Erik Davis on Led Zeppelin IV

BB pal Erik Davis, author of Techngnosis, has just published a brilliant short book riffing on the magick and mystery behind Led Zeppelin's nameless "Runes Album," AKA the one with Stairway to Heaven. I read this foray into pop occulture in one sitting and it's classic Davis–fun, informative, and damned funny. As always he tempers his deep knowledge of mysticism with a devilish smirk. The book is part of publisher Continuum's inspired 33 1/3 series of pocketbooks where edgy writers are paired with classic albums ranging from the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds to Radiohead's OK Computer. (For example, former Mondo 2000 and BookForum editor Andrew Hultkrans indulges his passion for Love's Forever Changes.) From Davis's book:

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It must be said that many rock bards name Black Sabbath rather than Zeppelin as the true font of heavy metal. After all, Sabbath pack an unparalleled eldritch punch, and in many ways represent a purer source of bane: the riffs more consistently morbid, the stance more prole, and the whole shtick more out-of-nowhere and hence more monstrous, more contrary to nature. But Zeppelin had a vaster palette, a more richly perfumed darkness; perhaps most importantly, they sold way more records. Like all origin stories, this one depends on your frame of reference, your own lineages, your taste. It's very much like the question of who deserves blame for the genre of heroic fantasy, whose multi-volume sagas of dwarf-lords and magic blades continue to clog the SF sections of bookstores. Hardcore sword-and-sorcery buffs will rightly name the pulp peregrinations of Robert E. Howard's Conan, while more literary types will nominate, with equal justification, Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings". Sabbath is Conan; Zeppelin is "Lord of the Rings." But Zeppelin is a special sort of "Lord of the Rings," one where you get to root for both sides.