Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Heavy Metal History Of The World

The Heavy Metal History Of The World

What follows is the playlist (in the form of Youtube clips) and the transcript for the now infamous 'Heavy Metal History of the World' episode of 'Sleeping in the Fire'.  It originally aired on Phoenix FM on the 8th of December, 2010.  Plans are afoot to re-record and podcast the show (watch this space), but meanwhile, enjoy The Heavy Metal History of the World, the blog.


          The control of fire by early humans was a turning point in human cultural evolution.  It allowed humans to proliferate by cooking food, finding warmth and protection.  Cooked foods provided humans with proteins and carbohydrates.  Fire also allowed the expansion of human activity into the colder hours of the night, and colder climates in general.  The earliest reliable evidence for human control of fire dates some 400,000 years ago.

          The other turning point in human evolution came about when previously benign proto-humans touched the Monolith, and became berserk killers on the quest for conquest.  Things generally went downhill from here.

Quest For Fire - Iron Maiden


 The first great civilization of Man was, of course, Atlantis.  Remembered only in myth and legend, and PC games and comics, the first mention of Atlantis was in Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias.

 Atlantis is generally regarded as a high civilization in pre-history with advanced technology, that sank beneath the ocean, often cited as due to some punishment for the evil acts of the Atlanteans.

          Popular theories have arisen regarding the origins of mainly European deities having been originally royal members of Atlantis.

          The location of Atlantis is a matter of hot debate even today.  Some of the more outlandish suggestions being, off the coast of Japan, the Mountains of Peru, or under Antarctica.

Atlantis - Angel Witch

Having lost our history and culture when the waves drank Atlantis, we had to start all over again.

          Mankind got together and built megalithic structures, partly to act as calendars, but mostly to screw with the minds of future historian and archaeologists as they grappled with how the hell the things were built without the help of U.F.O’s (I hope you’re listening, Erick von Daniken).

          Stonehenge was erected around 2500 BC or maybe as early as 3100 BC in what is now the English county of Wiltshire.  It seems to have been designed to predict eclipses, solstices, equinoxes and other celestial events.

          But the biggest mystery of Stonehenge is what exactly the Druids are up to over there.  Seriously.
Stonehenge - Spinal Tap


          The first of the enduring great civilizations in recorded history is that of the Ancient Egyptians.

          And if they’d figured out a simpler system of writing, we may have been able to study their fascinating culture more throughout history, rather than relying on the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by the Commission des Sciences et des Arts under Napoleon in 1799.

          The Egyptians went sick with monument building, bequeathing us with Pyramids, temples, massive statues, bizarre gods and beer.

          Ancient Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC, and the rule of the Pharaohs officially ended in 31BC when Egypt became a Roman province.

Ramesses II

          The 19th and 20th Dynasties of Ancient Egypt were Later New Kingdom rulers collectively referred to as Ramesses.  It translates as ‘Born of the Sun-God RA’

          The second, and final ruler of the 19th Dynasty was Ramesses II, or Ramesses the Great.  He is often regarded as Egypt’s greatest, most celebrated and most powerful pharaoh.  He ruled Egypt from 1279 to 1213 BC.  He lead campaigns against the Hittites to the north and the Nubians to the south.  He fathered more than 90 children and constructed more temples, collosal statues and obelisks than any other New Kingdom Pharaoh.  He was regarded as the inspiration for the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem ‘Ozymandius’.
User Maat Re Nile


          The Egyptians weren’t the only ones having fun.  A war that traditionalists place at 1194 – 1184 BC between the Achaeans, or ancient Greeks, and the City of Troy in modern Turkey, was fought over the kidnapping of Helen from King Menelaus of Sparta.  Even the gods got involved in this battle that was to echo through eternity, and, again much later, Brad Pitt and Eric Bana had a go too.  Immortalized in Homer’s ‘The Iliad’, the Trojan war depicts the destruction of Troy which was thought to be mythical, until German archaeologist Heinrich Schiemann excavated a site which has come to be widely believed as the ruins of Troy. 
          It was a time of heroes and villains, of Gods vs Gods, and there is only one band capable of channelling that much epic.  Manowar!

Achilles, Agony and Ecstacy in eight parts - Manowar


          While Egypt was the undisputed superpower of the Early Ancient Mediterranean, with their pantheon of acid-friendly gods, another movement began and coalesced in the desert of the Near Middle East.  A minor hearth god found himself gradually promoted to the number one position of capital G God by the Hebrews and immortalized in a series of best-sellers collectively known as the Bible.  This movement forever divided the ‘Eastern’ spiritual world, who insisted that ‘God’ was within, and awaited discovery through meditation and self-actualization, and the ‘Western’ spiritual world who placed ‘God’ outside of man, and the burning spiritual question then became ‘What is our relationship to the (external) God?
          The Bible is a block-buster of epic proportions which has everything.  It contains verses describing or advocating suicide, incest, bestiality, sadomasochism, sexual activity in a violent content, murder, morbid violence, use of drugs and alcohol, homosexuality, voyeurism, revenge, undermining of authority figures, lawlessness and human rights violations and atrocities. 
          It also contains distorted historical narrative, including mention of the Siege of Lachish (in II Kings 18 and II Chronicles 32), which was an Assyrian siege and conquest of the Judean town of Lachish in 701 BC.
The Siege of Lachish - Melechesh

          Eclipsing Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and pretty much everything else Ancient was the Ultimate Empire of the Romans.  Starting out as a squabbling group of tribes on a group of 7 hills, to dominating the Ancient world, the Romans introduced or refined many of the hallmarks of civilization that we take for granted today.  They had the best army machine in the world at the time, they threw the best parties, and they got rid of politicians in the time-honoured manner of assassination.  With horses for consuls, madmen fiddling while Rome burnt, and decadence taken to an art form, it was pretty much inevitable that the only way they were to be defeated was by themselves.  That and the invading German barbarians in 410.  Even then, the Roman Empire, after 700 years of bloody adventures, was to have a half-life in the survival of the Eastern Capital of Constantinople, which finally fell at the hands of Mehmed II, 1,043 later.

          The European continent never properly recovered from the final sack of Rome, and descended into the Dark Ages, where feudal lords reigned over petty kingdoms.  The struggle for re-unification continues, 1600 years later.
Rome 64 C.E. / Slaying the Prophets Ov Isa - Behemoth

The Roman Empire, and its glorious materialism consumed itself, and a new, spiritual kingdom took over.  The Rule of Christ fired Europe, and the city of Rome became the seat of spiritual rulers, continuing the tradition started by Saint Peter, the first Pope.
(with the brief exception of 1300 – 1370, when the French stole the papacy)
          The Medieval times were flourishing in sacred arts, and a religious fervour gripped the European mind.  Christendom dominated, and waged holy crusades against the Middle East, and against it’s own pagan backyard.  Beautiful cathedrals, hymns to God set in stone, flourished and inspired the medieval mind.  For the unfortunate Pagan, things were not so hot in medieval times, however.

Herr Mannelig - In Extremo


          In the Middle Ages, Scandinavia was having its own version of fun.  Scandinavian explorers, warriors, merchants and pirates were exploring, raiding, trading and settling in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late 8th century to the mid 11th century.  Norsemen travelled as far east as Constantinople and as far west as Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland (modern Canada), and as far south as Al Andalus (in modern Spain).

          They loved a good drink, loved a good brawl and, legend has it, loved magic mushrooms that induced berzerker states in their feared warriors.  They worshipped Marvel Comic Super-hero Thor (now a major motion picture), and their most famous hero is, of course, Hagar the Horrible.

          Heavy Metal and Vikings are a match made in Valhalla, and frankly, there is way too much heavy metal material to choose from when it comes to compiling a Heavy Metal History of the World regarding the Vikings.  I’ve chosen the following Bathory song, which in its own way is a poignant story about the subtle start to inevitable and bloody Christian conversion of the Vikings, and the loss of their own unique mythology.
One Rode to Asa Bay -  Bathory

          To continue on regarding the Vikings, the Varangian Way was a trade route between Scandinavia and Constantinople that ran across the Baltic Sea, down through various rivers flowing through Eastern Europe, (at some stages the trading boats had to be portaged across land from river to river) then finally across the Black Sea to Constantinople.
          ‘Varangian’ was a Byzantine term for Vikings.  This trade route was also responsible for Vikings coming to inhabit areas of modern Russia.  Indeed, the ‘Rus’ (medieval Russia) were originally founded by East Slavic tribes and the Varangians, centered in Novgorod, which the Vikings called Holmgard.  Here’s Turisas to explain things a little better for you…
To Holmgard and Beyond - Turisas

One salient feature of the Middle Ages were the Crusades.  The Crusades were a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns waged by Roman Catholic Europe, initially intended to restore Christian control of the Holy Land.  They were prosecuted between 1095 and 1291.  Other campaigns in Spain and Eastern Europe continued into the 15th century.  Most groups copped a lash, including the Muslims, Pagan Slavs, Pagan Balts, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians and political enemies of various popes.  It was a time of Templars and Assassins, of Knights and Infidels, relics and conspiracy theories.

          The IV Crusade was initiated by Pope Innocent III, which began as an expedition to invade the Holy Land via Egypt, but ended up, after a sequence of misunderstandings and snafus with the sacking of Constantinople, which was the final breaking point of the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western Roman Catholic Church.  Oops.  Nice going, guys.
The IV Crusade - Bolt Thrower

          Genghis Khan was, among other things, a frightening reminder to Europe that Asia did things bigger and better.

          After uniting nomadic tribes in Northeast Asia, Genghis kicked off the Mongol Invasion, firstly with an away victory against China, and, ultimately with forging (at least temporarily) the largest empire the world had ever seen.  In point of fact, it took until 1946 for Genghis’ record to be beaten, and then only fractionally, by the British Empire at it’s greatest extent.  (for the record, the Mongol Invasion 1270 33.0 million km2  the British Empire 1946  33.7 million km2)

          Genghis murdered and raped his way across the Eurasian continent and his empire would probably have conquered a relatively feeble Europe except for a few untimely demises in their camps.

          Interestingly, a scientific study in 2003 of a Y-chromosonal lineage present in 8% of men in a large region of Asia indicated that this genetic lineage is consistent with originating in Mongolia about 1,000 years ago, and is too quick to be explained by genetic drift.  It indicates that with Genghis killing male genetic competition and raping women in his invasion, it appears that this 8% of Asian men are descendant from Jolly Genghis himself.  (the group in question is about 0.5% of all the men in the world)  Beat that, Ramesses II!  It remains to be seen, however, how this will be affected by China’s One Child Policy…
Warriors of Genghis Khan - Bad News

          The Age of Discovery reached a critical point in 1492 with the European re-discovery of the Americas.  Of course, the Asians beat them to it by over 10,000 years, and the Vikings by several hundred years, but the guy who gets the credit is Spaniard Christopher Columbus, who thought he’d landed in India.

          The Age of Discovery can be seen as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern Era, and contemporary with the Renaissance.

          This era ushered in the rise of colonial empires, a wide transfer of plants, animals, human populations (both willing and otherwise), disease and culture between the Old World and the New World.  And while this signalled more riches for the European nations, the original discoverers of America, the Native Americans, copped a predictable pasting from the Europeans who were setting up shop and rapidly becoming the bad neighbours from hell.  And worse was yet to come.
Indians - Anthrax


          Christendom’s campaigns for conformity were nearly complete by the 17th century in Europe.  Only small pockets of resistance remained.  In military parlance, the large army calls the small army ‘terrorists’ and attributes mythical powers to them.  In religious parlance, the large religion calls the small religion ‘witches’ and attributes mythical powers to them.

          The leading light in witch-hunting was Witch Finder General Matthew Hopkins.  In his short career between 1645 and 1647 he and his associates were responsible for more people being hung for witchcraft than in the previous 100 years.

          Witches were generally defined as those malcontents (usually women) who had the temerity to keep alive Christian-supressed religions.

          Torture was unlawful in England at the time Hopkins was active, but he did use various methods of browbeating, including sleep deprivation, to extract confessions from his victims.  Does any of this sound familiar?

          Hopkins also pioneered the ‘swim test’, where a suspected witch was tied to a chair and thrown in water.  The idea was that, as witches had not been baptised, water would reject them, and floating suspects would be branded ‘witches’.  Monty Python, of course, had a field day with this, and rightfully so. 
          Contemporary witch hunts are reported from sub-Saharan Africa, India and Papua New Guinea.  Official legislation against witchcraft can be found in Saudi Arabia and Cameroon.

Matthew Hopkins - Cathedral

          The Golden Age of Piracy occurred in the early Modern Era, and spans from the 1650’s to the 1720’s.  The End of the Wars of Religion (which followed the Prodestant Reformation) allowed European countries to resume the development of their colonial empires.  This involved lots of seabourne trade, a general economic improvement, and created opportunity to steal much of the sea-going trade.

          Pirates in the Golden Age were larger than life characters who cherished freedom from restrictive governments, and had unhealthy obsessions with parrots and peg-legs, but perfectly understandable fixations with rum and stealing.

          International Talk Like A Pirate Day (yarr….) is the 19th of September and started in 1995.  People are encouraged to replace phrases like ‘hello’ with ‘Ahoy Matey!’, to drink copious amounts of rum and start small, indepentant pirate states wherever you can.  Yarrr…!

          Port Royal, which was located at the mouth of the Kingston Harbour in Southeastern Jamaica became a homeport and a safehaven for English and Dutch sponsored privateers.  At the height of its popularity, the city had one drinking house for every 10 residents.  Serious.  It was destroyed in an earthquake in 1692, but forever remains in our hearts, and can be seen today in the buccaneer spirit of the flamboyant West Indian cricket team. 
Port Royal - Running Wild

          The Discovery of Australia is often attributed to Lieutenant (later Captain) Cook in 1770, despite having been discovered in 1699 by William Dampier, in 1696 by Willem de Vlamingh, in 1644 by Abel Tasman, in 1619 by Frederick de Houtman, in 1616 by Dirk Hartog, in 1606 by Luiz Vaez de Torrez and Willem Jansz, possibly by the Chinese and/or the Ancient Egyptians before that, and most definitely by the Indigenous Australians as early as 50,000 years ago.

          Terra Australia Incognita was known as far back as Roman times, and was a commomplace feature in medieval geography.

          With the European colonization of Australia, as with the European colonization of the Americas, the indigenous population was to come off second-best in every regard.

          England began dumping their undesirables onto the continent known as Australia, and the tradition continues to this day, only instead of being called ‘convicts’, they’re now called ‘The Barmy Army’.  How many dollars you get to the pound these days, guys?
First Contact - Alchemist
THE U.S. CIVIL WAR  1861 - 1865

          Bart Simpson once said that there were only 3 morally justified wars in history.  The U.S. Civil war, World War II, and Star Wars.  We’ll cover World War II later in the show, and as for Heavy Metal Star Wars…well…

Anyone out there that wants to go one up on that, do it, let me know about it, and I’ll play it on the show, promise!

          Anyway, back to the Americas.  The European settlers, now calling themselves Americans, not content with having culturally annihilated the indigenous populations, decided to have a good smack at each other.

          11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America in 1861.  The Yankees were having none of it, and when hostilities began on April 12, 1861, it was on for young and old. 

          The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars, making extensive use of railroad, the telegraph, steamships and mass produced weapons.

          The battle of Gettysburg was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the U.S. Civil War, and was the turning point of the war.

          Clint Eastwood was to have a defining cameo in the U.S. Civil War in ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’, although he was fairly neutral in the whole shenanigans.  He was to have a more defined role in World War II when he opposed the Nazis in ‘Where Eagles Dare’.
Gettysburg The Devil to Pay - Iced Earth
WORLD WAR I  1914 - 1918

          The War to End All Wars was, of course, followed almost immediately by the Second War to End All Wars, which ushered in the Age of Perpetual War, or Perpetual Peace, depending on which part of the socio-economic spectrum your country falls into.

          World War I started when armament giants, like the Krupps, were itching for an excuse to unleash their new war toys upon a waiting market.  They found their excuse with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary on 28 June 1914.

          World War One was the perfect marriage of the Industrial military, and Big Business.  The old military-industrial one-two wasn’t perfected until the current Gulf Wars, where you could make money firstly by selling weapons to the military to smack down a country, then make even more money by ‘rebuilding the infrastructure’ you destroyed in the first place.

          World War I produced the finest generation of War Poets, one of the most famous being Wilfred Owen.  He wrote shocking, realistic poetry about the horrors of trench and gas warfare, and was killed in action at the Battle of the Sambre one week before the war ended.  It is not known how many Krupps died in the conflict, but my guess would be none.

          World War I saw the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, as well as the demise of the Hohenzollers, Hapsburg, Romanov and Ottoman Dynasties, not to mention 9 million combatants.  But, as the pattern of history as proven time and time again, worse was yet to come.
1916 -  Motorhead

          World War II started off when a disgruntled World War I combatant decided to appeal the umpires decision and have another bash.  Adolf Hitler, artist, vegetarian and animal lover with only one ball (the other, it was rumoured for a long time, was in the Albert Hall), rallied a defeated Germany and started off the madness once more.  Mind you, the Japanese were already at war with the Chinese, the Russians and the Mongolians for a couple of years at this stage.

          World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history with between 50 million and 70 million fatalities.

          The Germans started off in top form with quick victories, stunning tactics and fetish-friendly uniforms to die for.

          The big mistake they made, which was the big mistake Napoleon made, was to invade Russia.

          To quote  “Today, it’s widely believed that Hitler, or really anyone’s, chances of winning a war against the Soviet Union were on par with a snowball in a cage match with a chainsaw-wielding Mike Tyson in hell.”

          The Japanese also had some early away victories in Asia, and were confident enough to print up occupation money in anticipation of the takeover of Australia, but were stopped in New Guinea.  By crocodiles.

          The war ended for Germany with the allies encircling Berlin and agreeing that the Soviets would perform the final honours.  Hitler fed himself a final lead sandwich in a bunker, and the Berlin Philharmonic’s last performance before their evacuation from Berlin at the end of World War II was of Brunhilde’s Immolation Scene from Gotterdamerung, or the Twilight of the Gods.
Berlin - Hail of Bullets

The Vietnam War (or, what the Vietnamese themselves call the American War), was a Cold War military conflict that kicked off in November 1955, and ended with American and Allied defeat on 30 April 1975.

          The Vietnamese had previously fought off a thousand years of Chinese rule, and had fought off the French ‘Indo-China’ rule, so were no strangers to fighting off superpowers from their home turf.  They managed to add an in-form America to their impressive list of scalps.

          Civil opposition to the war was popular in the U.S in the 1960’s and raised the eternal question of why young men’s lives were being sacrificed for old men’s prejudices.

          Another problem for the U.S forces was the manner in which the war was waged at the top.  The U.S Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968 was former President of Ford motor company, Robert S MacNamara, who attempted to conduct the war as a business, and using business methodology.  His efforts were as disastrous for private industry as they were for public policy.

          The M-16 was a weapon plagued with problems, but made ‘rational and business’ sense, unlike the superior AK-47, which just worked.  The Vietnam War could be argued as the failure of Reason and the ignoble conclusion to the Age of Enlightenment.
Napalm in the Morning -  Sodom


          And remember, history doesn’t end there.  History will end on the 21st of December, 2012 according to the Mayan Calendar, the automatic writings of I-Kuan Tao, the Web Bot Project and Hollywood.  Live every day like it was your last, because for most of us, that day will be the 21st of December, 2012. 

          Possible scenarios for the end of the world in 2012 include the Earth’s collision with a passing planet (often referred to as Planet X, or Nibiru), or a black hole, or the arrival of the next Solar maximum, or a disastrous Galactic Alignment, Timewave Zero, geo-magnetic reversal, a meteor smacking into Earth, or Sarah Palin becoming President of the United States of America.  My money is on Sarah. 

So, be sure to take out a massive loan the week before, and party it up big!  Or it could all turn out like the Y2K bug, a massive hoax, in which case, see you for post-history!  Thanks for tuning in to the Heavy Metal history of the World!  
Genius Loci III - Inade (A lament for all of the victims of history) (not metal)

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