Metal and all its sub-genres are highly influenced by historical, religious and mythological motifs. Mythological references can be found in every single Metal style – from Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal or Grindcore to Heavy Metal, Pagan/Folk Metal or Power Metal. They are integrated in artworks, songs, lyrics and appearances of bands, scenes and labels all over the world.
The main characters in myths are usually gods, supernatural heroes and humans. As sacred stories, myths are often endorsed by rulers and priests and closely linked to religion or spirituality. In the society in which it is told, a myth is often regarded as a true account of the remote past. Creation myths generally take place in a primordial age, when the world had not yet achieved its current form, and explain how the world gained its current form and how customs, institutions and taboos were established (source). Metal often uses references and motifs from Norse mythology or christianity, as one of Metal’s most important origins was Scandinavia and satanism or anti-christian protest attitude is one of the core themes of Metal. Here are five of the most common creatures in Metal:
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard, the capital city of the Norse gods. He is associated with war, battle, victory and death, but also wisdom, magic, poetry, prophecy and hunt. Odin has many sons, the most famous of whom is Thor (source).
The artwork depicted above is taken from Einherjer‘s Odin Owns Ye All (a Norwegian Viking Metal band formed in 1993) released in 1998 through Century Media. Other bands related to Odin are Amon Amarth, Manowar (previously on Symmetal), Rebellion, Therion or Primordial to name just a very few.
Ok, that’s an obvious one. Satan, “the opposer”, is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible. In Christianity the title became a personal name, and “Satan” changed from an accuser appointed by God to test men’s faith to the chief of the rebellious fallen angels (“the devil” in Christianity, “Shaitan” in Arabic, the term used by Arab Christians and Muslims) (source).
The artwork depicted above is taken from Nifelheim‘s Devil’s Force, released in 1997 through Necropolis Records. Other acts related to satanic themes are most parts of Black Metal like Dark Funeral, Venom, Desaster, Gorgoroth and many, many more.
Hecate is an ancient goddess, sometimes depicted in triple form, variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, fire, light, the Moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, necromancy and sorcery. She has rulership over earth, sea and sky, as well as a more universal role as Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul. Today Hecate is claimed as a goddess of witches (source).
The artwork depicted above is an illustration for Hecate Enthroned (a symphonic Black Metal band from England formed in 1993) created by Belgian graphic artist Valentina. Perhaps one reason why I personally like the mythological figure of Hecate that much is her appearance in Mike Mignola‘s Hellboy comics.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” Isaiah 14:12 (King James edition)
Before the rise of Christianity, Enochic Judaism gave Satan an expanded role. They interpreted Isaiah 14:12-15 as applicable to Satan, and presented him as a fallen angel cast out of heaven. Christian tradition, influenced by this presentation, came to use the Latin word for “morning star”, lucifer, as a proper name for Satan as he was before his fall (source). As a result, Lucifer has become a common figure in theology and popular culture like literature, comics, movies, theatre and of course music.
The cover depicted above is taken from Belphegor‘s 2003 output Lucifer Incestus. Belphegor is a Black/Death Metal band from Austria formed in 1991. Similar to Satan Lucifer is related to the same bands and mainly the genre of Black Metal.
5. Elizabeth Báthory
Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed ( 7 August 1560 – 21 August 1614) was a countess in the Kingdom of Hungary. She and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls, with one witness attributing to them over 650 victims, though the number for which they were convicted was 80. The legend says that the countess used to bathe in the blood of her victims to retain her youth. In 1610, she was imprisoned in the Csejte Castle, now in Slovakia, where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later. Elizabeth Báthory has been labeled the most prolific female serial killer in history and is remembered as the “Blood Countess.” (source)
In Metal the most popular appearance of course is the band Bathory. The legendary Swedish Metal band pioneering for genres such as Viking, Pagan and Black Metal. Bathory was formed in 1983 by Thomas „Quorthon“ Forsberg who died in 2004. The cover depicted above is taken from Cradle of Filth‘s 1998 album Cruelty and the Beast. Cradle of Filth is a Symphonic Black Metal from Suffolk, UK, formed in 1991.