Choosing your band’s name is a hard and exceedingly important part of the image you create for your future fans. Because of that I find band name etymologies incredibly intriguing and a pretty good tell-tale of what the band has to offer. Sadly the trend has been to give bands meaningless names that are merely aesthetically pleasing to hear (even if their music doesn’t follow suit). For that reason bands with weirdly interesting stories behind their names are a breath of fresh air, here are a couple I particularly like:
Pioneers of the Swedish Viking Metal scene, Bathory arose from the depths of the deliciously dark and talented mind of Quorthon. The story behind their name is almost as creepy and intriguing as the music they made:
In 1610, King Mathias II of Hungary sends a party of men to investigate a castle, rumored to house several captive women, and save them in true ‘damsel in distress’ fashion. Upon their arrival they discover cells full of flogged, beaten and bruised women and children bearing deep scars all over their bodies. All of them ghostly pale, all of them dying of blood loss. The culprit? Convicted of over 650 murders, Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed also known as ‘The Bloody Countess” is the most prolific female serial killer, ever. The motives behind her murders? She derived sadistic pleasure from inflicting torture on young women, but more importantly, she collected the blood of the virginal women she tortured and bathed in it to retain her infamous youth and beauty. Her story became part of national Hungarian folklore and has unsurprisingly inspired several metal bands other than Bathory.
A short list of art inspired by The Bloody Countess:
– Slayer’s “Beauty Through Order”
– Cradle of Filth’s album “Cruelty and the Beast”
– Kamelot’s album “The Flamboyant Aspersion of Red”
– Ghost’s single “Elizabeth”
When you’re a bored teenager on a small and secluded island in between the Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with not much to do but revel at the beauty of the nature around you, something epic is bound to happen. I’m not even sure epic puts a dent in it. Faroese heavy metal band Tyr sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before. All of their lyrics draw their brilliance from Viking lore and mythology. Why else should the inspiration behind their name be any different?
God of Law, War and Heroic Glory, Tyr plays an impressionable and crucial role in Norse mythology. According to the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda Tyr is described as “the One-handed God, Fosterer of the Wolf, God of Battles, and Son of Odin”. He is said to have lost his hand in order to help the Gods bind Fenrir (The son of Loki, the wolf destined to kill Odin during Ragnarök). Fenrir is said to have been so strong, that he broke every chain that the Gods tried to bind him with. Frustrated, the Gods commissioned the Dwarves to build the strongest ribbon they could make, one that was impossible to break. The dwarves fashioned it not out of the strongest steel or the sturdiest iron but of things that were impossible in and of themselves, that way they would be impossible to break. The ribbon was called Gleipnir and was made of six brilliant things:
The sound of a cat walking, The breath of a fish, the sinews of a bear, the roots of a mountain, the spittle of a bird and the beard of a woman. (I’m guessing the Dwarves never met any particularly hairy Arab women).
Fenrir refused to be bound unless one of the Gods was brave enough to stick his hand into Fenrir’s mouth. Tyr courageously agreed and when Fenrir couldn’t break Gleipnir he bit his arm off in frustration and revenge. We ought to thank Tyr for not only his courage but for bringing us one of the greatest folk metal bands of all time. Seriously check them out.
- Iron Maiden
English heavy metal band Iron Maiden got their name from a medieval torture device. The iron maiden is just barely tall and wide enough to fit a human, its walls were covered in long sharpened spikes. Once the door is closed the spikes on the walls of the device would impale the victim from all sides and leave them to die a very slow and painful death. It would suck to be the one who had to clean that up…
- Children of Bodom
In 1993, Children of Bodom (formed by two 14 year olds!) began their descent into the wonderful realm of the Finnish melodic death metal scene. The band derives their name from the infamous and unresolved triple homicide that happened on Lake Bodom, Finland in 1960. The story goes like this:
Four teenagers decided to have an adventure and campout along the shores of Lake Bodom. Sometime between 4 and 6 AM unprovoked, someone or something, brutally bludgeoned three of the teenagers and fatally stabbed them with a switchblade several times. The fourth teenager, Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson, was the only survivor escaping with a concussion and numerous facial fractures. Traumatized and unable to fathom what had happened to his friends he was admitted to a mental hospital after insisting to have seen the Grim Reaper during the attack. The case is still open and no culprit has been found. Children of Bodom christened the Grim Reaper as their mascot and he makes an appearance on every single one of the album covers Children of Bodom has released.
- Jethro Tull
One of the most eclectic British rock bands ever borrowed their name from… a farmer! Jethro Tull, an English ‘agricultural pioneer,’ helped form the basis of modern agriculture when he perfected the horse drawn seed drill in 1701. The seed drill would make it easier to plant multiple seeds into the ground quickly and efficiently. So metal.
Russian Pagan Metal band Arkona get their name from the last surviving Slavic city castle.
Finnish folk/power metal band named after Iku-Turso, a wickedly terrifying sea monster born of old Finnish legends.
After Dave Mustaine was kicked out from Metallica, he was making his way home on a bus to New York where he was writing lyrics on the back of a pamphlet to pass the time. The pamphlet outlined a discussion on the dangers of using nuclear arms. One of the lines read “The arsenal of megadeath can’t be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to.” A megadeath is a military term, coined in 1953, that implies one million deaths by nuclear blast. Mustaine dropped the second ‘a’ to make the logo of his new thrash metal band symmetrical, and thus Megadeth was born.
Know any other interesting band name etymologies? Let me know in the comments below!