Among the myriad femmes fatales of Greek mythology, the Sirens of Homer’s Odyssey are among the most popular as the subject of heavy metal lyrics. This comes as little surprise given that their method of deadly temptation is through the allure of music. Some sources say the Sirens were daughters of one of the Muses and a river god, hence their popular conception as canorous mermaids. However, the earliest accounts depict them as half-bird, half-human women, similar to the Harpies of the Argonautica.
It was by two of these avian enchantresses that Odysseus sailed in his eponymous epic, but thanks to the forewarning of the divine sorceress Circe, these were the rare monsters the Ithacans escaped unscathed. Still, Odysseus wished to indulge his implacable curiosity, and had his men stuff wax in their ears and tie him to the mast of his ship (without wax in his ears). As they sailed by, the Sirens’ song was so irresistible that Odysseus’ implored and commanded his men to unbind him. But following their original orders, they bound him even tighter. Circe really deserves credit, here. After an initial misunderstanding in which Odysseus’ men were turned into pigs, not only did she offer warm hospitality for a year, but selflessly offered them navigational guidance when they wished to leave (check out Madeline Miller’s ‘Circe’, by the way).
In this track from their 2015 demo, Greek heavy metal band Black Sword Thunder Attack combine, paradoxically, Circe’s warning with the allure of epic heavy metal music, and vocals that mimic the fatal goddesses as much as denounce them. The Sirens as metaphor for a host of modern temptations is ever powerful, but when has metal ever been about restraining our passions and avoiding risks?