CLARA Review: K. F. B. Fletcher & Osman Umurhan (eds), 2020: Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music.

London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic. 260 pp.


  • Bente Kiilerich University of Bergen



The concepts ‘classical antiquity’ and ‘heavy metal music’ may appear to be worlds apart. Not only are they separated chronologically but each belongs to an entirely different habitus. While the classical is associated with tradition, good taste and harmony, heavy metal is, at least by some, associated with the very opposite: the breaking of tradition, bad taste and disharmony. And yet, as the present book shows, a very large number of heavy metal bands reference antiquity in various ways, including exponents of Thrash Metal, characterised by speed and aggressiveness; Death Metal, characterised by macabre subject matter and growling vocals; Black Metal with related subject matter but less polished style, and other subgenres. Bands from countries ranging from Greece and Italy to Scandinavia incorporate classical quotations in their lyrics or rewrite ancient texts and myths. Some sing in Greek or Latin, others in Italian or English. The titles of songs, such as Hymn to Apollo, Hymn to Zeus, Medusa and so on, further show the classical inspiration.