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We may chuckle at Metallica’s overly dramatic lyrics or snicker at the costumes of Gwar, but metal bands may have more in common with booklovers than might have been originally assumed, according to William Weir of The Hartford Courant. Perhaps better-read than your average country rock star and certainly brandishing more belligerently their book-loving hearts on their sleeves than self-conscious indie rock bands, metal bands have been quietly penning book-inspired songs for decades. Take Sepultura’s Divine Comedy-inspired Dante XXI, for example. Or Mastadon’s Leviathan album, an homage to Moby Dick that features songs like “I Am Ahab” and “Seabeast.” We could go on.

But just what kinds of books provide fodder for songs? “Epic battles of good and evil are very metal,” says Deena Weinstein, professor of sociology at DePaul University in Chicago and author of Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture. This would explain metal’s frequent references to books by sci-fi/fantasy authors like Frank Herbert, H.P. Lovecraft (literature’s “Most Metal” writer, according to Weir), and J.R.R. Tolkein, who is one of the more recent writers to inspire past-obsessed metalheads. Also popular, says Weir, are the battles against nature favoured by Romantic poets (see Iron Maiden’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ which takes its name and themes from the Coleridge poem).

The natural fallout of all this, according to Weinstein, is that some fans are being turned on to some of the great works of the Western canon. “Kids have told me this,” she says. “Metal turned them on to writers.”

Related links:
Click here for William Weir’s piece on delawareonline.com