overground scene

Neocaesar – 11:11

Although this is not a music reviews blog, every once in a while a new album comes out that gives me so much pleasure that I feel the duty to mobilise the limited resources in my possession to promote it. Neocaesar‘s debut album, titled 11:11, is one of those albums. 11:11 marks the return of one of death metal’s finest duets, Bart van Wallenberg and Mike van Mastrigt. This constellation’s finest achievement has been Sinister‘s Hate (1995), a masterpiece of unique death metal. Although Bart and Mike are also partially responsible for another masterpiece, Sinister’s Diabolical summoning (1993), it is Hate that showcases Bart’s song-writing style in all its splendour (Diabolic summoning is primarily Andre Tolhuisen’s brainchild – read more here). Completing the line-up of Neocaesar are Erik de Windt, who sang on Sinister’s monumental  Aggressive measures (1998), and Michel Alderliefsten, who played bass on Sinister’s Bastard saints (1996).

I cannot overstate how happy this release has made me. Neocaesar’s debut is an album that takes the listener back to Sinister’s golden era. Listening to this album feels like listening to a classic death metal album from the past. It contains eight astounding songs plus two dark instrumental pieces. It is hard to decipher what makes 11:11 such a fantastic album. Mike’s vocal delivery is one of a kind, and the vocal patterns he’s come up with are extremely catchy. Bart is sensitive to composing songs with a narrative rather than riffs awkwardly glued together. He also knows how to change the mood of a riff by adding layers to it. In most cases this in not even a complicated approach, but it is so skillfully done that it’s astonishing. One good example of this can be found in the middle of “Invocation of the watcher” where the main partially palm-muted frantic razor-sharp riff – whose role in the rest of the song is to induce intensity – is complemented by an accented tremolo-picked three note progression to create a more eerie atmosphere. “Victims of deception”, a song about child abuse by the christian clergy (thematically I sense an affinity to “Bastard saints“), has to be the most infectious song of the year; one awesome riff after the other, great performance by Mike, and great drums written by Erik. “Sworn to hate” is a dark, atmospheric track, reminiscent of the respective turn of Sinister after Bart took over musically (between 1995 and 2001). The beginning of this song is another great example of Bart’s beautiful orchestrations. Each song is so well-made that trying to identify highlights is meaningless; this album is unique and perfect from beginning to end. Note the awesome Slayer-ish “Criminally insane” section  halfway through on “Valhalla rising”. Old Sinister fans will notice the lyrical reference to “Art of the damned” on “From hell”. Mike’s raging delivery during the last 30 seconds of “Angelic carnage” (as well as earlier on in the song) brought forth memories of his delivery on the ending of “Embodiment of chaos“. “Blood of the Nephilim” closes the album in a majestic manner, its opening slightly reminiscent of the opening of “Sense of demise”.

If you grew up listening to early 1990s brutal death metal, Neocaesar will blow your mind. If you find contemporary death metal soulless, over-polished, and generic, then Neocaesar will restore your faith in death metal’s ability to surprise and send chills down your spine. If you can afford to buy only one album in 2017 then this album should be Neocaesar’s 11:11.

p.s. Support the band by buying their merchandise and music here.


Heavy metal musicians and objectification

The heavy metal subculture is famous for its gendered and exclusionary to women character (see Weinstein, 1991). Since its crystallisation as a genre in the late 1970s – early 1980s, a phenomenon fueled by the so-called New Wave of British Heavy Metal, women tended to be thin on the ground. That is not to say that there were no women in metal. Girlschool was one of the seminal English metal bands and their influence can be seen on bands like Metallica (check out how similar Girlschool’s “Not for sale“, themselves influenced by Motorhead, is to Metallica’s “Seek and destroy“).

Women in heavy metal who became famous, like Doro and Lita Ford, were objectified in accordance with the objectification to which women have been subjected in mainstream culture. Through images at record covers and inner sleeves on which their bodies were exposed and would assume sexually suggestive poses, women in metal were reduced to only one aspect of their personality, their bodies. These bodies were meant to be gazed at by what was perceived to be the main occupier of the heavy metal fandom, the heterosexual male.


Lita Ford was one of the most successful women in Metal


Looking at media representations of women in heavy metal, toughness as well as the particular subcultural attire would be the only two elements of their performance which would distinguish them from women in mainstream culture. The ostensible tough performance women would put on represented only a minor diversion from mainstream representations of female sexuality. Toughness, at the same time, would grant them subcultural legitimacy. The stereotyped metalhead, as a vehicular unit (Goffman, 1971), involves a specific dress code and a specific body language. The dress code includes denim, leather, dark colors, and chains; the specific body language involves toughness. Thus, in heavy metal culture, women might hope to be accepted as equals as long as they espouse these subcultural norms. Insofar as toughness is a signifier of hegemonic masculinity (Connell and Connell, 2005), then women have to conform to this hegemonic masculinity in the heavy metal subculture. In that sense, women in metal might appear to liberate themselves from the shackles of a dominant femininity that wants them docile and fragile, but might find themselves subjugated to the binary opposite. This, combined with the likelihood of continuing being sexually objectified as in mainstream culture, precludes any emancipatory potential through subcultural membership in heavy metal.


Doro as the singer of Warlock


However, sexual objectification in metal, one could argue, has not necessarily been limited to women. Male performers like Manowar or even the much more “underground” Bathory would also expose their bodies to the “camera’s gaze” (Mulvey, 1992). Of course, like in mainstream culture, the meanings ascribed to male objectification were different to those coded into the female body. While in the case of women, objectification conveyed – apart from eroticism – vulnerability, often hidden behind a veil of toughness, in the case of men it signified indisputable strength. It could be said that in the case of male performers, objectification played a central role in the broader narrative of their music. Both Manowar’s and Bathory’s music was about warriors, and their revealing attire (fittingly supplemented by swords) was meant to be a warrior’s attire. Their “bodily hexis” (Bourdieu, 1977) as well, was quite different to the one of their female peers; men confidently stood their ground with arms spread and flexed, while women were in awkward positions (see Lita Ford pictured above) that insinuated vulnerability (Doro on the Warlock cover above might appear strong, but she is barefoot and threateningly enveloped by a man). Having said that, it does not mean that the audience would necessarily decode the male bodily rhetoric (Foucault, 1977) in terms of “strength”. The heterosexual female receiver or the homosexual male receiver, or potentially anyone, could read these pictures in terms of eroticism.


The hilarious artwork of Manowar’s sophomore album.


Moreover, glam metal bands in the 1980s, like Poison, Motley Crue and Ratt, were prime examples of male sexual objectification. These bands were products of the music industry primarily marketed to the (heterosexual) female gaze. Also, from a psychoanalytical perspective, these examples of male sexual objectification do not preclude the possibility of narcissistic identification by heterosexual men.

Throughout the years, there have been women, predominantly in the less commercial sub-genres of metal, like Death Metal, that resisted the more blatant sexual objectification that is observed in mainstream culture and the more commercial strands of subcultures. Jo Bench from Bolt Thrower, Lori Bravo from Nuclear Death and Rachel Van Maastrigt-Heyzer of Sinister are three good examples of women who were not objectified, self- or otherwise (although they might have conformed to hegemonic masculinity). This further supports the hypothesis that in patriarchal capitalism sexual objectification is positively associated with commercialism. When the art world becomes colonised by the logic of the business world, the former’s practices reflect the imperative of profit. To the extent that profit depends on sales and that the heavy metal audience is a predominantly male chauvinist one, sexual objectification of women becomes a strategy for companies to maximise profit and a tactic for women heavy metal performers to succeed. The body becomes a resource used to compete and improve a woman’s position in the record industry.


Jo Bench at a concert.


Having said that, I do not imply that Jo Bench or Lori Bravo simply were not subjected to the record industry’s pressures to be sexualised (or more precisely, embedded in the industry’s logic), because of the underground character of the death metal sub-genre. Indeed there is a chance that they were unlikely to have situated themselves in commercial metal to begin with. Maybe due to a more emancipated habitus they might have felt more at home within this specific sub-genre where the logic of the market would not apply its pressure on them. It is also likely that they would have resisted sexual objectification anyway, regardless of the logic of the sub-genre. At the same time, the logic of the sub-genre at any given time is expected to reflect the business model characterising the sub-genre, so in death metal (a genre that thought of itself as counter-cultural) it is likely that mainstream femininity would be looked down upon.

Some small changes have occurred in the metal landscape over the last two decades. In particular there’s a new tendency which can even be interpreted as a relative victory of dominant femininity in the heavy metal subculture. While in the 1980s we would see women in mainstream metal being subjected to the same sexual objectification as in other genres of mainstream culture and, additionally, having to adapt to the subcultural norms of hegemonic masculinity, today we see an acceptance of some of the attributes of dominant femininity in mainstream metal. In particular, we see women being dressed in typical feminine clothes (dresses, skirts, etc.) and singing in forms traditionally reserved by women (e.g. soprano). However, the issue of sexual objectification confronts women in heavy metal in pretty much the same way. As one can notice in Metalholic’s Top 25 women in metal list, women continue to perform the role of the sex object common in hegemonic culture, which involves exposure of their bodies and ridiculous poses that denote subjugation to the mainstream media logic of commercialisation.


Metalcore band “Haste the Day”

Moreover, contemporary commercial heavy metal is not very different to mainstream pop boy-bands and girl-bands, both in terms of composition and in terms of “look”. This is indicative of heavy metal’s increasing embeddedness into the mainstream, with old subcultural boundaries increasingly becoming blurred. This tendency is exemplified in the metalcore sub-genre or bands like Baby Metal, where sexual objectification concerns all genders. Again, it would be inaccurate to view this as a totally new development. As explained earlier, today’s metalcore and mainstream heavy metal are the equivalent of glam metal in the 1980s; both of them are commercialised sub-genres that coexist with less/non commercialised sub-genres.

Defunct boy-band “One Call”

The implications for this increasing mainstreaming of heavy metal music include on the one hand objectification becoming even more common (as now commercial pressures on the genre are even stronger), but also creating metal sub-genres for audiences that are more susceptible to consumerism and, therefore, more likely to spend loads of money on merchandise (compared to the traditional working class base of Heavy metal). The latter serves the interests of the metal music industry and I would expect that even minor record labels that proclaim to be “true” have opened up to metalcore.

To conclude, sexual objectification of all genders has always been prominent in the more mainstream segments of heavy metal. It is both reflective of the colonisation of song production by the market logic and of the comodification of bodies (itself a reflection of the infiltration of market logic in all aspects of human life). The logic of each music industry sub-genre structures the choices available to the performers that are situated therein. The more the sub-genre fits the characteristics of mass culture, the more likely is for performers to have limited choices on how to present themselves. Moreover, the meanings attached to the objectification of women and men are different and dependent on the social construction of femininity and masculinity.



Bourdieu, P. (1977) Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Connell, R. W. and Connell, R. (2005) Masculinities. University of California Press.

Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Pantheon.

Goffman, E. (1971) Relations in public: microstudies of the public order. London: Allen Lane.

Mulvey, L. (1992) “Visual pleasure and narrative cinema”, in The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality, pp. 22–34. New York and London: Routledge.

Weinstein, D. (1991) Heavy metal: a cultural sociology. New York: Lexington Books.


Diabolical Summoning 20 years on: an interview with Andre Tolhuisen

The year 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of many monumental death metal albums such as Indecent and Obscene (Dismember), Wolverine Blues (Entombed), With fear… (At the Gates), Covenant (Morbid Angel) and Heartwork (Carcass). The year 1993 was also the year the Dutch band Sinister released their sophomore masterpiece Diabolical Summoning.

diabolicaDiabolical Summoning is, to my ears, an undisputed masterpiece because it exemplifies in many ways the uncompromising spirit of death metal music. First of all, it pushes the boundaries of extremity that other bands before them set. The way it pushes these boundaries is not necessarily by means of speed or brutality. Other bands were both faster and more brutal than Sinister at the time. However, Sinister pushed the limits of extremity and challenged musical conventions with their unique blend of phenomenal dissonant riffing (Andre’s playing involved quick shifting between slow and fast alternate picking and the mixing of more conventional melodies with warped melodies and grind rhythms), simple but creative and colorful drumming (one of Aad’s trademark characteristics was his out-of-control high hat blastbeats, that created a very chaotic atmosphere) and, finally, Mike’s raging brutal vocals that did not come at the expense of clear articulation. Mike was, to my ears, the perfect death metal vocalist; he managed to come up with catchy and interesting vocal patterns, he had an amazingly brutal voice and most of the things he sang were audible. This chemistry rendered possible one of death metal’s most excellent albums ever: Diabolical Summoning.

The person responsible for the bulk of the music in this album is Sinister+crossAndre Tolhuisen. In the remainder of this post Andre, who left Sinister in 1994, offers some interesting insights on the creation of Diabolical Summoning. In his accounts it is described how when he joined Sinister he had to embody the logic of Ron’s riffing (Ron was already the guitarist before Andre joined the band). Andre notes that internalising this logic was not only a mental task but a practical task as well and that embodiment occurred over time. In Andre’s words it also becomes clear that the incorporation of that new musical logic into Andre’s existing musical logic – which was more thrash oriented – resulted in a new form of musical expression that included elements of both styles. Other interesting topics that emerged from my discussion with Andre relate to the practices of cultural transfer between young death metal musicians at the time. The communication of musical rules and practices which were still obscure and in a process of emergence would take place in face-to-face encounters, from one friend to the other. This type of direct communication allowed young musicians – who had not gone through the legitimate channels of musical training and hence faced obstacles in transmitting sub-cultural norms and practices in a standardised and formalised manner – to teach each other death metal music in a more informal and hands-on manner. What follows are parts of the discussion I had with Andre on the comment section of a previous post and through e-mail.

I read on the Metal Archives that before joining Sinister you played in the thrash band Vulture. How did you hook up with the rest of the guys in Sinister?

“Back in 1990, about a year after Vulture, I was hanging out in a metal bar where Mike, Ron and Aad also came every now and then. We started talking and they asked me if I was interested in playing guitar with them and they gave me the demo to listen to. Well, when I heard the tape I could not really hear what they were playing and asked them if I could come to their practice room and I was amazed and shocked by Ron`s guitar parts. He had a terrible sound but I could see what he was playing and I was hooked; from that moment I was in the band.”

How different was the guitar playing you did for Vulture from the playing you did for Sinister?

“The feel was totally different,Vulture was not really my thing, especially the high vocals were not my thing. I wanted to play more brutal music but didn’t really know how. Death Metal was very underground back then and I was in the thrash scene so I never heard that kind of stuff before. Also the rhythms are very different and more complicated.”

How was the writing process for Diabolical Summoning? Did you collaborate with Bart on songs or each one composed music on their own?

“I wrote most of the stuff at home with a cheap cassette recorder by myself, later Bart was also starting to write stuff and sometimes we did it together but that was usually during rehearsal.”

Earlier Andre had mentioned:

“I wrote Diabolical for 90 % [and] the rest is credited to Bart who played bass back then.”

Would you write music first and then lyrics or the other way around? If it was the latter, did the lyrical content ever influence the music you wrote?

“As far as I remember it was always the music first and I personally don`t recall that the lyrics were an influence to the music.”

Which were your musical influences during the time you composed the music for Diabolical Summoning?

“Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends was a big influence and also Ron`s way of playing was a big influence in combination with my thrash background.”

Did your own style totally adapt to the style Sinister had when you joined, or did you keep some of your personal elements too?

“I think you can say that I adapted in a big way but still kept a little of my own influences.”

Earlier Andre had mentioned:

“The riffs that Ron came up with was stuff I never heard before, it was also really hard to learn his stuff in the beginning. I asked him to move in to my house to sit down and get it in my head and fingers, it took me about six weeks to learn the first album. We both couldn’t read any music so we had to do it like that. When he left the band I really had to get used to be the only guitar player. Bart was already in the band by then as a bass player and after some time we got used to it.”

How did you compose music?

“It would just pop up in my head, I really have no idea where it came from. I could be standing in the shower and get a riff in my head and rush out to record it.”

In which ways do you think Diabolical Summoning differs from Cross the Styx?

“That’s a tough question, Cross the Styx is totally Ron`s style except for Corridors to the abyss, and Diabolical is a combination of Ron and my style.”

Which songs off Diabolical Summoning are you most proud of or you like the most?

“Corridors to the abyss [off Cross the Styx] was written spontaneously on the first or second rehearsal if I remember well. It was my first Death Metal song written for them and we all got chills when we were playing it over and over; very nice memories. Desecrated Flesh was also my favorite and Diabolical and Sadistic intent.”

Which parts are the most challenging to play?

“Stuff I wrote myself wasn’t hard. The last song on the album [mystical illusions] was written by Bart and I found it hard to play to be honest. During recording of the album I did all guitar parts myself except for one riff in the middle, I just could not get it down and told Bart that it would be better if he played it, cause I wanted it to be played good. So, he recorded that part.”

Andre is no longer active in bands but is still proud of what he did with Sinister all these years ago and still listens to old stuff like Amon, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Hate Eternal (all the good stuff that is). And he should be proud because after 20 years, Diabolical Summoning has not lost one bit of its freshness and it can rightfully be celebrated among the monuments of the genre. Its power lies in the inventive song structures, the outstanding chemistry within the band and the passionate performances which render each song memorable and unique. The introduction of songs like “Sense of demise”, “Diabolical summoning”, and “Sadistic intent” will always be engraved in your mind once you hear them. The chorus and fast break of “Desecrated flesh” (with the super-massive riff that is able to destroy the planet) redefined the concept of intensity. These are songs with the power to drive a person to the most frantic dance and, at the same time, the most deep meditation. Sinister’s style of death metal was unique and no band ever came close to capturing that magic. Below I submit a video I found on YouTube of Andre (wearing a Deicide shirt) with Sinister playing “Desecrated flesh” live in 1994.

p.s. Greetings to Andre for answering my questions and loads of respect. I hope I did not act too much like a fanboy. All the best!

Whatever happened to Ron?

This is the first post in a series of posts I plan on the topic of unheard music heroes. I realised over the years that some of the musicians that made a big impression on me when I was young either never got the recognition they deserved or disappeared. The aim of these posts is to pay tribute to these great musicians. I start this series of posts with someone who was a true death metal innovator and for many years I thought had disappeared. I recently found out that he is still active, yet flying under the radar: Ron van de Polder of Sinister.


One of the bands me and my friends have always held in very high regard is the dutch death metal band Sinister. The first album I bought from them was Hate (1995), back in the summer of 1997. Cross the Styx (1992) and Diabolical Summoning (1993) followed shortly after. Every single album they released up to their demise in 2004 (and before their reformation) has been a masterpiece of death metal, taking the genre to new territories. With Cross the Styx, they defined their own style of death metal, which was closer to the American tradition*. However, I always thought that Sinister made use of the different rhythms and techniques as well as the potential of electric guitar, in a more imaginative way than any other band. Sinister’s style of riffing and sense of dissonant melodies are like no other band’s. Even on their first record, Sinister sounded like mature musicians. Their songs had never been a patchwork of riffs, and riffs rarely guided the songs. The latter could be described as dark musical themes orchestrated with impressive fretboard work. After Hate they started experimenting with longer, atmospheric songs often including keyboards, encasing the brutality is a swamp of mysticism and fear. Mike van Mastrigt’s awesome vocals and imaginative and catchy vocal patterns defined Sinister’s trademark sound in the early years. However, even after his departure from the band, his successors, Eric and Rachel, did an awesome job as frontman (on the hyper-brutal Aggressive measures) and frontwoman (on the phenomenal Creative killings and Savage or Grace) respectively.

One of the things that always amazed me about this band is that although they went through numerous line-up changes over the years their identity remained intact, and without compromising freshness and creativity. Another interesting thing about Sinister was that the person responsible for nearly all the music in their debut album, the music that defined their sound, was Ron van de Polder (I think their other guitarist Andre Tolhuizen had a couple of co-writing credits) a member who left the band after the debut. Nevertheless, all the albums that were released in the in-between years were phenomenal despite Ron’s (pictured below in the Entombed t-shirt) absence. Sinister is an exemplary group of musicians that fully embodied their artistic identity and reproduced it in the most natural way throughout the years, in spite of the fact that the person responsible for the original artistic vision was no longer there.

Sinister - Cross The Styx - Back

Until Ron’s informal return on the amazing Savage or Grace (2003), on which he contributed music without being a full-time member, we had no idea what he was up to and we always wondered, especially in the days when internet was still new, what happened to him. Such a brilliant musician, responsible for creating some of the best death metal in the world, should be making music. Although Savage or Grace had the classic Sinister sound that had been constant over the years, Ron’s touch gave it a Cross the Styx feel. A truly brilliant album (check out one of the most amazing songs off this album here). Yet, he did not become a proper member of the band and after that record we lost track of him again. A couple of years ago I discovered that he actually put together the brutal death metal band Infinited Hate.

He released three albums with that band between 2004 and 2007, all three of which with Aad and two with Rachel from Sinister. The style of Infinited Hate could be described as intense technical brutal death metal, much faster and complex than everything Sinister ever recorded. Heaven Termination (2005) specifically is a pretty amazing album. The most recent band in which he plays is called Weapons to Hunt and from the little that I’ve heard its music is full of Ron’s classic riffing, albeit a lot more straight-forward than Infinited Hate. Hopefully, we’ll be listening to more music from Ron in the years to come.

* Sinister were clearly influenced by Deicide‘s approach to music, as well Immolation‘s and Morbid Angel‘s approach to riffing, but my opinion is that they took it to a whole new level. Also, I personally think that the most successful of all US bands, Cannibal Corpse, owes a lot to Sinister. My opinion is that Sinister effected the drastic transformation that Cannibal Corpse went through after Tomb of the Mutilated (1992). I would go as far as to say that Cannibal Corpse totally ripped Sinister off. The entire The Bleeding (1994) album sounds like it’s been influenced by Sinister’s first two albums and particularly Diabolical Summoning (1993). The beginning of “Staring through the eyes of the dead” is classic Sinister, reminiscent of the song “Diabolical summoning”. The beginning of “Stripped, raped and strangled” is also reminiscent of the beginning of “Sadistic intent”. Other songs, such as “Forced fed broken glass”, draw heavily on “Diabolical summoning” and “Desecrated flesh”. And, with all respect due to Scott Burns, the production of The Bleeding also sounds a bit like the production of Diabolical Summoning. More recent work by Cannibal is also reminiscent of Sinister. “To decompose” off Evisceration Plague has a riff directly borrowed from “The cursed mayhem” off Hate.

H.P.Lovecraft and Death Metal (4th update)

After a long time I decided to revise this post about the influence of H.P. Lovecraft’s body of works on the Death Metal genre. When I first wrote it back in 2009 I had just started delving into the wonders of Horror literature. I rediscovered Stephen King, some of whose works I read back in the 1990s, and I quickly found books by Clive Barker and H.P.Lovecraft, two other great figures of Horror literature. My interest in the horror genre was not accidental. Having grown up listening to Heavy metal, I was inadvertently exposed to horror literature references. My first Heavy metal CD ever was Iron Maiden‘s Live after death. The thing that first mesmerised me before even listening to the music, was the amazing cover. On the tombstone, a quote from Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu is inscribed: “That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with strange aeons even death may die”. Part of my interest in exploring those references in more detail stemmed from my desire to understand my favourite musicians a bit better, and connect with them on an abstract cultural plane. Another factor that enabled this obsession with horror literature is the availability of extremely cheap books in England. I have bought almost all my books from local charity shops, and each book has cost me between 50p and £2. Finally, my interest in horror literature can also be linked to my fascination with horror movies, which goes back to my early childhood. I remember being in the early grades of primary school and watching The Hand (1981), together with my mom, or The Blob (1986) without my parents knowing, or Poltergeist III (1989) and not being able to sleep, or being 9-10 years old and looking forward to Friday night to watch the new episode of Friday the 13th the TV series (and talk about it with my cousin George next time we’d meet).

As Roland Barthes has pointed out, all texts refer only to other texts. This post is about Lovecraft’s influence on various texts (i.e. lyrics and images) associated with the Death metal genre.

Nile‘s first full length, Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka (1998), is my personal favourite Nile album and a true gem of mid- to late 1990s American brutal death metal. Both the words “Nile” and the title of the album can be found in the same sentence at the end of the haunting short story by Lovecraft, “The Outsider”. The catacombs are the home of the deformed creature which has dwelled there mummified for centuries, before it ventured to visit the outside world. The catacombs are the place where the creature returns after realising its abominable existence. Another noteworthy example, as pointed out by one of the readers of the blog, of Lovecraft’s influence on Nile’s music is the monumental “4th Arra of Dagon” off Those whom the gods detest (2009).

Morbid Angel,  the cornerstone of American brutal death metal, is clearly guided by Lovecraft. References to the Ancient Ones and Yog-Sothoth, characters built around the Cthulhu mythos, are ubiquitous in all Morbid Angel discography, especially in albums Blessed are the sick (1991) and Formulas fatal to the flesh (1998). Morbid Angel not only write lyrics inspired by Lovecraft, but also their philosophical explorations draw on the mystical cosmos created by Lovecraft; what constitutes reality; which part of reality the human mind can perceive and what its limitations are; how the human mind is bound by social and cultural norms prohibiting us from accessing other realities, and so forth.

ENTOMBED---CLANDESTINE-2013-Back-CoverEntombed‘s masterpiece Clandestine (1991) contains the song “stranger aeons“. The lyrics are written by Kenny Hakansson. Phrases like “stranger aeons” and “Stranger things that eternal lie” point towards the Cthulhu mythos once again. Other phrases like “lurking at the threshold” also point to other Lovecraft tales like the Thing at the Doorstep, or The Lurking Fear. The painting by Nicke Andersson at the back cover of the album, depicts a head with frightening hollow eyes and tentacles, reminiscent of Lovecraft’s ancient God Cthulhu.

In 2006 Death Breath from Sweden released the excellent album Stinking up the night. The album closes with a haunting instrumental titled “Cthulhu Fthagn”. The song is apparently a tribute both to Lovecraft and Metallica, who had recorded the instrumental “The call of Ktulu” in their Ride the lightning (1984) album. These words (cthulu fthagn) are what Wilcox the sculptor heard, during his horrifying dreams of the city where Cthulhu slept. In the same album, the song “A morbid mind” also refers to the Lovecraftian mythology, and ”Flabby Little things from Beyond” refers to the short story From Beyond where a scientist creates a device that allows people to perceive hidden dimensions. Massacre‘s first album From Beyond (1991), one of the ultimate Death Metal albums, is dedicated to this story as well. What I have identified as Lovecraftian references in Tiamat‘s work, are a bit more obscure. The title “In the shrines of the kingly dead”, off Tiamat’s debut album, alludes to the terrifying story The hound, where the phrase “the narcotic incense of imagined Eastern shrines of the kingly dead” can be found. The story Celephais includes the recurring phrase “where the sea meets the sky”, and a similar phrase is also found in Tiamat’s “A caress of stars” off Clouds (1992).

Other references to Lovecraft come from bands like Therion, and their song “Cthulu“, off their fantastic second album, Gutted‘s “Nailed to the cross”, a strange blend of Lovecraft and anti-christian lyrics off their debut album Bleed for us to live (1994), and Sinister‘s “Awaiting the Absu”, from their masterpiece Hate (1995). In the eponymous track of Septic Flesh‘s first album (i.e. Mystic places of dawn (1994), one of the superior albums in death metal history, or even music history overall), there is  the lyric “… Sarnath the doomed, and names that echo in the labyrinths and the cavernous depths of chaos”.   This is a reference to the short story “The doom that came to Sarnath”, which talks about an imaginary city that prospered after ravaging an ancient alien race, which eventually returned to take revenge. The song “Lovecraft’s death” off Communion (2008) is full of references to stories such as The rats in the walls, The whisperer in darkness, and The music of Erich Zann, among others.

Another amazing song coming from recent years, is Morgoth‘s “Nemesis” off their awesome comeback album Ungod (2015). The lyrics of “Nemesis” come from Lovecraft’s homonymous poem, and I cannot imagine a better soundscape for it. Another relatively recent example of Lovecraftian death metal comes from Morbus Chron. Their first album includes the brilliant song “Red Hook horror“, which references The horror at Red Hook, one of the most talked-about Lovecraft stories. It is one of the stories that have been identified as an example of Lovecraft’s xenophobic and far right beliefs, as it is laden with derogatory epithets and imagery about US immigrants and the economically deprived. Morbus Chron have borrowed minor elements of the story and created their own vague, gruesome narrative.


The art of Dan Seagrave, one of the most important painters-cover artists of the death metal genre, clearly draws on Lovecraft’s imagination. Much of his more recent work, finds the artist obsessed with bizarre architecture (i.e. “non Euclidian geometry”), of the kind mentioned in the dreams of Lovecraft’s characters of the city R’lyeh. Looking at covers like Morbid Angel‘s Gateways to Annihilation (2000) or Suffocation‘s Souls to Deny (2004), can only bring into mind descriptions from the Call of Cthulhu like, “…great Cyclopean cities of Titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths…”.

Some of the readers of this blog have made some contributions in the comment section, so please read on for more Lovecraft influences! To be continued…