There was a time when my friend/co-host Mike and I stayed in the basement of Podge Cast Matt’s house. This was before the Bear Swarm! and before the Podge Cast. Back in these halcyon days Luke was still with Fear the Boot and we were attending Fear the Con, before it had to be enumerated. I was younger then, a mere twenty three years old, and when Matt and Mike began discussing the latest endeavor by a local band I was completely in the dark. Matt was aghast, “You haven’t told him about Ludo?” he exclaimed. Mike said that it didn’t seem like the kind of music I’d like, which in retrospect is a very fair assessment. Matt insisted I listen to at least one track, “It has zombies.” he said. There were zombies, and so much more. In 2005 Ludo put out a rock opera concept album entitled “Broken Bride” and it is simply one of the best stories ever told with music. I’m a fan of Johnny Cash, who is to me the greatest American music storyteller in history, and I still said that.
Ludo is a band from St. Louis, Missouri who Wikipedia labels as Power pop, Pop rock, Alternative, & Geek rock. Broken Bride is a 2005 rock opera concept album that tells the tale of the Traveler. I’ll keep this spoiler free here but the tale involves death, time travel, dinosaurs, zombies, the apocalypse, and one of the most somber closing tracks I’ve ever heard. At only five tracks long and just over twenty-seven minutes in length its a epic tale that could easily be adapted into a two hour feature film. I can’t sing the praises of this album enough but unfortunately I can’t vouch for the rest of Ludo‘s catalog. I’ve listened to their other albums and I’m just not a fan. They have a few tracks I like but most of it isn’t my tastes. Right now, you just have to go listen to Broken Bride. I’m going to get into spoilers the break with a track by track discussion of the album ending with my thoughts on the overall story and where I think the work really ends at. Last warning, beyond this point there be spoilers.
Instead of getting into all of the details here, there is an excellent story walk through over here that I suggest you read over. From there you can check out the specific lyrics to each track over at SongMeanings.net as well, you’ll find them linked individually below.
This is seriously the last, last chance. MAJOR spoilers ahead. I beg of you, listen to the album before continuing.
The album doesn’t waste any time, getting right into lyrics and the intro of the story. The first verse is sung almost frantically and you can almost feel the frustration and pain of the Traveler. The music is harsh here, almost frantic like the vocals. It really helps convey the emotion of the piece. It sets the stage for the later album, pulling you close to our hero by making you feel his pain. The chorus sets off the details and reminds us whats at stake in this tale, its more hopeful then the main verses and is timed perfectly. Its easy for a story driven album to give away the plot early in the chorus but Ludo made sure to hold on to it until the time was right. The track ends and we’re left thinking the Traveler failed and the story won’t pick up again until Part II.
The interlude, already? Yes. I’ll get to my theory on that at the end of the album. Regardless, we step away from our cave trapped hero and fly into the far future where we see a very biblical apocalypse unfolding. The music transitions between harder paces, soft choruses, and melodic chants that convey the battle exceptionally well. This story is a little off shoot but it ties in nicely to Part III. By the end of the track we don’t know how this will turn out but the people are fighting now and the music ends us on a fairly up beat.
Part II is really pop-ey and up beat. Easily my least favorite track. The story is basic, our Traveler has hope back and deciding to fight his way from the cave back to his machine. Its a rallying song and only serves to connect us from the excellent introduction of Part I into the best song on the album, Part III. There is no story that unfolds here, just the return of our resolute hero. The one important thing it does is rebuilding our hero for the next track.
Part III, The Lamb and the Dragon, is far and away my favorite track on the album. There is a guitar riff that opens it up followed by dark chanting, a sudden shift from Part II’s pop sound but you can tell this is the climax of the story. After the first verse, which is the action sequence of his escape from the cave, transitions into our hero taking in the landscape. He describes a very biblical end of the world scenario and its beautiful in its vivid depiction of the world. The chorus, practically screamed, serves as a counter point to the somber nature of other parts of the tracks. This is the longest track on the album, and at eight minutes there is a lot going on here. The song really starts to pick up after the Dragon attacks, a minute and half of instrumental, when the Traveler makes his decision to save the world instead of the women he loves. At this point, we’re still only five minutes into the song. The song shifts into a very angelic sounding portion that is a little hard to understand, I suggest pulling out the lyric sheet. Its haunting and very touching, especially when the Traveler starts speaking again. The track ends with a nice transition piece for Part IV where our hero finally gets what he wants and makes it back to his beloved.
Part IV, prepare to be depressed. This track opens with a nice piano peice that just makes you feel numb. The music and lyrics resonate with the listener, pulling you into the unreality of the situation. After spending fifteen years building a time machine, fighting off dinosaurs, traveling across a dying earth, and saving the world, our hero finally gets his wish. He’s back home with his beloved. Then after the second chorus the song changes. The pace picks up and everything starts changing. You feel the angush the Traveler must feel right now as he watches his beloved get into the car that she died in fifteen years ago. Then the song brings it back, you think he’s going to stop her. You think its all going to be happy, and your wrong. I say, “Baby, I thought I’d come along for the ride.”
Wow. After everything our hero knows that she must die and he just wants to go with her. The song ends with a instrumental arrangement that sounds like a car crash with a upbeat of a happy ending. Wait though, I have a theory. Take Part IV and sync it up to play into Part I. That transitions a little too well for my tastes. Here’s my theory; our hero was in the car crash and survives. He builds the time machine again and the entire story unfolds again. Over and over. Our hero is trapped in this endless loop that would make Stephen King jealous in its elegance. This would also explain why our Interlude track is #2 instead of #3. If the entire album is a loop then it IS in the middle of the story. Of course, it could just be there so it doesn’t contrast with Part III too much. Let me have my conspiracy theory moment.
At the end, Broken Bride is one hell of a journey. I’ve listened to it over and over and with a length under a half-hour its better then most prime-time TV shows of comparable length. I think you owe it to yourself to take this journey with Ludo and experience the adventure yourself though I’d hope before reading this you had. My words can’t convey the intensity of the album. The music enhances the experience and does a wonderful job of adding to the whole piece.