Countess – “Messalina”

The historical record has not been kind to Messalina, the Roman empress and wife of the emperor Claudius (r. 41-54 CE). The historian Tacitus recounted at length her orgiastic infidelities committed behind the back of a clueless emperor whom she kept under her beautiful spell, while the satirical poet Juvenal painted her as the representative […]

Diocletian – “Baphocletian”

The emperor Diocletian ruled the Roman Empire for over two decades, between his successful bid for power against rival generals in 284 CE to his voluntary abdication to peaceful retirement in 305. To Roman historians, he is best known for a series of reforms that transformed the Roman imperial system. Emperors presented themselves as semi-divine […]

Midnight Odyssey – “Son of Phoebus”

Some metal bands go beyond retelling a classical myth in their lyrics. In the third song on the 2015 album Shards of Silver Fade, the Australian atmospheric black metal project Midnight Odyssey adapts a specific classical author’s version of that myth. This song recounts the tale of Phaethon, the son of the sun god Phoebus […]

Nazgûl – “Impetus Quartae Lunae Novae”

Classical reception in metal extends beyond lyrical topics or imagery drawn from Greco-Roman history and culture. It can also mean using the classical languages of ancient Greek or Latin as modes of expression, even if the subject is not directly related to classical civilization. Take the Sicilian symphonic black metal band Nazgûl, who in 2002 […]

Svartidauði – “The Howling Cynocephali”

Most ancient Greeks and Romans knew little of the lands and peoples that lay beyond the fringes of their empires, and the further away a “barbarous” people dwelt, the more fantastic and downright bestial they became in the imaginations of those claiming to be the most properly human and civilized. This includes the notion that […]