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Physics in Metal Music (neustadt.fr)
100 points by livatlantis on Nov 2, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments

Author here. I wasn't sure if it was bad etiquette to submit my own article to HN but decided in the end that it might actually interest the community.

For fans of metal and sci-fi, I should mention that Dutch musician Arjen Anthony Lucassen does much more than just write science-inspired metal operas for Ayreon. He also has another project called Star One[0], where each song is based on an iconic sci-fi movie, book or series (Blake's 7, Doctor Who, Dune, Alien, Star Trek, A Clockwork Orange...).

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STAR_1

Although I wouldn't be sure how covers of both Hawkwind's "Orgone Accumulator" and Donovan's "Intergalactic Laxative" would come out on the science tally...

Hey man. "Event Horizon" is like the #2 track in my phone's "frequently played" list, edged out for #1 spot by Annihilator's "Sonic Homicide"!

Those Stratovarius guys should consult some native English speaker before finalizing lyrics. "A star dies collapsing in its core" can be corrected to "into its core"---and then the number of syllables actually scans better; we don't have to stretch the "-ing" over an extra beat.

The song is not really about "it involves someone approaching a black hole in a spaceship with an onboard computer that has a vaguely Russian accent". The speaker in the song imagines that. The beginning is:

Standing outside in darkness

My breath is steaming

The skies open wide

I hear the silent screaming

Deep in the dark, somewhere in space

Spinning around, leaving no trace

We can regard this as the speaker's imagination being stirred with thoughts of distant black holes, as he stands clear sky on a winter's night. The main element there is that of suicide: nothing matters:

I can see the point of no return

And when the light is slowly turning to red

Life gives away, there's no concern

On this cold night under the stars, the speaker voice is fantasizing about dying by steering a ship into a black hole, ignoring the evacuation alarms that are going off.

It didn't even occur to me to try to read the song in any but the most literal sense. Your explanation is very compelling!

The only thing that detracts from it is the relative cheerfulness of the song (especially the keyboard/guitar duet that starts at about the 2m30s mark) -- although who knows, it could very well represent euphoria associated with the prospect of imminent liberation?

Thank you for this! Glad you like Strato; I love the way Event Horizon shifts to Elysium, a song I listened to three times a week for 4 months on repeat on my 20-minute bus commute back when I was in uni.

Thanks for sharing, all sorts of good finds in this thread. :)

Allegaeon is perhaps my favorite metal band, and their songs frequently revolve around physics, biology, sci-fi, and futurism:

The God Particle: http://youtu.be/hthQvqbyyZg

Accelerated Evolution: http://youtu.be/z2JKv7hGz1Y

Dyson Sphere: http://youtu.be/tk1aLKTmgXU

Haha, I haven't listened to Star One in quite a while!

I really liked the one album I heard though, Space Metal.

I think I originally gave them a listendue to their having Russel Allen (of Symphony X) as vocalist.

I was not disappointed. I'll have to check out that second album!

01011001 a great metal opera album from Ayreon.


01 is actually how I discovered Ayreon. I'm now going back and listening to older albums. Was surprised at the number of incredible guests! (Bob Catley, James LaBrie, Bruce Dickinson, Floor Jansen, Jordan Rudess, Hansi Kürsch...).

Speaking of math and music... Phil Moriarty recently did a "Sixty Symbols" video[1] about a recent paper[2] that investigated the subtle timing fluctuations that distinguish well-played drums from the "correct" quantized-to-the-exact-beat rhythm produced by a drum machine.

    ... fluctuations of hi-hat amplitudes and interbeat intervals ... have clear
    long-range correlations and short-range anticorrelations separated by a
    characteristic time scale.
As a follow-up, Prof. Moriarty is asking for recordings of drummers playing Rush's "Tom Sawyer"[3], so he can continue the analysis on a much broader set of data.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyLeBMdI_HU

[2] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....

[3] https://muircheart.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/the-rhythm-metho... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGH6-BcKCME

I'm not sure if you care for death metal, but Allegaeon released Elements of the Infinite last year which contains several songs about cosmology and mathematics. One, in particular, is entitled "Dyson Sphere"[1].

While we're on the subject of Dyson Spheres, Alkaloid released a four part song earlier this year on their debut, again entitled "Dyson Sphere". My interpretation is that it's about a sphere created in order to serve as an incubator for an entire species. All of the parts are available on their Bandcamp page[2].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVGcwoqgbyE [2] https://alkaloid-band.bandcamp.com/album/the-malkuth-grimoir...

In case you desire more of this kind of metal, I would suggest utilizing the search functionality on Metal Archives. It enables you to search based on lyrical content. Here are the search results for phsyics[1], cosmology[2], and space[3], for example.




I don't listen to death too much, but really enjoyed the last melodic death band I stumbled upon. These are great, thanks!

Somewhat related: The physics of mosh pits [1]

[1] http://kottke.org/14/11/the-physics-of-mosh-pits

One of my favorite song from Swedish artist Vintersorg is Algol, which is about the eponymous star system.

    Algol, demon, capricious your brightness
    shifts from day to day - rises, abates, intesifies
    again, sometimes triumphant and sparkling,
    sometimes pale and faint. For a long time
    we've searched with wonder for the key
    to this mystery, the right element to
    your eager and changing, queer temperament.

    Now we've dispearsed the haze of the riddle:
    you've got a companion on your journey,
    like a slave, a faithful shadow he
    constantly follows you on the desolate
    path, he circles and sneaks quiet around you, closely.

    Never have we seen his guise, dark, parches,
    stiff and cold, but still we know he exists;
    like ashamed he hides behind you - free
    and merry you shine - until he once
    again crawls out of the darkness and
    covers you. And your glare becomes
    pallid and dull, and your mind cloudy.


    And similars there are - many Algols
    wanders in the space - maybe even
    more among us on earth. Sunlight spirits
    darkened by a shadow, young princes
    concealed by old slaves, doublesouls,
    divided creatures - a blissful son of the
    light indissolubely linked with a bitter dark demon.

His lyrics talk a lot about science in general, astronomy, philosophy and nature. Also, fun trivia: Vintersorg, despite singing mostly black metal, is a primary school teacher.

Someone else recommended Vintersorg. It's now on my list of bands to check out, along with many others from this thread.

But while we're on the topic of Swedish artists (who have unrelated day jobs†), I absolutely have to mention Seventh Wonder[0].

They based their 30-minute anthem "The Great Escape" on Aniara[1], an epic sci-fi poetic cycle authored by Harry Mattison. It's a significant piece of literature because, to quote his Wikipedia page[2]:

"He was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in Literature in 1974 together with fellow Swede Eyvind Johnson 'for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos'."

Someone actually uploaded a comparison of lines from the English translation of the poem to the lyrics of the song[3]. Maybe I'll write a more detailed article about this at some point, but it's a beautiful song that really lets you get into the story.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventh_Wonder

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aniara_(opera)

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Martinson

[3]: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MUd4hf0FH4gQQN_9kypNtGBe...

† Tommy Karevik is the singer in Seventh Wonder (and Kamelot) and also plays the part of the Prodigy in Ayreon's Theory of Everything. He is also a firefighter.

If you're interested in physics in metal, I suggest you listen to Negligent Collateral Collapse, and particularly their first album, Reprocess Segment Database Extender. Great fun, although not suitable for everyone's ears.

> In this context, you would not only reach your destination, you would be both annihilated and preserved (kinda like Schrödinger's feline friend).

Is this a meaningful comparison? How I read the preceding bit, the way in which you're both annihilated and preserved is simply that you die but the information required to reconstruct you remains.

That's not at all like the way in which Shrödinger's cat is both alive and dead, which doesn't really have anything to do with death.

You're right, it actually isn't! This has more to do with the information paradox and black hole complementarity and is not related to the collapse of the wave function. I've removed the sentence and put an edit notice.

Ne Obliviscaris uses physics (or at least astronomy) in much of their music, especially on their album Citadel (which includes a pair of songs about black holes, like the article).

Meanwhile, independent band Mechina is in the middle of releasing an 8-album epic sci-fi story about space travel.

I rarely pay close attention to lyrics, though, so I may be off, and I may be ignoring lots of other bands that may have them (Soen seems to at least have math influence, judging from their track titles).

If you like Mechina, I would recommend checking out Enshine. They just put out a new album entitled Singularity last month[1]. Again, it's more science fiction than what the author was referring to, but I have been enjoying it immensely.

[1] https://enshine.bandcamp.com/album/singularity

Ne Obliviscaris are unbelievably good.

FWIW, "Rush" hit the black hole theme back in '77: "Cygnus X-1". Nerd rock doesn't get much air play :-)

The "neo-classical" death metal band Haggard have a concept album called Eppur Si Muove which is about the life and works of Galileo. It doesn't go into much scientific detail, and is more about the apparent conflict with Church doctrine, but seems to be along the right kind of lines.

What about Lateralus from Tool ?

Not so much physics, but just math. Still, it's a phenomenal song.

I don't know Tool at all, actually. Listening to Lateralus now though, thanks for the heads-up!

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