Although it was invented in the ‘70s, Dungeons & Dragons emerged as a national phenomenon in the early to mid-80s. This is when I helped form the first D&D club at my middle school, spending my after school time in the library filling out character sheets and organizing expeditions exploring fictional forests and fighting every orc in my way.
Eventually, I discovered heavy metal so I joined the Columbia Record and Tape club and got a box of tapes from Dio, Ozzy, the Scorps, and a whole bunch more for a penny. This seemed at odds with gaming, something driven home when the guys in shop class with the Journey baseball tees and feathered hair laughed at such nerdy pursuits. So I exchanged my imaginary coat of armor for an actual denim jacket.
Fortunately, those dark days are behind us. It didn’t get as much ink as marriage equality, but millennials are able to throw dice and throwdown.
It’s a glorious time to be a geek. One need look no further than Gygax to see this. The band takes its name from the man who literally wrote the book on Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax. With Gygax having passed away 10 years ago, his son gave the group his blessing to use the name. The homage doesn’t end there: The band’s 2016 debut had the double entendre title Critical Hits and they chose their own adventure on every song.
The sophomore release is entitled 2nd Edition (Creator-Destructor Records) after the 1989 revision that refined and expanded the game and also, in response to negative publicity, removed all mentions of demons and devils. It should be noted that the debut has a song called “Demons” and there are no similar titles on the follow-up. It might be a coincidence, but given their commitment to the cause, maybe not.
Honestly, as much as they revel in role playing, if they wanted to honor anyone they obviously hold in high regard, they would have named the band Phil Lynott, as 2nd Edition is first rate Thin Lizzy worship on every possible level.
“Pure Hearts” sees guitarists Jeff Potts and Bryant Throckmorton emulating the bluesy, Irish folk-infused dual-guitar heroics that Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson pioneered in the ‘70s. “Song of the Silver Hands” replicates the majestic boogie of the band replete with uplifting horns, just like the ones in “Dancing in the Moonlight.” “Wish” has melodramatic contemplation not unlike “The Cowboy Song,” where vocalist Eric Harris does an especially good imitation of Lynott’s legendary laconic delivery.
The members of Gygax have spent a lot of time in other bands, including Skeletonwitch, Warbringer, Pentagram, Sorcerer, and Huntress, so they have a lot more than “Thin Lizzy tribute band” on their resumes. But this total devotion to one classic Irish rock band is not out of character considering how they OD on D&D; this obsessiveness results in an attention to detail that moves Gygax beyond gimmicky side project to a solid rock band with which to be reckoned. The dungeon master has arrived.