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Tim Schafer's Metal Metaphysics.

NOTE: I wrote the following immediately after finishing Brutal Legend for the first time. It contains complete story spoilers, so be warned.

Okay, I see how the story works now. Yes, Eddie is from the future. His demon mother traveled to the future--which is apparently our present--and died soon after she had him there. Eddie's belt buckle was a originally a talisman intended to return her to the past if it ever touched her blood. This is, apparently, what we see happening in the opening cinematic. Eddie is crushed by a stage prop, blood splashes on his belt buckle, and suddenly the metal god Ormagoden appears to bring him back to the past (and apparently heal him in the process). This is why Eddie sprouts demon wings during battle scenes, why he wields demon weapons with ease, etc. It all makes sense, was clearly thought all out, and, yes, was foreshadowed from the very beginning. Yet...

My problem with Brutal Legend is that it tries too hard to justify a romantic logic that needs no justification. I see now that I was mistaken, but my original impression of the gameworld was that it was basically Eddie's fantasy. Either his dying fantasy of a heavy metal paradise--the world as he wanted it to be--or some future version of Earth which had been destroyed and remade according to his musical tastes. At first I felt the legends you find all over the gameworld, which say things like "In the Beginning...there was Ormagoden...", were suggesting that Eddie's love of metal had been so powerful that his death created an actual god. I thought the legends were explaining what happened between the moment the opening cut-scene faded out (with hundreds of fans cheering the newly created Ormagoden as he screamed fire into the sky) and when Eddie woke up in the temple. I thought that 10,000 years had passed, and his love of metal--personified as a giant metal god--had shattered and rebuilt the world according to what Eddie thought was cool. This is why all the silliness of "And God created... Tailpipes! And Said they were... Awesome!" felt genuinely funny and clever to me. I thought Tim Schafer had come up with an ingenious way of explaining how a world that functioned on the logic of heavy metal album covers could exist: by suggesting that a roadie's true metal-ness had spontaneously granted him the power of creation. Because, I mean, come on... that's the only explanation that could possibly suffice, right? Heavy metal album covers are funny precisely because their logic is so nakedly inexplicable, that you simply have to surrender to the knowledge that there is no possible organizing force at work other than their makers' love of leather, cars, bikes, the occult, and musical equipment.

Near the beginning it felt to me like Brutal Legend understood this very well and had its tongue placed firmly in its cheek. The only organizing force for all its absurd imagery seemed to be Eddie's love of metal. Why do all these things exist and the world work this way? Because Eddie thinks they're awesome, obviously. This was explanation enough for me, and I felt the game gained a lot of charm from expressing the romantic logic of metal fandom with such uncompromising clarity. This was only enhanced by the implication of an either morbid subtext (Eddie's actually dead) or apocalyptic subtext (the world was actually destroyed) which kept the fantasy from seeming mindlessly fetishistic.

To find out I was totally wrong, that Schafer actually expects me to believe that this world--this world of tailpipes, leather, mudflap girls, choppers, giant stereo speakers, and 1980's hair-styles--actually existed thousands of years ago on our actual planet Earth? I find that explanation less believable than no explanation at all. But then I suppose if I start asking such questions and saying it doesn't make sense, I'd simply be told it was like questioning the logic of a metal album cover. You could easily make that argument, that if I'm okay with it begin Eddie's fantasy, I should be just as okay with it being Tim Schafer's fantasy. But somehow I'm not... maybe for the same reason I prefer the outright fantasy of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 to the absurd pseudo-science of Metal Gear Solid 4. There's a quote I remember from a film critic criticizing the Midichlorians in Star Wars: Episode 1. He said "Adding physics to the metaphysics doesn't work." By trying to explain something magical too much you run the risk of making it seem both less magical and unsatisfactorily scientific.

Metal obviously needs no explanation. If Schafer had the conviction to really base the foundation of his entire story on this assumption it would have carried his vision all the way through to the end. Instead it only carries about half way, when explanations of the world's complex mythology begin to dilute a simple, compelling truth: that the best and only reason to do anything in Brutal Legend is because it fucking rocks.

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