Classic Literature influence in Heavy metal.


Ott 5 2007, 0:29

I continually hear people say how completely unintelligent the lyrics of heavy metal are, I think a common understanding among some people about heavy metal lyrics (Particularly Black and Death metal) is its full off mindless brutal gore and satanic themes, well okay alot of it is but here are a few examples i will show here to make a point that heavy metal lyrics are more intelligent and complex than any other style of music on this planet.

Well to start, there are a hell of a lot of philosophic references in most heavy metal bands which makes you think, this could be a reason why so many people lead towards simple and more accesible bands as they are too stupid to listen to heavy metal.

Any way lets start with John Milton, his greatest work Paradise Lost has had an enormous influence on metal bands. Some examples:

Draconian album arcane rain fell is heavily inspired form John Milton's Paradise Lost, in fact there are sections in the lyrics which are word for word quoted from the epic poem such as in the song the apostasy canticle:

"Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,
This the seat that we must change for heav'n,
This mournful gloom for that celestial light?
Be it so, since hee who now is sovran can dispose and bid what shall be right...
Fardest from him is best whom reason hath equald
Force hath made supreme above his equals
Farewel happy fields where joy for ever dwells...
Hail horrours, hail infernal world, and thou profoundest hell
Receive thy new possessor...
One who brings a mind not to be chang'd by place or time"

Obviously the band Paradise Lost is inspired by John Milton.

The album Damnation and a Day by Cradle of Filth is also inspired by the Epic poem Paradise Lost, in fact the entire album is really a recount of Paradise Lost. I know there are a lot of other Black Metal bands that have a similiar influence, like King Diamond.

Now How Like A Winter is heavily influenced by William Shakespeare, there name itself is taken from one of Shakespeare's sonnets.

I have noticed an influence of Edgar Allan Poe in Tristania and Theatre of Tragedy, such as the song my lost lenore from Tristania which is derived form the poems lenore and the raven by Edgar Allan Poe. And the song and When he Falleth by Theatre of Tragedy has the lines from the movie the Masque of Red Death spoken by spoken by Vincent Price and Jane Asher and the movie is based on the story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe. The lines in the song and movie are these:

(Vincent Price)
That cross you wear around your neck;
is it only a decoration, or are you a
true Christian believer?

(Jane Asher)
Yes, I believe - truly

(Vincent Price)
Then I want you to remove it at once!
- and never to wear it within this castle
again! Do you know how a falcon is trained my
dear? Her eyes are sown shut. Blinded temporarily
she suffers the whims of her God patiently, until
her will is submerged and she learns to serve -
as your God taught and blinded you with

(Jane Asher)
You had me take off my cross because it

(Vincent Price)
It offended no-one. No - it simply appears
to me to be discourteous to... to wear
the symbol of a deity long dead.

(Vincent Price)
My ancestors tried to find it. And to open
the door that seperates us from our Creator.

(Jane Asher)
But you need no doors to find God.
If you believe....
Believe?! If you believe you are gullible.
Can you look around this world and believe
in the goodness of a god who rules it?
Famine, Pestilence, War, Disease and Death!
They rule this world.

(Vincent Price)
There is also love and life and hope.
Very little hope I assure you. No. If a god
of love and life ever did exist... he is long
since dead. Someone... something rules in his

H.P Lovecraft's work has also had a large influence, Metallica has a song titled The Call of Ktulu from ride the lightning which comes from H.P Lovecrafts character Cthulhu.

Also I have seen some references to Friedrich Nietzsche, namely the song Addicted by Beseech. The lines come from Thus Spoke Zarathustra and are:
'Once we were apes and truly man is more ape than ape. I beseech you my brothers, stay faithful to the Earth'.

And of course there is the obvious influence of the prose and verse edda's in black, viking and nordic folk metal. Also bands like Battlelore have a clear influence from J. R. R. Tolkien.

I'm sure there are many other influences of literature as well, feel free to post some other cases if you know of any.


  • l33t_Sas

    Symphony X's latest album, Paradise Lost is quite obviously based on the poem and they have a 24 minute song based on Homer's The Odyssey. Many Finnish bands such as Amorphis base their songs on the Kalevala. Iron Maiden have many songs based on books such as Brave New World, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which directly quotes the poem), To Tame a Land (Dune) Hmmm... that's all I can think of for now.

    Ott 6 2007, 14:06
  • Fnts

    Sign of the Cross Based on Umberto Ecco's novel The Name of the Rose. Not classic one, because written in 20th century, but the action takes place in medieval times.

    Ott 6 2007, 21:47
  • tselwns

    Cheers guys, I didn't know of some of the cases you have mentioned above:)

    Ott 8 2007, 0:36
  • Tristaniel

    Iron Maiden is the one of most obvious bands, as others have stated, I just want to add The Trooper to the list - and we can't mention Metallica without throwing in For Whom The Bell Tolls. Another case would be HammerFall's The Champion where a maiden is about to be burned at the stake and awaits a champion to fight for her life - Ivanhoe, anyone? ;)

    Ott 9 2007, 14:52
  • selmalena

    Great point you're making! I actually wrote an entire paper on this stuff :)

    Ott 18 2007, 5:20
  • tselwns

    Could I read it?

    Ott 18 2007, 23:36
  • Tristaniel

    @selmalena: Great! My final thesis should be somewhat in the same direction, but more including History. Metal is SO the most academic genre.

    Ott 21 2007, 17:03
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