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The Mountain Goats Announces Dungeons & Dragons-Inspired Album

The Mountain Goats' In League With Dragons is out April 26 on Merge.
Jeremy Lange Courtesy of the artist
The Mountain Goats' In League With Dragons is out April 26 on Merge.

Lately, John Darnielle's output — both as the creative leader of The Mountain Goats and as an individual entity — has read like a laundry list of his interests: full-length concept pieces about wrestling and goth culture, a collaborative podcast about his most beloved songs, and a couple novels for good measure. Now, we have another look into the inner workings of Darnielle's life with In League with Dragons, a 12-song album due out in April about the beloved tabletop role-playing game/lifestyle Dungeons & Dragons.

It's small wonder that Darnielle hasn't already crafted an album about D&D;, given the extensive mythologizing and cult status that surrounds it. The album's lead single "Younger" reads like a shadowy, rollicking mini-epic, and ends on an unexpected, but wholly awesome saxophone outro — the sort of instrumental backing you'd want to commence a hero's journey. He brands it "dragon noir."

Darnielle writes about In League with Dragons:

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This album began life as a rock opera about a besieged seaside community called Riversend ruled by a benevolent wizard, for which some five to seven songs were written. When I'm focusing on a project, I always distract myself from the through-line with multiple byways, which are kind of like mini-games within the broader architecture of a long video game. As I worked on the Riversend stuff, weird noir visions started creeping in, probably under the influence of Leonardo Sciascia (a Sicilian author, he wrote mysteries) and Ross MacDonald's The Zebra-Striped Hearse, which a friend from Port Washington gave me while I was in the thick of the writing. I thought these moods helped complicate the wizards and dragons a little, and, as I thought about my wizard, his health failing, the invasion by sea almost certain to wipe out half his people, I thought about what such a person might look like in the real world: watching a country show at a midwestern casino, or tryout pitching for an American League team years after having lit up the marquees. Finally, I wrote the title track, which felt like a drawing-together of the themes in play: rebellion against irresistible tides, the lush vistas of decay, necessary alliances. I am earnestly hoping that a new genre called "dragon noir" will spring from the forehead of nearly two years' work on these songs, but, if not, I am content for this to be the sole example of the style.

(If you're a player, or a Mountain Goats fan, Darnielle is hosting a premiere event with the creators of Dungeons & Dragons Monday afternoon on Magic: The Gathering's Facebook page.)

In League With Dragons is out April 26 on Merge.

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