Sunday, September 19, 2010

Metal Band Names: A Helpful/Humorous Guide

Five Strategies To Name Your Metal Band.

A few months ago, The Wall Street Journal ran a story on how the Internet age makes it difficult to stake out a claim on a good band name. Because (arguably) all it takes is a Myspace page to establish a worldwide trademark to a band name, you have to be the very first one to get it. They offer this as an explanation for why new acts often have long or ridiculous names.

Age Eternal I'm not really sure how much of an issue this is. Howl is a name that's been used by at least three other bands before the Rhode Islanders started using it in 2007. On the other hand, Middian ran into some trouble because of it and, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, had significant legal expenses.

Not many 4+ word band names are any good. Lair of the Minotaur and Lightning Swords of Death are the only ones I can think of. (Dependent clauses--like As I Lay Dying and Between the Buried and Me--are always a stupid way to name a band.) To be acceptable, a name should be 1-3 words, so it's catchy and easy to remember. The WSJ article says all the good ones are taken. That may be true for more mainstream styles of music.

Metal bands shouldn't have any problems, though.

Strategy 1: Death + Violence + Umlauts
Best Suited For: Thrash Metal, Death Metal

Terrorizer offered a simple formula in a recent review for Mörbid Carnage:
[P]ick two random words from the thesaurus entries for "death" and "violence", remembering that the name doesn't have to actually mean anything or indeed make sense, then add umlauts to every available 'o' . . . .
Sounds good to me! You should vet any of these names through Encyclopedia Metallum, Myspace, and Google, but if you don't come up with anything in those three you should be fine.

Let's try it out.

Casualty Attack
Annihilatiön Frenzy
Destructiön Savagery
Mörtal Blöödshed
Öbliviön Störm
Öbliteratiön Önslaught
Grave Abandön

This is just a handful to get you started, in order of increasing excellence. And not one of them has been taken on Encyclopedia Metallum.

To adapt this technique to doom metal bands, you might forget the umlauts and check the thesaurus for "dark" and "sad": Sunless Lament or Stygian Woe, perhaps. Better than looking at the thesaurus is coming up with words that aren't literally synonyms, but instead words that suggest these things. Candlemass is a perfect example: candles suggest darkness, and a mass is a solemn event.

Strategy 2: Everyone's Favorite Ruminant
Best Suited For: Black Metal, anything else dark, evil, or agrarian

Think of all the metal bands with "goat" in the name. You can pretty much pair it with anything. Goatwhore and Goatsnake have both been done, as well as Archgoat, Earth Goat, and, of course, Goat Semen. But Goatflame, Goat Mutilation, Goat Torture, Goateater, Goatsoul, Virgingoat, and Sacred Rite of the Goat Fetus are all still available.

(Search results here, and you really should read them for other gems like Goat's Ass Trumpet.)

Strategy 3: English Is Optional
Best Suited For: Black Metal (Latin), Death Metal (Greek), Industrial Metal (German), Folk Metal (Appropriately Ethnic Language), Any Other Non-Native English Speaking Band

Everyone knows Rammstein, the German industrial metal band. If your native language is not English, why not use a word from your own language which says what you want? The name Suffocation was already taken, so Kvelertak just used the same word in their native Norwegian. If you're a Czech band who wants to be called Suffocation, just use Udušení, if you're a Serbian band who wants to be Death, use Smrt, and so on. That one sounds particularly awesome.

But you don't have to be from somwhere else to use a different language. All kinds of bands use Latin names, from Mors Principium Est ("death is the beginning") to Gloria Morti (something like "hail death"), and many others. These tend to sound quasi-religious, so it's perfect for a black metal band. Fewer use Greek names. They sound scientific and harsh, so technical death metal is a good fit (think Necrophagist).

The great thing about ancient Greek and Latin is that you can make up words and mix and match between Greek and Latin roots, like scientists do all the time. You might try Ptyalmortis (salivating death), Decapitorium (a place where decapitations take place), or Arctocoprist (one who poops at the North Pole). For a helpful list, look here.

Don't forget about fictional languages either. Elvish (Sindarin, in particular) and Klingon are both available. And to take this strategy even further, you can make up a completely new word, like Metallica or Nachtmystium did.

Strategy 4: Psychedelia
Best Suited For: Stoner Doom, Stoner Metal, or Anything Else Drug-Inspired

DopethroneElectric Wizard comes to mind first, but these types of bands generally go with a combination of a psychedelic-sounding adjective and (often) a fantasy- or magic-related noun. Possible adjectives include electric, acid, orange, green, purple, weed, dope, stone, smoke, and anything from outer space. For your noun, just about anything goes, so you could have Dope Lizard, Orange Dragon, Electric Dungeon, Astral Wayfarer, Mushroom Fortress, or many more. I know if you're trying to come up with a name for a band like this, you probably don't need my inspiration.

Strategy 5: Pick Two Words Out of a Hat
Best Suited For: Any Metal Style

Finally, if none of the above are working for you, you can pick any two metal words or phrases out of a hat. Obviously, you can use metallurgy: steel, iron, gold(en), silver. There's also the tried and true list of chilly things: frost, ice(d), winter, frozen, etc. And there are a lot of other categories, like war, death, disease, religion, mythology, night, bodily functions, or anything else related to your band's style and lyrical content. Pick a bunch of words you like and stick them in a hat. This has to be how Panzerchrist came up with their name.

There are some metal band name generators online, too: here is one, here's another, and here's one specifically for death metal. There are plenty more out there, if you look, and I'm sure you could cannibalize the Javascript and put your own words in there without too much trouble.

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