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April 20, 2013

Manly Songs: Path of Glory

It’s back!  It’s back!  Snap back!  Nice slacks!  Snack attack!

Yeah, I know it’s been a while since I’ve added anything to the Repository, but I’d say it’s about time for a change…and to write a post that isn’t thousands and thousands of words.  (I’m nothing if not accommodating to others.)  So, let’s have some more manly songs.  Because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that I have this habit of saying “Time to be a man!” when I’m about to play video games.  But I can think of worse habits to have, and certainly far less endearing ones.

But enough talk.  Let’s have some rockin’ tunes.  And magic.


Song: Path of Glory
Band: Demons and Wizards
Lyrics: Jon Schaffer and Hansi Kürsch
Artists: Jon Schaffer, Hansi Kürsch, Jim Morris, Mark Prator
Year: 2000

Song recommended by: Brad @ Cheap Boss Attack

All right.  Let’s crack ‘er open and see what we’ve got.


You know what this song reminds me of?  A birthday party.

Some years ago, I was at a buddy’s birthday party -- earlier than most of the other guests IIRC, so we could set up the video games -- and we had a bit of time before the festivities started.  But one of his pals was there, too, so we had a little chat to pass the time.  In the midst of it, I started asking him about metal, and what sort of music would be best for me.  As expected, he offered some enlightenment (though since we were both away from a computer at the time, he couldn’t exactly show me any good examples); he explained that there are multiple types of metal -- speed, power, groove, thrash, and many more -- and if I start looking by genre, I’m more likely to find something to latch onto.


During the talk, another buddy came into the room and asked what we were up to, and I explained that I was eager to get into the world of metal.  He seemed genuinely surprised.  And in a lot of ways, I can’t blame him.  Ignoring the fact that I’m pretty mild-mannered IRL (and even on the internet, one could argue), I’d assume that there’s a bit of a…well, let’s call it “preconception” about metal.  I can’t speak for everyone about what metal means to others, but I think that once upon a time, I used to associate the entire genre -- the ONE genre, ignoring all the subdivisions -- with imagery like this:


And the music itself?  Something along the lines of grown men trying to cough up hairballs while grinding knives across asphalt.

I’ve since learned that, no, metal is not as satanic as one would think.  In fact, the reason why I say I like metal is that, out of the millionth of a percent of the songs out there that I’ve actually heard, they’re not about mindless rage and gruesome, doom-and-gloom imagery.  Metal, especially the metal that I like, can be about triumph; it’s the sort of music that makes someone want to press onward, and celebrates both that effort and the potential of the human spirit.  Granted that’s done with some fantasy elements at times -- warriors and unicorns and such come to mind -- but the intent is there.  There’s an intent, a message with metal that I can’t help but be enticed by…though it certainly helps that the music itself gets the blood pumping. 

And I’d say that’s to be expected from -- no, proven by this song.


To be fair, “Path of Glory” isn’t exactly the fiercest song out there, especially the start; it’s pretty calm, and gets you in the mood to relax.  To some extent, that’s a constant throughout the whole song.  But of course, when those guitars kick in with some heavy sounds, and the singers scream to the heavens, it delivers on all the power you’d expect from a power metal band (thanks, Wikipedia!).  So in terms of raw sound, you won’t be left wanting.  Nor will you be disappointed if you’re looking for something a bit more sedate.  It’s a flexible song that shows what metal can be when there’s an undeniable intent, and a creative vision, behind it.  As it should.  As all art should.

So what is the intent, then?  What does this song offer to justify its existence, and prove itself worthy of your time?  Well, on the surface that much is obvious -- you have to hold on to hope.  Push onward, no matter how hard it gets.  Better days lie in wait, so long as you’re willing to walk your path towards them.  All manly tenets, without question.  All things that you should hold dear, and help elevate the song to a new level.  Just note the synchronization at play here:

No way out
So many times it's hopeless, dark and gray
No way out
And other times, it's hope that saves the day


The hot blood starts to show at about 1:12, right when the lyrics start to reach their most hopeful (i.e. when there’s a line that features “hope” in it).  There’s no denying that that line is one of the most powerful up to that point, so it makes sense that the song’s sheer force would kick in at the same time.  It’s not exactly a complex or original move, but a useful, even vital one, all the same.  It’s hard not to get a little hyped when the “YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH”s kick in.

Even with all that in mind, I feel like there’s something deeper at play here.  What I’ve said here isn’t all that hard to figure out on your own, so in a way I feel like I’m doing a disservice to readers and the song if I don’t find something a bit meatier.  But then again, maybe that’s the point.  Sometimes simplicity is manly; the ideas that are on display here are things we should all try to keep in mind.  So in that regard, maybe over-thinking a five minute song does no one any favors.

On the other hand, there is something that’s worth noting.  And if you’ll let me continue, I think I have a theory on something that makes the song even more interesting. 



Like I said, the song starts off pretty slow.  Nice and calm, without the zealous shouting you’d expect.  The expectation is that it’s coming soon enough, but the first minute or so -- the part before the “hope that saves the day” bit kicks in -- is decidedly melancholy.  Sorrowful.  Consider the opening lines:

For ages now I've often faced the fear
It's hard to see
Old memories are clouding my mind
It's beyond this life

And similarly, consider what follows:

I know the secrets are within me
Wonderin'
In a world of broken dreams
Depressed and haunting me

Let’s focus on the “world of broken dreams” bit at 0:52-0:54.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but tonally speaking that line sounds really off to me.  Like it was a missed note, and the group just decided to leave it in.  There’s a note like it in the first stanza as well, but it’s a lot more tolerable and doesn’t sound like the singer’s voice has cracked.  But the more I think about it -- the sound, the placement, et al -- the more I realize that maybe it’s better that way.


The first minute is devoted exclusively to sorrowful bits -- setting things up and laying down the foundation, so when it’s time for the audience to “leave all their fears behind” they know exactly what to leave behind.  But it goes beyond that, I’d argue.  It’s setup, but it’s also a revelation; it’s a reminder of what’s out there, and what the world is like.  Fear.  Sad memories.  Regrets.  Hopelessness.  Depression.  It’s shining a light onto things we’d rather not consider.

And therein lies the manliness.  In the words of Victor Hugo, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.”  Pretty much all the negative bits of the song -- and life -- are in the first minute, which acts as a way to lay everything bare.  Everything.  It’s a means to acknowledge that, yes, life is difficult and full of both disappointments and despair.  Even if you are passionate, you can’t just pretend like those things don’t exist.  If you do and try to do so under the guise of “being a man”, you’re not really doing anything manly.  You’re just pretending.  You’re not overcoming anything -- just jumping over hurdles that don’t exist, and looking silly because of it.


Sorrow is a real thing.  You can’t let it consume you, but you can’t ignore it either.  You have to be willing to face it, or you’ll be doing harm to yourself, the people around you, and everything you stand for.  But then again, you don’t need me to tell you that.

No longer struggle with the fear of
The end and what's beyond
I live a life of loyalty
True to myself and my own

The song front-loads all of its sorrow, and throughout the rest of it there are allusions to negativity, but not to the extent of the first minute.  The reasons for that are both obvious and subtle.  The obvious reason is that by that point, the hot-bloodedness has started in earnest, and it’d be ill-fitting to backpedal.  The subtle reason is clear with just one look at the title: Path of Glory.  The further the song goes, the more its heat becomes undeniable, either through the lyrics or the sounds.  So in a sense, it’s not just the song telling you to move forward; the song itself is moving forward.  It’s doing its best to practice what it preaches, propelling itself towards greater highs and brighter days.  It’s making note of its troubles, but with undeniable and blooming passion it leaves them behind -- leaping and charging towards a future of its own creation.  A future where it remains true to its creeds and comrades.  A future where its passions are both realized and rewarded.  It’s on its way to becoming a man -- and it wants you to come along.

See?  I knew there was something deeper going on here.  And because of that, I’ve got one thing to say.


As expected, these guys know the score.  Metal: eighty million.  Demons: six.  (I thought I’d try and give a fair estimate.)  Anyway, that’ll do it for now.  Tune in next time -- whenever that is -- when I handle the song of a certain spinning mecha pilot.


Don’t forget to check out Cheap Boss Attack!  It’s just as manly as Dumbledore whipping around nunchucks!

Do you have a manly song to recommend?  Then you, too, can have your suggestion turned into a full-fledged post!  Just leave a comment naming a song (limit one song per comment), and your song will be analyzed -- and if you have a blog or other net-haven, you’ll be suitably honored.  So get to it; feel the rush of testosterone, and help make THE MANLIEST PLAYLIST IN THE UNIVERSE!

2 comments:

  1. Cheap Boss AttackApril 20, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    Demons & Wizards, *in a power metal roar* YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH!!! The whole album is fantastic, but that is my favorite song of theirs, hands down. Blind Guardian in general is great, but I'm not the biggest Iced Earth fan in the world (the two bands that combine to make Demons & Wizards). I'm thrilled you found the song to be manly and may you grow muscles upon your muscles that grow beards made of muscle!

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  2. Yeah, I noticed when I was looking at their Wikipedia page that Demons and Wizards was made from two bands. Certainly surprised me; I'll have to give the bands a closer look one of these days.


    Also? "Beards made of muscle"? I've gotta use that one somewhere down the line.

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