Tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons have an awful lot in common with certain circles of heavy metal. There are ‘axes’, aggression, and – in the right subgenres – leather outfits and lots of shouting about wizards. One Missouri band has taken this connection to its logical conclusion. Ars Arcanum is currently funding an album on Kickstarter called Far From the Sun, and it’s inspired by the D&D campaign Out of the Abyss.
Just as Out of the Abyss takes players to a demon-infested Underdark, Far From the Sun promises a “heavy metal odyssey into a dark and haunted underworld”. Lead singer Luke CJ Smith tells Wargamer the band’s major influences come from “doom, sludge, and stoner metal” bands like The Sword and Monolord, but the wider influences of the album are more eclectic.
“We’ve got a traditional European folk drinking song in there, we’ve got a metal sea shanty, we’ve got at least one song that’s basically a Saturday morning cartoon theme song, and another one that’s got more than a little Blink 182 DNA in it”, Smith says. Songs about magic, swords, and fantasy adventures are usually more the style of power metal bands like Dragonforce and Blind Guardian, so these genre choices are an interesting departure from the expected.
Ars Arcanum presents its members as a mix of long-time performers and aspiring newcomers. On the Kickstarter page, Smith describes himself as a “relative newcomer”, while guitarist Steve Atteberry is described as having “picked up the guitar just a handful of years ago”. Meanwhile, drummer Jason Myers and Bassist Derek Henson both boast of over 40 combined years of performing.
According to the Kickstarter campaign, Far From the Sun is “recorded, mixed, mastered, and ready to go”. “We’re lucky because we have Steve who, in addition to playing a mean guitar, took it on himself to learn how to record, mix, and master our audio”, Smith tells Wargamer. “For our Kickstarter, we get to focus on just the thing we want most — to release the album on a sexy two-disk vinyl box set, featuring killer cover art by Hankerin Ferinale of Runehammer Games fame.”
Several of the album’s songs are already available on streaming services, and the band released a music video for ‘Night of the Mushroom Men’ on August 4. “It’s kind of a Rob Zombie-ish production, in that it cribs from classic no-budget horror movies, which is just the kind of vibe this track cries out for”, Smith says. “It’s gotten a lot of really great traction on Reddit and on social, especially on D&D and gaming forums.” Smith adds a new music video for ‘The Murder Hobos’ is due to release sometime this week.
“I feel like, for most of its existence, there was a common belief that the Venn diagram for D&D and metal fans was basically a circle”, Smith tells Wargamer. And he’s right – the recent darling of Stranger Things fans, metalhead Eddie Munson, shows how strong the ties between these two hobbies once were. ‘80s metal and early D&D were all about fantasy, escapism, and being accused of Satanism.
Metal still has its place in the world of tabletop RPGs: Mӧrk Borg brands itself as a “doom metal album of a game”, and there have even been D&D campaigns inspired by metal albums. But Smith says metalheads no longer have an exclusive relationship with the game. “Tabletop gaming has a much, much broader appeal than people ever used to give it credit for”, he tells Wargamer.