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Verba Bestiae: How Latin Conquered Heavy Metal

Multilingual Metal Music: Sociocultural, Linguistic and Literary Perspectives on Heavy Metal Lyrics

ISBN: 978-1-83909-949-6, eISBN: 978-1-83909-948-9

Publication date: 18 December 2020


The presence of Latin in heavy metal music ranges from full texts, intros, song and album titles to band names, pseudonyms, and literary quotations. This chapter sheds light on heavy metal's fascination with the history and ‘arcane’ sound of Latin, and investigates its patterns of use in lyrics with the help of Natural Language Processing tools and digitally-available linguistic resources. First, the authors collected a corpus of lyrics containing differing amounts of Latin and enhanced it with descriptive metadata. Next, the authors calculated the richness of the vocabulary and the distribution of content words. The authors processed the corpus with a morphological analyser and performed both a manual and a computational search for intertextuality, including allusions, paraphrase and verbatim quotations of literary sources. The authors show that, despite it being a dead language, Latin is very frequently used in metal. Its historical status appears to fascinate bands and lends itself well to those religious, epic and mysterious themes so characteristic of the heavy metal world. The widespread use of Latin in metal lyrics, however, sees many bands simply reusing Latin texts – mostly from the Bible – or even misspelling literary quotations.




The authors wish to thank Prof. Kris Fletcher (University of Louisiana) and Prof. Osman Umurhan (University of New Mexico) for sharing chapters from their volume Classical antiquity in heavy metal music before its publication in October 2019. We also thank Markheim (blog username), the owner of the Heavy Latin blog, for his valuable insights and for indirectly providing us with notable entries for Verba Bestiae. Finally, special thanks go out to Gillian Hammond for the English proofreading of this chapter.


Cecchini, F.M., Franzini, G.H. and Passarotti, M.C. (2020), "Verba Bestiae: How Latin Conquered Heavy Metal", Valijärvi, R.-L., Doesburg, C. and Digioia, A. (Ed.) Multilingual Metal Music: Sociocultural, Linguistic and Literary Perspectives on Heavy Metal Lyrics (Emerald Studies in Metal Music and Culture), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 241-261.



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