Heavy metal is undoubtedly my favorite genre of music. No disrespect to my favorite musician of all time, Mr. Franklin Vincent Zappa, but if I was trapped on an island with one genre – it’s metal all the way. Metal naturally draws in the darkness of society, referencing, reinventing and reinvigorating old tales of horror while inventing new lore along the way. Like most kids, I got a weekly allowance and it’s no shock that money went almost exclusively to comic books and albums. One begets the other, leaving lasting inspiration via darkly foreboding artwork from either medium. Going to Camelot Music every weekend was a thrill to me and my Judas Priest shirt-wearing friends. It was so much fun to rifle through the metal section’s alphabetical offerings, wide-eyed and excited to find metal’s best artwork the 80’s had to offer. You’re either a liar or a moron if albums like Number of the Beast, The Warning, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, or Reign in Blood didn’t inspire you.
I would be blatantly lying if I claimed metal didn’t influence my teenage reading. A lot of the books and authors decorated in the halls of metaldom still impact me. When I was a freshman in high school, I wrote a paper about The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Written in 1797 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the tale is one of tragedy and curses, an allegory for the redemption Christ offers in the face of hopelessness and extreme loss. The Mariner and his crew survive the frozen waters of the Antarctic by a lone Albatross. Once out of the deadly waters, the Mariner kills the bird with his crossbow. His crew eventually turns on him and forces the hardened sailor to wear the dead bird around his neck, reminding him constantly of how his crime has led to their curse. Full of supernatural characters like Death himself, TROTAM still thrives in today’s literature. Iron Maiden also introduced me to H.P. Lovecraft with their album art. The iconic Eddie made for prime albums covers, each album incorporating the monster in a different era or setting. Up the fucking Irons.
Speaking of Lovecraft, let’s not forget Metallica’s The Call of Ktulu from their (best) album, Ride the Lightning. H.P. Lovecraft’s influence is massive in American culture. The tortured writer has inspired everything from music, art, newly written expansion lore, and even Christmas Tree toppers. Before Stephen King, Clive Barker, or even Richard Matheson, Lovecraft was channeling otherworldly terror and unrest. I would recommend you to pick up ANY of his collections of short/novella length stories.
Richard Matheson, he’s one of my favorite writers and first real literary horror love. He inspired Stephen King, so it’s no shock that contemporary horror/metal icon, Rob Zombie, wrote a song based on I Am Legend. If you’re not familiar with the novelette, you probably remember the loosely based move starring Will Smith. It’s a vampire movie on the surface, but draws from themes of desolation, sanity, and routine – so metal, right? Matheson has inspired movies you might not even be aware of. Remember Kevin Bacon in Stir of Echoes? That was based on Matheson’s story. The original I am Legend is a brilliant horror work – read it.
Bram Stoker had a little sleeper novel called Dracula, you might have heard of it. It’s pretty much the basis in some form or another for every vampire character in existence. Iced Earth did the classic impaler proud.
Well, kids, that’s just a few fun facts about the horror/metal connection. With a bit of googling, you can find a wealth of horror inspired metal in your own collection. Start searching now. You’re probably aware of a lot of connections, but you’ll be surprised how long it’s been happening.