By-Tor and the Snow Dog

Background and Commentary

The song is the band’s “brisk, slashing, progressive-metal blueprint.”—Martin Popoff, Contents Under Pressure

“‘By-Tor and the Snowdog’ marks the beginning of a Rush tradition of extended story songs, in this case a battle between By-Tor and the Snowdog. The song has bite in more ways than one. Howard Ungerleider [the band’s long-time roadie] came up with the title one night at a party at Rush manager Ray Danniels’ house.

Snow dog at guard. Graham Whieldon

“‘Ray had these two dogs. One was a German Shepherd that had these fangs, and the other was this little tiny white nervous dog. I used to call the Shepherd By-Tor because anyone who would walk into the house would get bitten by him. Ray would go, “The dog is trained fine; don’t worry about it.” Well, the night of the party, we were sitting down eating our steaks when the Shepherd started biting my leg. I started screaming and calling the dog By-Tor. Now, the other dog was real neurotic, constantly barking and jumping all over you. And since he was a snow dog, I started calling the pair By-Tor and the Snowdog.”‘—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

“We must have been high one day, imagining a song about these two dogs. And then Neil went ahead and wrote it. But the guys at our record company weren’t happy. They signed the band that was on the first album, and they said, ‘This is not the same – what is this By-tor shit? You were talking about Working Man and now you’re talking about this crazy stuff.’ It was a bit of hiccup in the plan they had for us. … The title of the first part of By-tor and the Snow Dog is a mystery to all three members of Rush. Geddy: “I don’t know what ‘tobes’ are. I assumed that Neil knew, and there must be such a place in mythology. I just went with it.” Alex: “I think the Tobes of Hades is kind of like the waiting room to Hell!” Neil: “Nobody know what it means – that’s what I love about it. But it’s something that my friend’s father used to say: ‘It’s hotter than the Tobes of Hades!'”—Geddy, Alex, and Neil, Prog Magazine, Issue 35, April 2013

“My friend’s dad always said ‘colder than the Tobes of Hell.’ That’s all. I don’t know what it means.”—Neil in Backstage Club (1990), quoted in Merely Players

“‘Eth’ is an Old English name, probably for demonic power. Styx was a river in Hades, the underworld. This song is an 8-minuter demonstrating the band’s early musical unity and prowess. The song is the first to be broken up in sections: Section III was originally called ‘The battle.'”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

One of the memorable riffs in the piece, during which the two dogs go at it, was originally part of Alex’s solo in the live version of “Working Man.” More on this or watch 30-second video.

Lyrics

Tobes of Hades, lit by flickering torchlight
The netherworld is gathered in the glare
Prince By-Tor takes the cavern to the north light
The sign of Eth is rising in the air

By-Tor, knight of darkness
Centurion of evil, devil’s prince

Across the River Styx, out of the lamplight
His nemesis is waiting at the gate
The Snow Dog, ermine glowing in the damp night
Coal-black eyes shimmering with hate

By-Tor and the Snow Dog
Square for battle, let the fray begin

The battle’s over and the dust is clearing
Disciples of the Snow Dog sound the knell
Rejoicing echoes as the dawn is nearing
By-Tor, in defeat, retreats to Hell

Snow Dog is victorious
The land of the Overworld is saved again

Tablature

By Jimmy Pena (jimmy@walrus.com)

Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.

This tab is not 100% correct. Feel free to fix it. Standard
tuning [EADGBe] (low to high). The key signature is D, but it appears to
change to E in the middle, then back to D at the Epilogue.

| = not a standard bar line; just used to separate music
~ = vibrato or held note
x = percussive note with no pitch; muted note
h = hammer on
p = pull off
s = slide
b = bend string up to indicated pitch/fret
r = release bend to indicated string/fret
/ = slide up from infinity
\ = slide down into infinity

Chord legend:

G : [320033]
D : [xx0232]
A : [x0222x]
E : [022100]
C : [x3555x]
F : [133211]
B : [x2444x]
F/A : [x03211]

Progression:

[At the Tobes of Hades:]

G D A D D A D A
The tobes of Hades lit by flickering torch light.

G D A D D A E
The nether world is gathered in the glare.

G D A D D A D A
Prince By-Tor takes the cavern to the north light.

G D A D D A E
The sign of Eth is rising in the air.

C F G F G D C F G
By-Tor, Knight of darkness, centurion of evil,

F G D
devil’s prince.

[Across the Styx:]

G D A D D A D A
Across the River Styx, out of the lamp light.

G D A D D A E
His Nemesis is waiting at the gate.

G D A D D A D A
The Snow Dog, ermine glowing in the damp night.

G D A D D A E
Coal-black eyes shimmering with hate.

C F G F G D C F G
By-Tor, and the Snow Dog, square for battle,

F G D
Let the fray begin.

—-

Here is part of the middle section. I put the time down so you
can figure out where I am.

1:11 1:17 1:23
E~ A B B G~ D E E E~ A B B G~ D E E A~

1:26 1:29 1:32 1:35 1:38
C G C G A~ C G C G D E D E C F/A C F/A

1:41 1:47
D B D B D B D B E~

[Guitar and effects for about 1:00]

Then there are a few E and D chords:

2:55 2:58 3:01 3:04
E D E D

G
e:—————————————————|
B:——–8-9\——8-9\——8-9-8——————|
G:o—–7———7———7——-9-8-7———–o|
D:o—9———9———9—————9-7-6~~—o|
A:—————————————————|
E:—————————————————|

There is another part in here but I just can’t figure it out. It
sounds like the previous pattern but played higher up and with some
hammer-ons and pull-offs.

e:————————————————————–|
B:————————————————————–|
G:o—–5-6-7\—–5-6-7\—-5-6-7-6-5————————-o|
D:o—7———-7———7————7-6-5——————o|
A:——————————————–7-6~————–|
E:————————————————————–|

e:————————————————————–|
B:——————————–5–8–5———————–|
G:o—–5-6-7\—–5-6-7\—-5-6-7———7-6-5—————o|
D:o—7———-7———7———————7~————o|
A:————————————————————–|
E:————————————————————–|

Stop and start E with drum fills:

e:———————————————————–|
B:———————————————————–|
G:o—-9–9—–9–9——–9–9—–9–9——————-o|
D:o—-9–9—–9–9——–9–9—–9–9——————-o|
A:—–7–7—–7–7——–7–7—–7–7——————–|
E:–0——–0——–0–0——–0——–0—————–|

For complete tab, go to Ultimate Guitar.

Tutorials

“By-Tor and the Snow Dog” guitar cover

“By-Tor and the Snow Dog” bass cover

“By-Tor and the Snow Dog” drum cover

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~ by rvkeeper on January 30, 2011.

 
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