It’s such a thin line that separates a running joke from high concept when a band devotes its entire existence to a single lyrical or musical purpose. A joke band like Dread Zeppelin is lucky to be funny once. A concept band like Rice (what, you don’t have their Fuck You, This Is Rice album, with something like 20 songs dedicated exclusively to the world’s biggest staple crop?) should consider itself fortunate if their album makes it through two listens before the concept becomes a joke anyway. Okay, we get it. Now enough, already.
It takes more than a prankish sense of humor and a one-trick pony of a joke to sustain a band like BloodHag, a Seattle four-piece that whips up a mighty speed-metal ruckus barking the praises of...science fiction authors! You name an author, BloodHag has got the song: “William Gibson,” “Harlan Ellison,” “Ray Bradbury,” “Ursula K. LeGuin,” “Isaac Asimov,” “H.G.Wells.” The BloodHag songbook currently contains over three dozen thrashing odes to ancient fathers and modern movers-and-shakers in the most undervalued and critically reviled literary genre of the 20th Century. “Kurt Vonnegut” is a typically atypical example of the band’s unusual take on metal lyrics, exploring the Cat’s Cradle and Player Piano author’s experiences during the Second World War which provided Slaughterhouse Five with its autobiographical underpinnings. “Along with Asimov, he’s on a list of the most gifted Secular Humanists in history,” bellows lead singer Jake Stratton. “When the bombs dropped, all time for Kurt stopped/Saw the future and past in a transdimensional hop/It’s a slaughterhouse, and you’re the steer/Smile in the face of your darkest fears.”
Somewhat disappointingly, BloodHag has yet, at least in this dimension, to write a companion piece for Vonnegut alter ego Kilgore Trout, a penurious sci-fi pulp writer whose fictitious works—2BRO2B, Pan-Galactic Three-Day Pass, Oh Say Can You Smell?—litter the pages of numerous Vonnegut books in which Trout is also a recurring character. For that matter, a paean to the real-life writer on whom the Kilgore Trout character was based seems long overdue; surely Theodore Sturgeon deserves the BloodHag treatment, however posthumously. If I may be so bold as to suggest a sample rhyme for “Theodore Sturgeon” (a song which may already exist somewhere in the future), on a theme drawn from his short story, “If All Men Are Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?”: “Sturgeon wrote ‘Incest is best’/So put your siblings to the test!”
While I’m at it, I would also like to request a BloodHag tribute to Robert Scheckley and the wishing machine in his stunning “The Store of the Worlds,” and perhaps urge the band to explore the backwards-Holocaust conceit of Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow in song. Amis isn’t a sci-fi writer, but then again neither is Franz Kafka, who joined BloodHag’s musical honor roll last fall. (BloodHag must get suggestions like this all the time; everybody knows at least one hesher whose fondness for sci-fi/fantasy literature, heavy metal and weed has been enriched immeasurably by synergistic explorations into all three at once.)
They’ve got plenty of time to work on all this and more, anyway. There’s obviously no shortage of song material in the strangely circumscribed musical universe of BloodHag, nor of the resolve it takes to pick away at this particular vein of lyrical ore to the exclusion of everything else. Keep on reading and rocking.