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Vlad The Impaler By Kasabian, Album: West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum (2009)
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.
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 Tom Cruise & Brad Pitt, 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 series.
“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.
The song pays tribute to the late Dark Knight actor Heath Ledger through the line “Joker, see you on the other side.” Vocalist Tom Meighan explained to The SunMay 22, 2009: “When Heath Ledger died, Serge had just written Vlad The Impaler so he added that line to pay respect.” Guitarist Sergio Pizzorno added: “He’d just finished this amazing film and his life was over. I identified with him. I know so many people who get off their heads and then can’t sleep so they have a sleeping pill. I thought ‘That could have been anyone I know. It’s just such a waste of a great man’s life.”
Pizzorno told the New Musical Express January 17, 2009: “The timing is strange and the vocals are in and out because it’s a rant. I wanted that Beastie Boys, Clash feel, giving Tom a song to sing where he can rant, because that’s when he’s at his most genius.”
Pizzorno said to the NME June 13, 2009: “I knew the moment I wrote the riff it was going to be massive.” he added: “I like that Tom and my voices swap over.”
A video was made for this song starring English comedian Noel Fielding as a vampire slayer. Pizzorno told the NME: “Doing the video with Noel Fielding was outrageous, him running around a country house impaling people.”