with deeply growled vocals by lead singer Phlegeton: “Two dimensions used/Plus strange cosmic hole/Organism likes spectra-fusion/In this strange rhombuillision.” What in blue blazes does that mean?
Dethklok is the seventh-largest economy on Earth and arguably the greatest entertainment force in the history of the world, or in their cartoon world anyway. Not only is the act in an adult cartoon on Adult Swim called Metalocalypse, it is also a real-life concert-playing band spawned from the show. Geeks wish they could live in Dethkok's massive citadel called Mordhaus, where the band lives, records and gets shitfaced. Dethklok is the type of band that doesn't forget to bring its ax and sword while golfing, wears titanium-based diamond-encrusted codpieces and shoots dragons down with a magic guitar wand in the song “Crush My Battle Opponent's Balls.” If that wasn't already geeky enough, Mark Hamill does the voices for several characters.
Manowar is brooding in lyrics crowned in fantasy-flamed, sword-and-sorcery Norse mythology and has collaborated with Saruman — also known as Sir Christopher Lee — on Battle Hymns MMXI, featuring Lee as a narrator. Eric Adams's powerful vocals accompany his wordy wizardry to really drive home the band's aggressive themes. Manowar isn't afraid to grace albums with opera covers like the William Tell Overture, Nessun Dorma and Phantom of the Opera. Man o' War was a heavy-firepower warship used from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Manowar will go down in the geeky metal history books — many, many history books.
Bal-Sagoth is a band who is consistently compelled to wield heavy narrations of sweeping fantasy tales to the backdrop of larger-than-life symphonic speed metal. “A Tale from the Deep Woods” from the album Battle Magic takes place in the thick forests of medieval England and tells a story about a rouge warrior who relies on his gods and nature to survive as he journeys many miles from battle to battle. Their song title, or better yet song paragraph, “The Dark Liege of Chaos is Unleashed at the Ensorcelled Shrine of A'Zura-Kai (The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire Part II),” in and of itself guarantees the group a spot on this list, since it is the longest song title in metal — quite possibly in all of music history.
DragonForce? Yeah, DragonForce. Before your ears even hear the far-reaching speedy guitar solos and fantasy searing lyrics, the band's name should invoke the urge to soar on the back of a dragon across a European countryside. One of their most famous songs “Through the Fire and Flames” caps Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as a massive draining epilogue to the plastic shredding video game. Opening the song with the words, “On a cold winter morning/In the time before the light/In flames of death's eternal reign/We ride towards the fight/When the darkness has fallen down/And the times are tough alright,” this seven and a half minute flight through the skies headed toward a setting sun is a mere dew drop in their five album ocean.
5. Coheed and Cambria
The band name was taken from two characters, Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon, from the sci-fi comic The Amory Wars, written by their frontman Claudio Sanchez. The band takes storytelling in music to a whole new level, putting people like The Boss and country music to shame with eight minute epic alt-metal narratives based on The Amory Wars. The album The Afterman: Ascension features an astronomer/scientist/astronaut/geek named Dr. Sirius Amory, who goes on a mission to investigate a cosmic energy source that keeps his universe intact. Not only are the songs stories that need hours of confusing explication far beyond this paragraph to form some semblance of understanding, but their massive album titles like Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness can frustrate writers who struggle to squeeze them into brief album reviews.
Many geeks have already wasted countless long nights devising zombie apocalypse contingency plans, which they've printed, hole-punched and put into binders. And Anthrax isn't that much different. “Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't” contains very clear lyrics about shooting the shit out of the undead, “'Cause there's no humanity when the dead come back to feed.” On the album Among the Living, Anthrax taps into Stephen King's novella Apt Pupil with the song “A Skeleton in the Closet” and lyrics, “It's insanity, puppetmaster boy or Nazi/Apt pupil, he hears the screams. Nightmares turn into wet dreams.” On that same album, “I Am the Law” references comic book character Judge Dredd, who utters these four words as a frequently used expression.
GWAR dresses up like they are about to swing by Comic Con after the show, embodying everything geek fully clad as characters that look like they were Frankensteined from sci-fi, horror and fantasy movies. Their over-the-top theatric shows have the musicians publicly mutilating figures like Barack Obama, Jesus/Cyborg Jesus, Hillary Clinton, Hitler and the Pope. The song “Gor Gor” tells the harrowing tale of a crackhead T-Rex that attacks cities, “Apocalypse becomes creation/Gor Gor shall erase the nation/Before you jump into his gizzard/Fall and worship tyrant lizard.”
2. Iron Maiden
Even though they are one of the most successful heavy metal bands, many admirers have not realized just how geeky they really are. Founding band member Steve Harris says that their name Iron Maiden was inspired by the movie version of The Man in the Iron Mask, which was adapted from the book by Alexandre Dumas. An iron maiden was not a woman suited in iron armor, but a medieval torture device to punish criminals. The band's thirteen minute song “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a trimmed down interpretation of the lengthy poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge written in the late 1700s. “Montségur” is a song about a nine-month siege in 1243 on the Cathar's — a medieval Christian sect — Château de Montségur, belting lyrics that are sympathetic to the Cathars who were invaded by French royal forces. You know, subject matter that should be accompanied by an encyclopedia.
And the winner is…
1. Ronnie James Dio
Dio is not number two like his iconic devil horns, but number one like the middle finger metal geeks use to nudge their glasses back up the ridge of their nose. A founding father of dark fantasy filled metal, Dio was a rocker who was respected by metalheads and Dungeons & Dragons geeks. During a career spanning five decades, he first got his big break with a band called Elf, then Black Sabbath, and then Dio, releasing albums with names like Magica, Killing The Dragon and Master of the Moon. Dio rocks these lyrics in “Stargazer”: “High noon, oh I'd sell my soul for water/Nine years worth of breakin' my back/There's no sun in the shadow of the wizard/See how he glides, why he's lighter than air/Oh I see his face!” Kneel before the music of Dio.