Banshee I hear you call
We need to raise the dead
We need to raise the people
Cut throat this blood runs thick
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Road to Castle Bran
Before Bram Stoker transformed folklore into mainstream pop culture, before Lestat made women the world over long for bloodthirsty demon lovers, and long before immortal high school students sparkled in the sun, the ruthless 15th Century ruler of Wallachia, Romania, gave rise to the legend of the vampire: Vlad Dracul III. Bram Stoker borrowed this man's Romanian name, Dracul, meaning devil or dragon, and turned it into his blood drinking fiend, Count Dracula. But the real Count Dracul, dubbed Vlad Ţepeş, Vlad the Impaler, earned his gruesome moniker by means far more grotesque than iterated in fiction.
Vlad the Impaler ruled at a time when the Balkans were under constant threat of conquest by the Turks and Ottoman Empire. Vlad took sadistic pleasure in the torture and execution of both prisoners and rivals. Rumoured to have set an entire banquet hall alight, roasting conspirators and traitors alive, Vlad's preferred method of execution was impalement. This often resulted in veritable forests of dying men on spikes, which served as both punishment and warning, deterring many would-be attacks. Legend has it that Vlad was particularly partial to these macabre displays and that he often enjoyed a meal while watching the prisoners die in agony on their spikes, and that he dined while observing the dismemberment of prisoners by his executioners. It is perhaps these grisly past-times that cloaked Vlad Dracul in dark, vampiric legend.
The Castle from the grounds
Although there is little to connect Vlad to Castle Bran, just outside Braşov, this fortress-like edifice built on the Transylvania-Wallachian border has become the home of the legend and a popular tourist destination, complete with rooms documenting the lore and culture of vampirism from Vlad Ţepeş to Edward Cullen. Vampires have become a cultural phenomenon, the brutal creatures warped by fiction writers into pretty pin-ups, objectified and lusted after. These immortal blood-drinkers have inspired numerous art forms from filmmakers to writers and musicians. Kasabian, the English rock band from Leicestershire, is no exception.
The song, “Vlad the Impaler,” begins with a warped guitar riff and is soon joined by thumping drums. The epileptic song is peppered with weird effects, lending it the necessary dark and spooky atmosphere, conjuring blood drenched images of psychopathic vampires haunting the dank corridors of crumbling castles. The odd glissando vocals also contribute to the more bizarre soundscape as do the lyrics which seem to be documenting a more contemporary murderous situation with an oblique reference to one of the darkest comic book characters in the DC universe, The Joker from the Batman
Castle Bran bell tower
“Vlad the Impaler” is the seventh track on the album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
, a concept album of sorts in which each track represents an inmate at the titular asylum, a real group of mental institutions in West Yorkshire. Given the inspiration behind the album, it's no wonder Vlad makes an appearance on an album dedicated to those of questionable sanity.
Whether Vlad Dracul III really did enjoy sipping on type O negative or not, his unwavering brutality and sadistic pleasures laid the foundation for a cultural phenomenon that has persisted for centuries. ~ Suzanne van Rooyen
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include
Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and
The Other Me. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and eats far too much peanut-butter.
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