Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Music To Write By: Killswitch Engage's "Rose of Sharyn"

Why Listen? To see how form affects function; an example of making private symbolism accessible; how to keep sentiment from becoming sentimentality.



When one thinks of music with compositional subltety and a literary bent, heavy metal doesn’t exactly leap to mind. Sturm und drang and dire denouncements, yes, but not much more. So "Rose of Sharyn," from the progressive metalcore band Killswitch Engage, comes as something of a surprise. In most contexts, this eulogy to lead singer Howard Jones’ mother would seem overly sentimental. ("What would I give to behold / The smile, the face of love? / You never left me. The rising sun / Will always speak your name.") But atonal howls and thundering riffs add gravitas, while its surprisingly melodic bridge lends a fragile beauty. What’s more, Jones refuses to surrender to the achorless abstractions that dominate his genre, instead coopting a biblical metaphor in the song’s title to help communicate private symbolism. There’s some finesse in all this fury.

9 comments:

Chestertonian Rambler said...

That really does work.

I have to admit that I clicked on the video before reading your description. Eyebrows were raised a bit at the beginning. (I did go through a Hardcore period of my musical listening, though it was pretty brief.)

I also love the simple touch of the bleeding tree in the video, progressively introduced. I know it wasn't intended as any sort of classical allusion, but it did seem to infuse the traditional name-carved-in-the-tree with an Ovidian strangeness.

Jackie Jordan said...

I am foiled again by the corporate block. Inasmuch as I would like to hear this song, your description is epic - "achorless" - love that word. The public librry awaits at five o'clock...

Loren Eaton said...

CR,

Eyebrows were raised a bit at the beginning.

I imagine that will be most of my readers' response. I did want to shake up the series a bit. Everything was tending toward folk.

I doubt the video's director intended any classical allusions. KSE has some sophistication, but not quite that much.

Loren Eaton said...

Jackie,

Make sure you have headphones on when you do watch it! Seriously, it's a loud song and about the most extreme thing I ever plan on posting to this blog. Just so you're warned.

Loren Eaton said...

Post Script: I didn't include it because it doesn't have a lot of literary merit, but KSE's "The End of Heartache" shows that the band has a much more melodic side.

Jackie Jordan said...

But, Loren, I like extreme ... really I do. And thanks for the tip about the headphones.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

I didn't mean to imply that they were making a classical allusion...but there seems to be some things that just stick around in our memories.

Once you've heard of a bleeding tree--be it in high school lit classes, Ovid, a fairy tale, C.S. Lewis, or a heavy metal song, the image kinda sticks with you. It's not something you easily forget.

Donna Hole said...

I don't even listen to the lyrics. I like the music and tune out the rest. Oddly, the heavy metal helps me focus on my own world.

I guess I need a bit of chaos in the background to write chaos in my story plot.

......dhole

Loren Eaton said...

Donna,

That doesn't surprise me. It's a very rythmic style of music and, well, most of us can't understand the lyrics well unaided. KSE's earlier stuff was very complicated as far as rythmn goes.