Weird of the Day: “Wayfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles” collects Dungeons & Dragons-inspired rock from the ’70s

Darkscorch

Some music scenes never quite produced any one band talented enough or weird enough to make it onto our Weird List—but taken collectively, they deserve a shout-out nonetheless. Such a scene was the weird world of ’70s fantasy psych-rock. You wouldn’t think that many bands would’ve been inspired to write heavy rock jams based on their favorite Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons characters. But apparently back around 1975 or so, a lot of kids were rolling 20-sided dice in their basements to the strains of King Crimson and Black Sabbath. So many, in fact, that ace reissue label the Numero Group has managed to put together a compilation featuring 16 such bands.

Numero Group’s collection of D&D stoner rock is called Wayfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles and features such forgotten heroes of the underground as Triton Warrior, Gorgon Medusa and Stonehenge (yes, there is actually a band on this comp called Stonehenge—Spinal Tap, eat your heart out). Individually, none of the tracks is all that, but taken collectively, it’s a pretty incredible snapshot of a very specific moment in suburban rec room culture. Never again before or since have some many American teenagers simultaneously owned copies of The Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Jethro Tull’s Minstrel in the Gallery. (Actually, many of the compilation’s tracks pre-date the advent of Dungeons & Dragons and Jethro Tull’s heyday by several years—so many it’s more accurate to say that Darkscorch Canticles reveals that the roots of ’70s rec room culture and British prog-rock in the music of hippie bands who were reading J.R.R. Tolkien on acid.)

To hear clips and order up a copy of Darkscorch Canticles, visit the Numero Group website. And if you really get obsessed with this stuff, there’s even an accompanying board game. Now here’s some Stonehenge.

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Attila

Today’s band existed only briefly back around 1970 and as you can see from the above album cover, they definitely qualify as among the weirder acts of their time. Besides dressing up like Medieval Times employees and hanging out in meat lockers, they also played a very early, very primitive style of hard rock that featured no guitars, just organ and drums. It was like a couple of dudes heard Deep Purple’s “Hush” when they were really stoned and were all, “You know what would be heavy? Doing that shit with no fucking guitars!” And after less than a year together, even they finally realized this was a terrible idea and broke up.

But here’s the kicker: see that dude on the right? That’s Billy fucking Joel. Yes, Attila was one of Billy Joel’s first bands, before he finally wised up and launched his solo career. Listen to the track below and keep telling yourself that this is the same guy who went on to do “New York State of Mind” and “Just the Way You Are.” Kind of hurts your head, doesn’t it? Or maybe that’s just Attila’s music. Gotta admit, they were actually pretty heavy for a band with no guitars. Not very good, but heavy.

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