Today’s Topic: Power Metal and Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
Picture it: you hear pleasant instruments such as a drum, a flute, and some cymbals. Perhaps even a triangle. After a few seconds an electric guitar riff slices through traditional instruments and a keyboards beat echoes across a battlefield before both combine into an over all melody. Vocals enter the fight leading up to a chorus flanked by a choir of singers, singing about the first flight of a sapphire dragon. The stage has several band members head banging while the dragon flies across the land for the first time in ages.
“Rock is not the Devil’s work, it’s magical and rad” Tenacious D says in their power metal musical Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, and they’re not wrong. Power metal is about story telling on a grand scale, bringing the science fiction and fantasy book genre to music, creating micro-universes inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, Tolkien, cult classics, and Stephen King.
I was watching Attack on Titans season 2 the other day when I realized that it could be the most unintentionally power metal Anime series I’ve seen in along time, if not ever. Usually things that are inspired by metal music comes in two flavors: the beat you over the head with mainstream metal nods a la Brutal Legend, or the somewhat subtle nods like Bastard!! While Brutal Legend set itself out to be a kind of Wizard of Ozzy Osbourne window into the classic metal scene and Bastard!! has these kind of subtle nods to classic American rock n’ roll with attacks like ‘the wall of Guns n’ Roses’, I always preferred the little mentioned flavor-layer inspired power metal stuff where power metal isn’t the reason behind the thing, but it helps the thing be amazing. Attack on Titans fits the bill surprisingly well.
First, lets watch the opening to season 2 of Attack on Titans where Linked Horizon plays the opening song ‘Shinzo wo Sasageyo!”
Without knowing much about Attack on Titans you could be lost. From the opening and the song, regardless if it’s in Japanese, you can infer three things: Humans. Titans. Battles. You want to be one of the Humans because they can do cool things like run down walls and fling themselves across fields, to fighting angry looking Titans.
Second, lets get comfortable in our armchairs, and talk about why power metal is an exciting music genre. Do note that I’m blathering. I don’t actual know music terms so this isn’t a technical analysis but emotional observations. Listening to power metal, reading up on bands, lyrics of songs, and attending just a whole lot of power metal shows, I’m pretty confident that I can establish two basic tenets of why this genre of music is incredibly fun:
- It’s about groups over a singular journey. The chorus’ are usually epic either literally like Rhapsody’s Guardiani del Destino, or just really fucking fun to sing with hundreds of people like Battlebeast’s King for a Day.
- It’s not about audience-as-subject. It’s about audience-as-comrades. I can’t think of any song of the many power metal bands I listen to that specific calls out the listener as being inferior. It’s almost always about having the listener join in the action or song, versus being the subject matter itself.
With those two tenets in mind, I suddenly realized when watching the opening for the most recent episode, Attack on Titans is the most unintentionally animated story about power metal I’ve ever watched. The story is fantastic: Titans have eaten Humans to almost extinction. Humans fight back with ridiculous, but awesome, gear. Each character in the ensemble has a portion of the story line dedicated to them, which includes an incredible fight scene. The open song can be played at any point in the show and it will inspire an urge to watch and take part in battles between humanity and titan. ADD to this a crazy religious sect and you have a power metal concept album waiting to be written.
Obviously it’s not the only one. There are many, many more. But there is something about Attack on Titan’s opening that pulls you into the world, invites you to be one of the Scouts, gives you gear and a sword, and tells you to go fight a titan. I think that’s pretty nifty.