Why Does Metal Love HP Lovecraft?
Heavy Metal is one of the last genres of music that most outsiders would consider to be literary. In fact, for most of them, it couldn’t be far from it. For the uninitiated, Heavy Metal’s lyrical themes just deal with violence, bloodshed and copious amounts of drug usage. While those subjects do form a minor chunk of metal music, a lot of people would be surprised by how much of metal is influenced by works of literature. From Iron Maiden’s interpretation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime Of The Ancient Mariner to the entire Lord of The Rings based catalogue of Summoning, metal is filled with songs based on popular literary works. Given the aggressive and abrasive nature of the music in general, horror literature goes even better with it. And no horror author has inspired metal bands more than the American sci-fi/horror pioneer H.P. Lovecraft.
In the Lovecraftian universe, humanity resides on the ruins of a horrific prehistoric age. One dominated by monstrous amphibious creatures and giant gods. These creatures possess magical powers and a level of intellect which go far beyond human comprehension. This strange pantheon of gods features the squid headed Ctulhu, the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep, the pustule god Yog Sothoth, the aquatic god Dagon and a number of other tentacled creatures. These creatures combined science with magic and their only goal was to cleanse earth of its carbon based life and become its unopposed rulers. These horrific gods were the ultimate misanthropes, they didn’t just hate people, they wanted to kill ‘em all. Total brutal metal. Here are some of the most legendary metal songs written about Lovecraftian nightmares:
Metallica – The Call Of Ktulu
No Metallica track captures the interdimensional horror of Lovecraftian nightmares better than The Call of Ktulu, the album closer for Ride The Lightning. There are no lyrics, but Ctulhu doesn’t need to speak for you to feel the terror.
Massacre – From Beyond
This iconic death metal song is named after a popular Lovecraft story about strange beings that attack humans once they use their pineal gland to transcend the normal boundaries of existence. Can you even get more metal?
Black Sabbath – Behind The Wall of Sleep
Based on Lovecraft’s famous Beyond The Wall of Sleep, this Sabbath classic is on the band’s debut album, which is considered by many to be the first metal album. How perfect is that!
Morbid Angel – Angel Of Disease
Morbid Angel’s driving force is the arcane guitar wizardry of Trey Azagthoth. That surname is enough to tell you how much of an influence Lovecraft will have on the band’s music. Off Covenant, the best selling death metal album of all time, this song has the line Chanting to the Ancient Ones…Shub Niggurath, the goat with a thousand young, enough said.
Rigor Mortis – Re-Animator
This gory Lovecraftian story of bringing the dead back to life was also made into a cult classic movie featuring Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton in the 80s. The song pays homage to both the story and the movie.
Christian Muenzner – Shadow Over Innsmouth
The second instrumental track on the list. Christian Muenzner, the German guitar genius (ex Necrophagist and Obscura) leaves no stone unturned in bringing the horror and dread of Innsmouth back to life through a little over five minutes of guitar wizardry.
Mekong Delta – Age Of Agony
The opening track of the incredible album, The Music of Erich Zann (based on a famous Lovecraft story), Age of Agony is a wonderfully composed track with astral riffs, spectacular playing and some suitably weird vocals which would sound terrible on any album except on this odd, charming and original classic.