Sunday Sesh: A Book of Creatures is perfect metal lyrical fodder.
As a young boy who spent most of his afternoons in the woods, I found myself enamored at a young age with cryptids. There was just something so mysterious and seductive about the idea of a mysterious hairy hominid lurking somewhere on Pikes Peak, so constantly reading about mythological beasts and nightmares from folklore seemed only a natural progression from the dinosaur books that comprised most of my collection. As I got older, that childlike naivete regarding the possibility of the Loch Ness Monster may have evaporated, but my bemusement with the monsters of legend that have shaped our common experience and pop culture has never disappeared. Yesterday, I stumbled upon an excellent online resource dedicated to compiling all of the great monsters of legend, myth, and tall tale. Considering metal’s overdependence on Lovecraft, Tolkien, and amateur occultism, I’d like to suggest A Book of Creatures as a new source of inspiration.
Take the Barcädžy Calh for example.
When Soslan or Sosryko, greatest of the Nart heroes, was born, his mother had him dipped in magical fire. The process rendered him immortal and invulnerable, but alas, the smith’s tongs had held him by the knees, which became his only weak spot.
After many adventures, Soslan was finally defeated by the jealous Syrdon. Aware of the hero’s weakness, Syrdon incited the devils to fire their arrows from below ground into his horse’s hooves. Like its master, the horse had only one weak spot, in this case the underside of its hooves.
Once the horse fell, Syrdon called upon the enigmatic Barcädžy Calh, the Wheel of Balsæg or Cutting Wheel. The Wheel was a Thinking Machine, an intelligent and malevolent automaton that took the form of a razor-sharp metal wheel with steel teeth and flames bursting from it. It came rolling down from the heavens to the Earth, setting fire to plains and forests as it went on its headlong charge to the Black Sea. Only birch trees managed to avoid the flaming Wheel’s wrath. Soslan gave chase to it and captured it, but it escaped his grasp, flew at him, and sliced through his knees, leaving him for dead. The hero’s sons chased the Wheel back into the Black Sea, but it was already too late. The Narts buried him as he died; his last act from the grave was the impalement of Syrdon. Soslan’s nephew avenged him by breaking the Wheel in half.
Balsæg, also known as Barsæg, Marsug, and permutations thereof, remains unknown. Knowledge of his nature has been lost, save that he is the proprietor of the Wheel. In some accounts, the Daughter of the Sun sends the Wheel to kill Soslan; in others, it belongs to Father Ojnon – John the Baptist. It may have its origin as a solar symbol or accessory in solstice rituals. Finally, in some retellings the Wheel is reduced to a mere training discus, albeit a very sharp one. Soslan is tricked into bouncing it off his weak spot.
That’s metal as all hell. Maybe even power metal as all hell. I can see it now: A somber monologue tells the tale of Soslan and his tragic weakness. A series of speedy tracks introduce us to his heroic deeds, then a bleak, doomy track introduces the dreaded Wheel. After an epic climax full of fiery riffs, Soslan meets his demise, but one final ballad sets up hope following Syrdon’s impalement. Yeah, I can dig it.
Alternatively, consider the Balbal. This nasty little critter has deathgrind written all over it.
Hooked nails, gliding flight, and a long, long tongue are the hallmarks of the Balbal. While its depredations are described in Tagbanua folklore, it is itself accused of hailing from predominantly Muslim Moro country. They have also been described as friendly with and indistinguishable from crocodiles.
Balbals appear before a corpse is buried. Gliding like flying squirrels or bats, these humanoid creatures land on thatched roofs and use their curved claws to rip their way through the straw. Once a hole has been cleared, the long tongue is used to lick up the corpse, skin, flesh, bones, and all. The corpse is then replaced by a banana stalk, identical to the deceased in every way except for a telltale lack of fingerprints.
Light and loud noises scare off balbals. Branches of Blumea balsamifera, known in the Philippines as sambong, sobosob, and gabon, will keep them away from a bedside. Finally, prompt burial is always effective.
This sucker eats dead people. Maybe Bloodbath could just repurpose their best song to be about a nasty Balbal. “The longer I live, the more I’m dying to feel the pain.” But, y’know, the thing being “Eaten” is a dead person.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any entries for the Barghest yet, but My Dying Bride already has that beasty on lock. Also, A Book of Creatures is constantly being updated, so it’s only a matter of time.
Which cryptid or monster myth do you think metal should explore? Poke around A Book of Creatures and let me know in the comments below.