Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “The Battle of Evermore” — Led Zeppelin (1971)

The Queen of Light took her bow
And then she turned to go
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom
And walked the night alone
Oh, dance in the dark of night
Sing to the morning light…

Oh. Hey. Zeppelin. Digging deep Hokeydude. Led Zeppelin IV turns 50 next year and so do I, and both facts are equally terrifying to me. MORTALITY!

One of the things that pissed me off about Peter Jackson’s otherwise classic Lord of the Rings trilogy wasn’t Elves at Helm’s Deep. Or Boromir’s character assassination. Or Aragorn’s fake-out death scene over the cliff. Or the roughly 3 dozen endings. (My Readability checker is about to go ape-shit with me starting three sentences with the same word.)

No, you can nitpick any film to death if you really want to (except Seven Samurai and Armageddon). No what really cheesed me about that 2001-2003 Tolkien fantasy era of filmgoing humanity was EVERY. LAST. TOOL. who profusely sweated and hyperventilated whilst coming up to you and, almost screaming, said “HOLY COW, DID YOU KNOW LED ZEPPELIN RECORDED A SONG ABOUT LORD OF THE RINGS???”

Yeah. I did. All of us Zeppelin fans did — those that listened to the whole album and not just the radio hits. AND Zeppelin recorded more than one. Sheesh.

Well now that THAT is off my chest… The Battle of Evermore is probably my favorite song off of Zep IV, and an absolute masterpiece that has as much to do with The Lord of the Rings as it has to do Mannequin 2: On The Move. Don’t get me wrong, songwriters Jimmy Page and Robert Plant borrowed heavily from Tolkien mythology. There are constant references to fantasy/supernatural tropes: a Dark Lord (Sauron), a Prince of Peace (Aragon), swords, bows, magic runes, dragons of darkness, and Ringwraiths which are called out by name.

But it doesn’t really correspond to much of anything from the trilogy. Maybe the Battle of Helm’s Deep but that’s really pushing it. Zeppelin did something similar with Ramble On on the Zep II album: they framed the song in Tolkien trappings, called out a few characters and locations, but in the end told their own story.

Now that the history lesson is over, The Battle of Evermore makes our list for three reasons: 1) it’s a timelessly majestic tune, 2) the subject matter is replete with fantasy images, heroes, villains, and battles against the forces of darkness, and 3) the feel of the song is eerie, haunting, and beautiful. Robert Plant’s vocal performance is top notch, alongside co-vocalist Sandy Dennis who gave her lines an ethereal grace. Almost like her melodies were drifting down from the High Elves above us.

Compound all that with Jimmy Page’s mandolin anchoring the tune, giving it an otherworldly feel out of a faerie tale past. It’s as if he’s conjuring visions of an ancient Gaelic cottage, deep in the forest, dwelling in a past time that never existed but somehow still seems true nonetheless.

OK enough of me. The Battle of Evermore awaits. I’ll leave you to its effortless charms while we await the eastern glow.

The pain of war cannot exceed
The woe of aftermath
The drums will shake the castle wall
The ring wraiths ride in black, ride on
Sing as you raise your bow (Ride on)
Shoot straighter than before
No comfort has the fire at night
That lights the face so cold…

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