By Theron Moore

I did a series of articles for New Noise Magazine a few years ago about bands and musicians who game, specifically with Dungeons and Dragons but other fantasy role playing games as well. When I heard Owlbear got booked for the great “Legions Of Metal” festival in Chicago (May 3 and 4, 2024) I knew I needed to contact Owlbear and do some digging into the band’s music and gaming background as well. Their latest record is ‘Chaos To The Realm.’

Cosmic Monolith: Please introduce yourself and what you do in Owlbear please.

Owlbear: I’m Jeff Taft, the guitarist.

Cosmic Monolith: To be transparent, it wasn’t until the announcement for Legions Of Metal fest that I became aware of Owlbear. How long has the band been around and who in the band started it?

Owlbear: Since 2019-2020ish, I guess, technically? I had been casually mentioning the idea of doing a very D&D/Fantasy gaming themed trad metal band for probably a year or two before that to a bunch of people, Katy (Scary) included, but hadn’t really done anything serious with it because I was busy with Adamantis and things in my personal life. One day I woke up and Katy had sent me three or so different song demos, including Fiend of Fire, and I loved all of them, so it quickly turned into “Well, I guess we’re doing this’/ so in that respect was her that set the gears into motion to get things off the ground.

Cosmic Monolith: How did the creative / lyrical direction of Owlbear develop within the band? There’s a dominant fantasy vibe to not just one song or several songs, but the entire record.

Owlbear:  It was pretty much always the plan from the beginning. We never explicitly limited ‘what’ (e.g We never said ‘this is only about D&D related things!) but we went into it knowing that this was what we were going to use as a jumping off point.

Cosmic Monolith: Was the plan from the beginning to always pursue a traditional metal sound or did it just end up that way?

Owlbear: It was pretty much always the intent, and I think helped by the fact that we’re all well versed in that genre and writing in that style. We also have a pretty substantial power and speed metal backgrounds between all of us, so that’s where those elements come through as well.

Cosmic Monolith: Traditional metal has been huge for the past five or six years at least. With you and your bandmates, what’s the attraction to it versus, say, crossover thrash or even a “mainstream” metal sound?

Owlbear: It’s a style we all love, and one we’re all familiar with. It’s also just really timeless, I feel – It’s a lot of folks’ entry point into metal and defined by a lot of classic albums. Plus, it really does fit the whole fantasy vibe – I’m not sure I could visualize, say, a djent record talking about this stuff.

I don’t know, a djent record about Eclipse Phase, the transhumanist Sci Fi RPG, could work, but this sound and ‘fantasy’ have been entwined for half a century now at this point. I personally have no interest in making a “mainstream” metal album in 2024 – That’s a totally different ecosystem as far as running and growing a band and I don’t think I’d thrive in it.

Cosmic Monolith: A quick glance at your new record ‘Chaos To The Realm’ (available for purchase now) indicates you and / or your bandmates might be Dungeons And Dragons players. Who in the band plays D&D and what edition are you using? (see next question as well).

Owlbear: I (Jeff) am the big tabletop gamer of the group – I’ve played every edition of D&D, though I started with the Red Box/BECMI (but also worked in/ran some adventurers from prior to that. My first big experience as a DM was B2: Keep on the Borderlands.  I don’t currently play in/run any D&D games though – The campaign I currently GM for uses Pathfinder 2e.

Cosmic Monolith: How long has everyone in the band been playing D&D, and is it just D&D or do you and your bandmates play other games as well – Gamma World, Warhammer, GURPS, etc.

Owlbear: I’ve played for….close to 35 years now? I think when I last counted I’d played 38 unique systems of TTRPGs, but it’s probably past 40 now. Everything from Star Frontiers to Warhammer Fantasy to HERO/Champions  to Shadowrun to modern stuff like Fabula Ultima and Blades in the Dark.

Cosmic Monolith: You may have answered this in a previous question but at what point did the band’s image and lyrics all of a sudden intersect with a love for gaming? Was it intentional or did it just happen organically?

Owlbear: For me, heavy metal and gaming are pretty much permanently linked – I got interested in both at an early age through my brother.  I feel like it’s a very natural intersection – Especially for folks who grew up in the 80s-early 90s like I did.

In this case with the band, it was intentional.

Cosmic Monolith: Here’s the mandatory question I have to ask – Did you see the new Dungeons And Dragons movie and did you like it? If not, why?

Owlbear: Yes, and I thought it absolutely fucking ruled. It really hit on the right blend of humor and hijinks, and you could tell the writers were fans of the source material – Certainly enough to drop in things like Szass Tam.  I hope they do a sequel.

Cosmic Monolith: Have you or your bandmates considered writing records which could double as, or crossover into actual fantasy modules?

Owlbear: It would be neat to be able to do a sort of concept record tie-in with an adventure module! Or maybe not the whole record, but a few songs. Juggling writing a module with writing an album is a pretty hefty order, but it’s something I personally would consider if I could make things line up. Deciding on what system to use would be the hardest part.

Cosmic Monolith: What’s your feeling on the OGL (Open Gaming License) and the burgeoning movement of OSR games? I like the idea behind it but there’s also the notion of just releasing the same (type of) game over and over again with a new name on it and maybe a new monster or a few new spells in it.

Owlbear:  So, make no mistake, even though the OGL was born from a less-than-noble place way back in 3rd Edition, when Ryan Dancey basically tried to reshape the entire RPG industry to be D&D adjacent, it’s probably the single most important thing to happen in TTRPGs for 30 years – It gave birth to so much incredible third party material across three different editions, jumpstarted the careers of a lot of incredible authors (and companies – Paizo/Pathfinder would not exist without the OGL). I think it is of extreme importance to the hobby and we can see how that is true in the backlash WoTC received for trying to alter it.

As far as the OSR – It’s cool to see people revisit these old rulesets and try to take what’s been learned about game design over the years and apply it to them, or simply flesh them out more. As for what you said – That’s definitely a problem to be wary of – Everyone wants to publish their ‘fixed D&D’.

I’m vehemently against the idea of ‘D&D can do everything’ or ‘All you need is D&D, just adapt it for your modern mystery/horror/sci-fi game etc. etc.’ D&D eating up all the oxygen in the room isn’t good for the hobby. There are so many good games, especially ones tailored to conveying a certain kind of experience, style or vibe, that trying to make everything work in the contest of D&D is  

Cosmic Monolith:  Kind of following up on the last question, have you seen or have you played any of these “new wave of OSR games” such as Cairn, White Box, or Basic Fantasy? What’s your take on these games if you have played them?

Owlbear:  I’ve dabbled a bit in White Box vis-a-vis its Sword & Wizardry roots, and Basic Fantasy (Which is one of the things that kicked off the OSR). I enjoyed both, and I like that Basic Fantasy is explicitly open-source. I don’t know if I’d run a long term game for them, because the style of games I tend to like is a bit crunchier and more tactical, but I enjoy the vibe of a lot of OSR stuff – The OSR has been especially good at doing some truly weird, pulp fantasy stuff.

I think it’d be a lot of fun to take members of my main gaming group, who have played together for 15-20+ years depending on the individual person, through them in person. Right now both my main games are through online via Foundry, a Virtual Tabletop, but I feel like there’s something about these that would really work with the right people.

Cosmic Monolith: What’s the fan reaction been to the band and the new record so far? Are you getting a lot of response from metal heads who also game?

Owlbear: Overwhelming is probably the best word for it. Everything has so wildly exceeded our expectations that it still feels a bit surreal. We didn’t even expect to be able to put it on vinyl.

We’ve definitely gotten a good response for people who also game (which is a lot of metalheads) – Especially old school folks – People getting excited about hearing a song about Dark Sun, or the big Greyhawk references in ‘Iuz the Old’ – It’s been really gratifying to see people pick up on the lyrical nods!

We’ve gotten told a lot that we made a ‘really honest’ record, and that brings me a lot of joy, as well. We didn’t do this to have a ‘gimmick’ – We’re not gonna dress up in costume and write songs about full of vague, totally-not-Warhammer-40k-and-Fantasy jokes that we can’t admit to because we’re afraid of being sued by Games-Workshop and dress up in bad costumes like a certain European band. We wrote songs about the stuff we like because we like it.

Cosmic Monolith: Is there any concern within the band that at some point the D&D inspiration for lyrics and image might run it’s course?

Owlbear: Not at all! There’s plenty of material to draw from on that front, and we aren’t explicitly a D&D band, really – ‘Fiend of Fire’ is about Final Fantasy I for example, and Voyage of the Wraith talks about an old 90s fantasy cartoon (Pirates of Dark Water).

Cosmic Monolith: Twitch looks like it could be the future of gaming as well as music. Do you or your bandmates engage in Twitch to connect with fans

Owlbear: Katy has been streaming on and off for a while now (, usually doing speedruns and stuff like that, which she’s quite good at it.

Cosmic Monolith: Have you or your bandmates considered setting up a Patreon account, do you have merch for sale?

Owlbear: Katy has a Patreon of her own ( that covers basically all her musical work, and often uses it to preview Owlbear content. I (Jeff) don’t think I could ever do a Patreon – It’s a lot of work to keep that content stream going.

We’ll have new merch in the coming months! Actually, very soon, even.

Cosmic Monolith: What does 2024 hold for Owlbear, aside from your appearance at Legions Of Metal in Chicago?

Owlbear: We’re planning on releasing a new album for 2024. It’s possible we may turn up at other festivals if it makes logistical sense.

Cosmic Monolith: Final question, and the floor is all yours. What do you want your fans to know?

Owlbear: We just want to thank everyone again for the outpouring of support for Chaos to the Realm – It’s honestly surreal how much it has exceeded all of our expectations at this point. Thanks for listening, everyone, and there will be more soon!

Author: Theron Moore

Theron Moore Biography: Moore’s first writing gig was SLAM Magazine (Stateline Area Magazine, Northern IL / Southern WI) in 1989. A year later he launched the zine, Louder Than God followed by For Those About To Rock and The Saint Vitus Press & Poetry Review (print). Moore has contributed poetry to Red Fez, The Saint Vitus Press & Poetry Review, Poetry Motel, Poesy Magazine, Tree Killer Ink, and Criminal Class Review. He’s contributed interviews, movie, news, and music reviews to Yahoo,, Wormwood Chronicles (2015 to the present), The Sludgelord, Metal Forces, and New Noise Magazine (2017 to present).