PHOTO BY: ANDY FORD
Metal music delves into a plethora of captivating themes, ranging from war and personal anguish to hatred, corruption, love, mental health and, my personal fascination, mythology. Capturing the essence of metal and mythos, weaving legends through heavy sounds.
While it is impossible to encompass every band that explores this subject, heres a glimpse of some noteworthy bands that embrace this theme, acknowledging that many more exist beyond this list.
Mythology has been a captivating and enduring theme in metal music, weaving its way through the genre’s history and inspiring countless bands and artists. From the early pioneers to the modern masters, metal musicians have drawn inspiration from various mythological tales, gods, and creatures, infusing their music with epic narratives and mystical imagery. Let’s dive into the sphere of mythology in metal music throughout the years.
Early Foundations: In the 1970s, the roots of metal were taking hold, and bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin began to explore mythological themes in their music. Led Zeppelin’s fascination with Norse mythology can be seen in songs like “Immigrant Song,” referencing Valhalla and Viking conquests. Black Sabbath delved into occult and mystical themes, drawing inspiration from various folkloristic and mystical sources.
Norse Mythology: As metal grew in popularity, bands submersing into Norse mythology, finding inspiration in the tales of Viking gods and warriors. Bands like Bathory and Enslaved embraced the Viking spirit, crafting intense and atmospheric music that painted vivid scenes of battles, heroism, and ancient Norse rituals. Bathory’s album “Blood Fire Death” is considered a milestone in Viking metal, with its valiant soundscapes and mythological lyrics.
Greek Mythology: Greek mythology also found its way into metal music, offering a rich tapestry of gods, heroes, and legends. Bands like Symphony X and Firewind incorporated Greek mythology into their songs, showcasing the powerful stories of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Symphony X’s album “The Odyssey” is a notable example, adapting Homer’s poem into a progressive metal masterpiece. The band Kawir are stalwarts of the Greek black metal scene with their folkish take on the genre.
Celtic and Folklore: The folklore and mythology of Celtic cultures have also had a significant influence on metal music. Bands such as Primordial and Eluveitie draw inspiration from Celtic mythology, forging sacred legends of warriors, druids, and forest spirits into their music. The ghostly musical passages and lyrical themes create an atmospheric experience that entrances listeners to enchanted realms.
“The Moor” is an enthralling and enigmatic song by the Swedish progressive band Opeth, featured on their acclaimed album “Still Life.” Rooted in folklore and mythic tale. The song unfolds as a multi-layered journey, showcasing Opeths signature fusion of aggressive metal passages and serene interludes. Lyrically its a chilling narrative revolving around a tragic figure who wanders through desolate moors, burdened by guilt and haunted by spirits of the past. The song resonates with depth, emotion and darkness.
Mythological Creatures: Metal musicians have also explored the realm of mythological creatures in their music. From dragons to werewolves, bands like Iron Maiden and Powerwolf have embraced these fantastical beings, incorporating them into their lyrics and album artwork. Iron Maiden’s “Flight of Icarus” and Powerwolf’s “Werewolves of Armenia” are examples of how otherworldly denizens dwelling at the nexus dance on the fringes of our perceptions and come to life through powerful metal anthems.
Mythopoetic chronicles and Concept Albums: Metal has a penchant for epic storytelling, and mythology provides the perfect backdrop for conceptual albums and grand narratives. Bands like Blind Guardian and Amon Amarth have conjured sprawling sagas inspired by mythological origins, orchestrating ornate and immersive musical engagements. Blind Guardian’s “Nightfall in Middle-Earth” draws from J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology, while Amon Amarth’s discography chronicles the Viking Age and Norse mythology.
Modern Innovations: In recent years, metal has continued to evolve, and new bands have emerged, exploring lesser-known mythologies and infusing them with their unique styles. Bands like Wardruna and Heilung delve into Norse and Germanic ancestral mysticism, utilizing traditional instruments and primal incantations to summon echos, enshrining the essence of forgotten epochs. This fusion of metal and ancient mythology pushes the boundaries of the genre and captivates listeners. Drawing inspiration from the rich heritage of ancient European traditions, their evocative compositions enthrall the listener into the hidden recesses of collective consciousness, awakening dormant ancestral connections through wisdom of nature. Boundaries of time and space dissolve as deities and spirits are invoked behind the veil between the mundane and interconnectedness of all things.
Sleep Token’s lyrical content is often metaphorical and open to interpretation, it frequently blends symbolism, references to mythological figures, deities and spiritual concepts. The band’s genre bending elements of rock, metal and ambient soundscapes create a captivating backdrop. Its important to note that Sleep Token has diverse discographies, and while mythology and folklore are recurrent themes, their music touches on personal retrospection, emotional struggles, and existential questions.
The mythology in metal music has served as a catalyst for creativity, allowing artists to explore timeless stories, evoke emotions, and create larger-than-life musical experiences. It continues to be a source of inspiration for musicians and a captivating realm for fans to immerse themselves in, converging legends with music.
Written By Christy Lee