Perhaps one of the most enduring names in horror is H.P. Lovecraft, the Rhode Island author who created the Cthulhu Mythos, a shared universe of ancient deities, each more horrific than the last. His material has been the inspiration for countless films (Dagon, Re-Animator, The Dunwich Horror, The Mist), video games (Dead Space, Quake, Alone in the Dark, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem), and more. It’s pretty much impossible to be a horror fan and not have experienced something that owed itself to Lovecraft and his fantasy/gothic writings.
But what many might not realize is that his work is also the foundation for many bands and the material they put out. Whether it’s a casual lyric here and there or entire albums dedicated to honoring his impact, Lovecraft’s material is a fountain from which many artists have drank. To honor the 80th anniversary of his passing, here are 10 songs that were influenced by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Crank up your volume and enjoy!
Dark Moor – “The Silver Key”
Spanish neoclassical metal band Dark Moor have been releasing albums since 1993, although they’ve undergone several lineup changes over the years, leaving guitarist Enrik Garcia as the only original member to still be in the band. In their 2005 album Beyond The Sea, the fifth track “The Silver Key” was, according to a 2005 interview, “…based in the Dreamland of H.P. Lovecraft and the Randolf [sic] Carter’s adventure.”
Carter is a recurring character in Lovecraft’s works, first appearing in the 1919 short story, “The Statement of Randolph Carter”. The above song also shares its name with a 1926 story written by Lovecraft, which was the penultimate story of Carter’s journey, concluded by “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. However, Carter does appear as a museum visitor in the 1933’s “Out of the Aeons” under the alias “Swami Chandraputra”.
Dream Theater – “Dark Eternal Night”
One of the titans of the progressive metal scene, Dream Theater’s “Dark Eternal Night” takes heavy inspiration from Lovecraft’s short story “Nyarlathotep”. In fact, locations, imagery, and even some phrases are lifted directly from the tale about a Pharaoh who awakens after 2,700 years only to bestow horrific nightmares upon all who he comes across. As the story continues, it becomes evident that the titular character has brought death, destruction, horror, and chaos upon the world.
H.P. Lovecraft – “The White Ship”
This 1960’s psychedelic rock band named themselves after the iconic horror author not just because they loved his work but because they used his stories as the inspiration of many of their own tracks. Often seen as featuring horror influences in their music, they were recognized for their phenomenal vocal harmonies and the eerie, haunting air that permeated throughout their songs.
“The White Ship” is based on Lovecraft’s 1919 story of the same name, which follows a lighthouse keeper by the name of Basil Elton who encounters a mysterious white ship that only appears when there is a full moon. The journey he undertakes is fantastical and full of intrigue. While not necessarily tied into the Cthulhu mythos that Lovecraft is known for, there are still references to old gods. Mysterious indeed…
Metallica – “The Thing That Should Not Be”
While “The Call of Ktulu” may have been the obvious choice, “The Thing That Should Not Be” is a far more exciting and horrific track, at least in my own opinion. Referencing “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and alluding to Cthulhu itself, this track is considered one of the heaviest tracks on Master of Puppets, thanks to the downtuned guitars.
On a side note, in an interview I conducted with guitarist Kirk Hammett, he explained that bassist Cliff Burton was, “…way into H.P. Lovecraft“, while Hammett himself is a known horror aficionado. The band has long used dark, horror-infused imagery in their videos, merch, and lyrics. This is but one example of their love of our genre.
Nox Arcana – “The Nameless City”
Truth be told, the entire album Necronomicon is a tribute to Lovecraft, so if you’re looking for some dark, ambient music that has strong horror elements and call to mind visions of the Old Gods, hybrid human creatures, and other mysteries, this is a fantastic place to direct your focus!
Shub-Niggurath – “Yog-Sothoth”
Not only is the band named after one of Lovecraft’s Old Gods but they used his stories as the basis for many of their songs. It’s hard to describe their music, but they’re often placed in a genre called “Zeuhl”, which mixes progressive rock, jazz rock, and eeriness. If that sounds like it’s up your alley, I strongly suggest giving this a listen. However, I warn you that it’s an acquired taste.
Blue Öyster Cult – “The Old Gods Return”
Not only have these Long Island rockers written about Godzilla and not fearing the Reaper but they also paid homage to Lovecraft with this great track! The song speaks of the Old Gods returning to “…sweep our cities back into Hell“. Also paying a quick reference The Wizard of Oz, the track is all about the Old Gods and the destruction they will cause.
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – “Margate Fhtagn”
Combine one part steampunk, one part grindcore, and one part jaunty punk and you’ve got yourself The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. Hailing from London, the band took their name from a chalk inscription found during the hunt for Jack the Ripper. However, this track is specifically about a family that takes a seaside vacation only to be interrupted by the arrival of Cthulhu, who rises from the seas.
Black Sabbath – “Behind the Wall of Sleep”
Yup, Ozzy Osbourne, aka “The Prince of Darkness”, and company wrote a song inspired by Lovecraft! The 1919 short story “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” follows a mental hospital intern who chronicles his experiences with a criminally insane murderer. It also includes telepathic communications, light beings, and much more. It’s your typical Lovecraft-ian weirdness.
Fields of the Nephilim – “Last Exit For the Lost”
This English gothic rock band have influenced countless artists that you know of and love, although they themselves have never gotten the recognition they rightfully deserve. One of my favorite bands, Katatonia, have long cited them as a strong influence on their own material. They’ve been known to incorporate not only Lovecraft-ian mythos into their lyrics but also material from Aleister Crowley.
In the above track, they specifically call out Chtulhu, sonorously chanting, “We’re getting closer, I can see the door/Closer and closer, Kthulhu calls“. The song is a hypnotic piece, almost droning in and around itself until it begins picking up speed towards the end and culminating in a shoegaze-y climax.