List: 12 Metal Songs Inspired by Writer H.P. Lovecraft
Exactly 80 years ago, on March 15, prolific fantasy and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft died at the age of 46 after losing his battle with cancer. While Lovecraft’s works were mostly unnoticed during his lifetime, they became the stuff of legends after his death, often being referenced and reworked in modern literature, music and films.
Lovecraft is most notably known for creating Cthulhu, a fantastical sea monster that is part octopus, dragon and man, which has since appeared in many further fictional works by other authors who have been inspired by Lovecraft’s mythos. He also was the originator of the Necronomicon, the infamous magic textbook that Ash Williams uses to summon the underworld in ‘Evil Dead’ and ‘Army of Darkness.’ The pop culture references to the writer’s works are seemingly endless and a true testament to the impact of his stories. In honor of H.P. Lovecraft’s unyielding legacy, we have compiled a list of 12 metal songs that pay homage to the author.
1. Black Sabbath, “Behind the Wall of Sleep”
This Black Sabbath song is a reference to Lovecraft’s short story, “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” in which Joe Slater, a criminally insane murderer who has been committed to a sanitarium, has startling visions that puzzle hospital staff. Upon building a telepathic machine to determine the source of these visions, an intern learns that the hallucinations are actually messages from an aura of light that is using the body of Slater to transmit them. The short body of work is an existential and spooky exploration of the parameters of life and death.
2. Metallica, “Dream No More”
The Cthulhu mythos is a theme found in several Metallica songs, including “The Thing That Should Not Be” and “The Call of Ktulu.” On the band’s most recent album, they once again revisit Cthulhu with the song “Dream No More,” which is about waking the sleeping sea monster.
3. Cradle of Filth, “Cthulhu Dawn”
Cradle of Filth’s “Cthulhu Dawn” is about summoning Cthulhu from its sleep and the apocalyptic chaos that would surely ensue following the creature’s rise.
4. Gwar, "Horror of Yig"
Gwar’s “Horror of Yig” is a reference to Yig, a deity described as a serpent-like man with wings who extracts vengeance on anyone who kills snakes. The character that first appeared in “The Curse of Yig,” a short story jointly written by Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop. In the tale, a couple desperately try to avoid Yig’s wrath, however, their paranoia ends up being their own undoing. We won’t spoil the ending for you, but you should read it because it’s wild.
5. Mercyful Fate, “The Mad Arab”
Mercyful Fate center this track around Abdul “The Mad Arab” Alhazred, a character created by Lovecraft and the author of the notorious magic text, the Necronomicon. In Part II of the song, the band reference Cthulhu.
6. Opeth, "Pyre"
The line “familiar voices speak behind the wall of sleep” is a nod to Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” tale.
7. The Black Dahlia Murder, “Thy Horror Cosmic”
The lyrics for this track taken from The Black Dahlia Murder’s 2003 album, ‘Unhallowed,’ are about waking and worshipping Cthulhu.
8. Electric Wizard, “Dunwich”
Electric Wizard reference Lovecraft in several of their songs, including the ‘Witchcult Today’ track, “Dunwich,” which references “The Dunwich Horror.” While you might be familiar with the movie of the same name, the film is actually based off of Lovecraft’s story, which is about an invisible monster that terrorizes the town of Dunwich, M.A. Not only is this is one of Lovecraft’s works where the Necronomicon makes an appearance, but it is also one of the only stories of his where the protagonists survive and defeat their adversary.
9. High on Fire, “The Face of Oblivion”
High on Fire reference Lovecraft a few times on their 2005 release, ‘Blessed Black Wings,’ including the song “The Face of Oblivion,” which is based on the novella, “At the Mountains of Madness.” The story is about a team of geologists who uncover alien life while exploring the continent of Antarctica.
10. Nile, “Beneath the Eternal Oceans of Sand”
Lovecraft is a recurring theme in many of Nile’s songs. The band’s debut album, ‘Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka,’ references Lovecraft’s character, Nephren-Ka, an insane pharaoh (often known as “The Black Pharaoh”) who is controlled by the Egyptian deity, Nyarlathotep. On the same record, the song “Beneath the Eternal Oceans of Sand” is based on the story, “The Outsider,” which is about a recluse who becomes cast out of his world after coming into contact with ghoulish creature.
11. Dream Theater, "The Dark Eternal Night"
Once again, the master beast Cthulhu’s maritime terror is retold in this track from Dream Theater’s 2007 release, ‘Systematic Chaos.’
12. Septic Flesh, “Lovecraft's Death”
Symphonic metallers Septic Flesh’s “Lovecraft’s Death” serves as a musical anthology of the late author’s works as it references many of his stories such as “The Music of Erich Zann,” “The Hound,” “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” and many others.