May 112012

In September 2010, I wrote a post about metal band names called “What’s In A Name?”. The point of the post was to pick out some badass metal names and some not-so-great ones and to ponder the connection (if any) between cool band names and the music. I categorized some of the evidence into groups — the ass-kicking bands with ass-kicking names, the ass-kicking bands that have succeeded despite piss-poor names, and the bands whose names are just . . . perplexing.

Yesterday, Full Metal Attorney (FMA) posted a piece on his blog called “What’s In A Name?”, and that seemed like a good excuse for revisiting the subject of metal band names. He makes the point that band names DO MATTER — they’re part of a band’s identity and part of the whole “marketing package” that would also include logos, album art, and of course the music itself.

He argues that band names have a lot to do with whether new listeners are likely to check out the bands’ music in the first place: As he points out, some band names are just silly (e.g., Weekend Nachos) and may deter listeners from exploring what the bands have to offer, even when the music may be right up the listener’s alley, while other band names (e.g., Autopsy) are both memorable and almost perfectly descriptive of a band’s musical style.

He also describes some persuasive factors that make a band name good, and not so good, and then he comes up with his list of the Ten Best Metal Band Names.

I think it’s a good list, but I also wonder how much the selection was subconsciously influenced by knowledge of the band’s music; almost every band on the list has, at one time or another, made a big mark on metal. In fact, I’d venture to say that all of them, with the exception of White Zombie, were/are iconic forces in the development of metal (and I’m sure someone out there would argue that White Zombie were, too). But I’d agree that the band names really are good, too. I like to believe I’d reach that conclusion even if I knew nothing about the music.

I also agree with FMA’s criteria for what makes a good metal band name. One of those criteria is that the name should be Google-able, which means people need to be able to spell your name (which, for example, is a problem for bands who use the dreaded “AE” construct, such as Allegaeon, Aegaeon, and Anachronaeon — and those are just bands whose names begin with “A”). It also means that your name shouldn’t be a common word, at least until you get really well known.

The following are some great one-word band names (and yes, one-word names are best), but they would have run afoul of this no-common-words criterion, at least until the bands became well known. Undoubtedly, I’m being subconsciously influenced to a degree by the fact that many of these bands have achieved legendary status, plus I love their music:

Aborted
Behemoth
Carcass
Carnage
Decapitated
Dismember
Dissection
Emperor
Enslaved
Exhumed
Grave
Immolation
Immortal
Mayhem
Obituary
Pestilence
Suffocation
Tombs
Unleashed
Venom

And of course let’s not forget the kingpin of great band names, which clearly would have violated the Google-able rule until the band became legendary: Death

You can avoid the Google-able problem before you get famous by taking common words and changing the spelling a bit, as Kataklysm and Amorphis did (and those are certainly good names). And you can pick one-word names that are badass because of what (or who) they refer to, as Bathory and Gojira did. Or you make up words that are memorable and sound sick even though they have no clear meaning, as Gorguts, Cryptopsy, Goatwhore, and deafheaven did. Or you can take your chances with one-word names that really don’t sound metal (and would be confusing to most people), until the music makes them stand out, as Meshuggah and Opeth did.

And if you thought all the really good one-word band names were all taken, think harder.  Sexcrement thought harder.

But let’s get back to FMA’s list. Are these really the Ten Best Metal Band Names ever? Seems like that’s a question which deserves discussion. So please check out FMA’s list here, and then let us know other names that you think belong on a “Best Name” list — whether the music deserves to be on a “Best Of” list or not.

And I’m also still interested in the converse question: What are examples of bands who have created great music but have awful names, even to the point of demanding acronyms? And don’t mention Strapping Young Lad and Between the Buried and Me, because I just did that, didn’t I?

Put your thinking caps on (the ones with the propellers on top), and have at it.

94 Responses to “WHAT’S IN A NAME (REDUX)?”

  1. Andy Synn says:

    Off the top of my head…

    Septic Flesh (or Septicflesh, as I refuse to spell it) is a really limiting and inappropriate band-name. As is Rotting Christ – although that suited their earlier work it just doesn’t quite have the same fit with their modern epic epic-ness. Both are great bands mind you, but slightly hamstrung by the names.

    Darkane is a great name. Big fan of the portmanteua of “Dark” and “Arcane”. Good choice guys.

    As one word names go, Marduk is one of the best. Striking, iconic, and the history behind it fits perfectly.

    Acronym wise, anyone remember Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky?

    Oh, and related tot he google-search issue, I’m always amused when Abigail Williams (whose name I think is a great chocie) are listed as “Williams, Abigail” whenever they chart somewhere. Always makes me pciture some flower-haired, singer-songwirter chick with her acoustic guitar… and Wolves In The Throne Room shirt worn proudly!

    • Islander says:

      Septic Flesh and Rotting Christ seem to introduce a new category: good band names that are really evocative, but now evoke the wrong impressions because of how the bands’ music has changed (though Septic Flesh was probably misleading from the outset).

      Darkane and Marduk: good examples of descriptive one-word names that pass muster under the Google-able rule.

      SWWAATS: ugh.

      Williams, Abigail: lol

  2. .jh says:

    I don’t want to say it’s a bad name, but Anal Cunt does cause some problems if you want to google them. However the name was pretty damn perfect for them as just like the music and lyrics the name was in your face and offensive to most.

    1349 is short and to the point and easily googleable, however every single review I read, still takes the time to explain the name. I’m not sure that’s a qualifier for a poor band name or just a sign of how poor the average persons education is.

    Carnivore was a great name, but partially because of the bands obscurity not a google friendly name.

    • Islander says:

      I’m afraid to google Anal Cunt. Carnivore belongs on the list in the post. For such an odd number, regardless of its meaning, 1349 satisfies most of the criteria in FMA’s article. I sometimes forget my own damn phone number, but I remember 1349. Maybe it’s because there are fewer numbers.

  3. morbidcorpse says:

    Dying Fetus….the name says it all

  4. Utmu says:

    I became a big fan of some bands because of the names, almost solely in the cases of Rotting Christ and Cattle Decap, who are now my top two favorite bands. I might have never bought “The Sign of Prime Creation” if not for RC’s awesome name and logo. Also, anyone who’s read a multitude of my comments on an article here with great album artwork as the main image should know I’m a sucker for it. So much so, in fact, and Islander is aware of this, that I often don’t even give bands a chance when I’m digging through all the bands on record labels’ Bandcamp pages if they don’t have appealing artwork. I know it’s unfair to both the bands and me, but I have to have something that gets my attention in the first place.

    By the way, my OCD self tells me not to share this, but I’m sure Islander and Phro in particular would enjoy this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB5X1cd19WU.

    And yes, it pertains to what we’re talking about, sort of… but it’s funny, although quite lengthy.

    Also, my favorite band names in no particular order (also, I may not like the music of all the bands listed): Rotting Christ, Cattle Decapitation, Skeletonwitch, Pathology, Dying Fetus, Circle of Dead Children, Wormrot, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Enbilulugugal, Prostitute Disfigurement, Botanist, Wormed, Lair of the Minotaur and there are some others.

    Come to think of it, the only band out of that list that I don’t like to some extent is Enbilulugugal; those guys are some REALLY ESOTERIC STUFF. I mean, if you played Anaal Nathrakh, Xasthur, Cattle Decapitation, Wormrot, and Brain Drill all at the same time, you’d have about half of the noise you’d find in Enbilulugugal. Oh, Brain Drill is another name I like (however I find all but two songs of theirs out of what I’ve heard incredibly boring and disappointing). Sorry for the long comment.

    • Kazz says:

      Cattle Decap and Rotting Christ are two bands I actually stayed away from for awhile because of their band names. For awhile after I got into metal I pretty much ignored bands with obviously offensive names and I’d only give them a real chance if I happened to hear something by them that I really really liked. I’ve mostly gotten over that outlook now though.

      • Utmu says:

        I think I may have actually been drawn to those types of names, that draw has sort of waned over time I think, but it still has an impact on whether I check out a band.

    • Islander says:

      That video looks great — but I don’t know if I’ve got 49+ minutes of attention span to give it. I’ll at least start and see where it goes.

      That’s a good list of cool names, by the way. And as you know, I like me some Enbilulugugal, despite the fact that their name violates one of FMA’s rules — fans need to be able to spell a band’s name from memory. No way in hell can I do that with Enbilulugugal. Fortunately, I know how to copy and paste.

  5. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    Even though I think they suck, Nunslaughter has a pretty metal band name.

    Demolition Hammer too. Brutal thrash at its finest and the name gives you advance warning of the pummeling ferocity those riffs will bash your fucking skull in with.

    Malevolent Creation and Malignancy also come to mind. There’s just too many bad ass band names to list in one post.

  6. Kazz says:

    Band name you don’t want to google: Severed Crotch. Awful name. Good band.

    • Islander says:

      With a name like that, I HAD to check out the music. Just watched the official video for “Spawn of Disgust”. Fucken killer song. Funny video, too. I guess unlike everywhere else in the world, smoking weed in Iceland produces homicidal behavior.

  7. Black Shuck says:

    I have to agree with FMA that Black Sabbath really is the best band name ever.

    Band names I like: Gorgoroth, Pig Destroyer, Dragged Into Sunlight, Candlemass, Cerebral Bore, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Belphegor, Rotten Sound, Torture Squad, Darkthrone, Decrepit Birth, Gnaw Their Tongues, Wormrot, Hate Eternal, Hooded Menace, Judas Priest, Morbid Angel, Ulcerate

    The only band whose name I dislike (and whose music I like) that I can think of off the top of my head is Krisiun. I can never figure out how the hell to pronounce it (“chris-ee-un” or “cry-see-un”?), and both options are really kind of awkward to say, I think.

    • Ooh, I forgot Dragged into Sunlight. It’s almost too long, but the image is so evocative.

      Thanks for a great write-up, by the way. There are a hell of a lot of great names in here. I forgot about SYL when I was writing my article. For a long time I refused to listen to them because of their stupid name. (It sounds like a Victorian-themed gay band.)

      • Black Shuck says:

        I definitely agree with your assessment of Dragged Into Sunlight. And that evocative image fits the music perfectly when you think of a foul, repulsive creature of the darkness as the one being dragged into the sunlight, because their music is nothing if not foul and dark.

        Might you be addressing Islander with your thanks? I’m not entirely sure.

    • Utmu says:

      Ohhh… how’d I forget Gorgoroth. I can understand Dragged Into Sunlight sort of going over my head, as well as Candlemass, both of those are great names as well. Cerebral Bore almost drew me in, but I only really got interested when I saw Som on the mic after the music video for “The Bald Cadaver” was posted on Invisible Oranges.

      Gnaw Their Tongues is an interesting band name. I didn’t really understand where it came from until I read this rhyme in my history book that spoke about going to Hell, which if I recall correctly, was a popular rhyme at the time in American history because it was one of those religious periods where preachers were big attractions and were like TV shows today, I don’t think everyone took them seriously and got a kick out of watching the sermon where they would tell the congregation that they would go to Hell and such, y’know, those kind of preachers. I also read a comment somewhere saying the name was taken from The Bible, I don’t know if the rhyme itself is from The Bible though.

  8. Alex Layzell says:

    Siege, great name for a band. Kuntpuncher reflect on the absurdist but violent approach to music, Nasum for those of you who have seen the Frankenstien, Agathocles since most people say it wrong and a nice tidbit from history, Agoraphobic Nosebleed = best name ever. Resistant Culture another awesome name for an awesome band. I also like Yacopsae for its uniqueness and origin, probably should leave the list there, else I will be on here all day thinking of cool band names.

    • Islander says:

      I swallowed my tongue trying to pronounce Agathocles, and then it came back up when I tried to say Yacopsae, so it’s all good.

      Kuntpuncher would have caused a nasal coffee spew if I’d been drinking coffee when I saw it.

  9. SurgicalBrute says:

    Older metal bands almost universally have great names as far as Im concerned..Bolt Thrower, Dismember, Entombed, Unleashed, Immortal, Mayhem.

    More recent bands that I think have great names would include War Master, War Ripper, Doombringer, Maim, Midnight, Mastodon (even though Im not a huge fan of their music, its a great name) and Trenchgrinder

    • Dave says:

      Trenchgrinder is a rad name.

      • Islander says:

        True dat, Trenchgrinder. I haven’t yet listened to the music, but how could it not be good?

        • Dave says:

          They’re good. I don’t know if they will ever tour, since I’m pretty sure one of the guys in the band basically runs one of the metal venues in brooklyn, but they’ve got a good live presence also. Not reinventing straightforward death metal, but doing a good job at what they’re doing for sure.

  10. groverXIII says:

    Hug The Retard – eventually changed their name to Dog Fashion Disco
    Screaming Monkey Boner – eventually changed their name to Screaming Mechanical Brain

    I can see how both names would be offensive and would make it difficult to promote the band… but I think the originals were pretty funny.

    Also, one of the most appropriate band names of all time, when it comes to actually describing the music, is Diablo Swing Orchestra. (More on that coming soon with my review of their new album.)

  11. Ørsaeth says:

    Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult have a great name, though it is a bit long. Great band, and pretty easy to find on Google.

    Nunfuckritual aren’t all that great, but their name is memorable.

    Edge of Sanity is easy to Google, fantastic band (can’t go wrong with Dan Swano) and quite memorable.

  12. Dave says:

    Some names I like that I don’t remember seeing but might already be in the replies are
    Cryptopsy, Portal, Ulcerate, Necrophagist, Hivesmasher, and Illogicist. Of those Necrophagist might be my favorite name. A band name I like the sound of but can’t get behind the music of for some reason is Agalloch

  13. The BMF says:

    How about Woods of Ypres? The duality of the image the name creates is great in and of itself: the deep woods fit with both their early black metal and later doomy sound…but then there’s Ypres. Ypres is man’s inhumanity to man writ large, visions of poison clouds and endless graves. (For those of you not as historically minded as me, over a million men were killed in the Ypres salient during the First World War.) It’s just a tremendously powerful name, regardless of what you think of the music.

    • Islander says:

      I’m blown away by this suggestion. I confess I never would have thought of this band name, though it is undeniably superb, and made even more poignant by the death of the band. It creates the need for some new rule for the creation of band names.

      • The BMF says:

        Yeah, it really is a unique band name. They’re one of my favorite bands, hence immediately jumping to mind when I saw this post. Apparently, David Gold lived on Ypres Rd. in Toronto when he started the band, which inspired the name. Such a tragic loss; I find something great in every Woods of Ypres album, but Of Grey Skies and Electric Light is great from beginning to end.

  14. raptros-v76 says:

    After half an hour of clicking around through stuff, I have come to the conclusion that blackened-djent never really came into existence because no one knows how to name such a band … until now.

    Goatflame Continuum.

    My work here is done.

  15. Baby Metal and Excremntory Grindfuckers.

    Two words. Evocative. Just the right amount of a horrible taste in your mouth.

  16. Ben says:

    My personal favourite has to be Antediluvian, really fits the sound and image. Coffinworm, Chthonic and Pittbull’s in the Nursery are all great names too.

  17. Orsaeth says:

    Either I missed it, or we just went 55 comments without mentioning the best band name ever: Massive Wall of Penis

  18. amelia says:

    Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, The Number 12 Looks Like You: Worst. Names. Ever.

    • Islander says:

      I’m giving CTTTOAFF a break because I like their music (and only for that reason), but The Number 12 Looks Like You really is an awful name.

      • CTTTOAFF is kind of a long name, but I think it suits their music, since it’s dark and evocative, which I think is their purpose with the music too. It’s certainly not happy music.

      • In defense of The Number 12 Looks Like You, they’re name appears to be taken from a Twilight Zone episode (or it’s a massively weird coincidence). It’s still a stupid name, but at least it’s from a decent source.

        • Islander says:

          That does provide a lot of redeeming value. However, there were 156 Twilight Zone episodes, and I think any one of these would have been better for a band name. Actually, the list of episodes has some awesome potential band names in it:

          The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
          Walking Distance
          Escape Clause
          Judgment Night
          The Four of Us Are Dying
          The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street
          Execution
          The Chaser
          King Nine Will Not Return
          The Howling Man
          Dust
          Static
          The Prime Mover
          A Hundred Yards Over the Rim
          The Obsolete Man
          Deaths Head Revisited
          Five Characters In Search Of An Exit
          To Serve Man
          The Thirty-Fathom Grave
          Mute
          Death Ship
          Nightmare At 20,000 Feet
          A Kind of A Stopwatch
          Old Man In the Cave
          Probe 7, Over and Out
          A Short Drink From A Certain Fountain
          Black Leather Jackets
          Spur of the Moment
          The Brain Center at Whipple’s
          The Fear

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Twilight_Zone_episodes

          • (O_O ) . . . Some of those would indeed make awesome band names. One should pay more attention to episode names from now on. On can already think of some Doctor Who episode names which sound good as band names:
            “The Rebel Flesh”
            “The Hungry Earth”
            “The Unicorn and the Wasp”
            “Bad Wolf” [One guesses this is the inspiration for the name of our resident BadWolf.]

  19. ElvisShotJFK says:

    I didn’t read all the comments (I did see the excessive use of PENIS, though), but I didn’t see Slayer mentioned. Sure, it’d be a cheesy name to snag now, but it was the perfect name for them and at the right time. Opeth isn’t entirely made up, just a differently spelled version of an oscure reference (a city in a novel, which may itself be a reference to an ancient ritual). Black Sabbath as the best name? Hard call, but I think it does deserve to be considered one of the top names, not only because it’s a good name but for all that the band helped make possible.

    It’s important to keep in mind what kind of music you’re playing when picking a band’s name. When a local college radio station announced that they were playing Human Waste Project next, I wasn’t expecting to hear what I got. Then again, I like HWP’s music, so I didn’t end up disappointed. But the name doesn’t really fit the music.

    Another name that should be considered a classic: Butt Trumpet. It’s silly, but it fits the band well (as did Primitve Enema, their only album). I think it’s a better name than Betty Blowtorch, which came afterward.

    However, that does bring something else in mind, possibly for a future What’s In A Name post: band members’ names. Many musicians in rock and metal take on new names, sometimes nicknames that become better known, sometimes full names. While other genres also have those who take on different names, it’s nothing like what we have. Hellhammer, Corpsegrinder, ICS Vortex, King Diamond, Dimebag, Frost, Pest, Goat Perverter… Let’s see country, rap or popular music come up with this kind of stuff on a regular basis. Ke$ha doesn’t count, btw.

    But back to bands’ names, here are some others I think should be considered as good ones (or at least decent enough). Be warned, some of these bands also suck and of those that don’t, some of the music may not be to everyone’s liking here.

    Vader, Type O Negative, Testament, Epica, Emperor, Unanimated, Old Man’s Child, Solefald, At The Gates, Tool, Crematory, Orphanage, Shadow Gallery, Iced Earth, Dethklok, Autopsy, Butterfly Apocalypse, Vitriol, Necrophagist, Pestilence, Carcass, Virgin Black, Skyclad, As We Draw, Esoteric

    And for the bad?

    Sunn O))), Dragonforce, Edguy, Vampires Everywhere, iwrestledabearonce, We Butter The Bread With Butter, Djentagram, Arctic Monkeys, Phish, Atreyu, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead, (həd) p.e., Test Icicles, Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky, Chickenfoot, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, Suffocate for Fuck Sake, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Puddle Of Mudd, Limp Bizkit, Mott The Hoople, Monobrow, Ninjaspy, What’s He Building in There?, !!!

    Yes, that last one is supposed to be a band’s name. I think I’ll stop there for now.

    I’m not sure where to put a name like 3 Inches Of Blood. Somewhere in between, I suppose. Same goes for Cannabis Corpse.

    • Islander says:

      When I saw your comment about misleading band names, the first one that popped into my head was Massive Attack. It’s an excellent name, but the music isn’t at all what I think most people would expect based on the name. It’s a real letdown (not that the music is bad).

      Among the awful names, The Bunny The Bear has got to be way up near the top.

    • Type O Negative is a great fucking name. Definitely one of my top band names.

      I think 3 Inches of Blood is a great name, too. My only problem is having a number for the first word, but I forgive them for it.

      I think Dragonforce is a decent name for a power metal band.

    • Ørsaeth says:

      I think Sunn O))) is a great name.

      And for a terrible band name, the band |||_-_||| could take it. It’s pronounced “Razor blade” and they play depressive black metal.

    • Why is Arctic Monkeys supposed to be a bad band name? Is one missing something here?
      One doesn’t really like their music. But, still…

      • ElvisShotJFK says:

        I just think it’s a lousy name, never heard the band. I suppose that a lot of band’s names may evoke different feelings depending on one’s experience with said band and/or their peers , not necessarily restricted to whatever genre/label you can apply. I think a lot of hardcore bands’ names leave a lot to be desired, for example, while I’m sure those who are fans of mostly that form of music hate death metal band names. Different strokes, different folks.

  20. Trollfiend says:

    “Djentagram” made me LOL

    I’m pretty sure no one has mentioned Vader yet as an awesome, simple name. And going old school, I always loved the names Wehrmacht and Onslaught even though the bands were not really up my alley.

    As far as violating the “being able to spell it” criterion, I nominate Drudkh (which I’ve decided, going forward, I shall pronounce as “droo-dick-a-ha” just to be contrary).

    Multi-word bands…my top choice for a band whose name and music I love is NOT metal: the Lovecraft-themed college rockers “Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets”. Enjoy this creepy-ass video by them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VT7nJRxJNU

    • Islander says:

      The video seems pretty tame by today’s standards. You want creepy, check out this one, which Ben C. sent me in an attempt to disrupt my sleep patterns:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JJr-SYQ559Y#

      He succeeded.

    • ElvisShotJFK says:

      Yeah, pronunciation is another beast altogether. Many native English speakers have a problem with foreign band names, especially when they have acccented letters. Then again, non-native speakers also sometimes have a problem saying the name right for our bands.

      I remember back in high school, the few of us who knew about Sepultura would debate over how to say it right.

  21. AsinineMetal says:

    Favorite names: Agalloch, Christian Mistress, Diocletian, Fallujah, Pseudogod, Isis, Claws, Dodecahedron, Esoteric, Ghost, Woe, Impaled Nazarene

    Bad names: Anaal Nathrakh (I have no idea how to pronounce this), Arsonists Get All the Girls, Kvelertak, Livarkahil, Stam1na (not that bad but that pesky 1 can be a pain in the ass to remember), This Is Not A Game Of Who The Fuck Are You (self explanatory).

    • Ørsaeth says:

      This Is Not A Game Of Who The Fuck Are You have a great name, purely because their name is an awesome Eddie Izzard reference!

    • One believes Anaal Nathrakh is to be pronounced as in this clip. One does like Kvelertak and that name though.

    • I think anyone who names a band in their native tongue gets a pass, so long as they follow the rules within their own language.

      And just to be contrary (even to my own rules), the name Kvelertak has worked out quite well, and I like it. It was hard to spell at first, but once you figure it out it’s impossible to forget.

      • AsinineMetal says:

        Fair enough. I love Kvelertak, I just find the name to be a bit of a mouthful. Then again I would probably find most Norwegian a bit of a mouthful.

      • Nephthys says:

        Yep. I can remember the melodies and riffs for most Burzum songs, but I can’t even guess how to pronounce most of his track titles….especially the ones from Filosofem and the two early MIDI ambient albums. I still can’t remember if it’s Daubi Baldrs or Daudi Baldrs

  22. Ørsaeth says:

    Best multi-word name I know would be either Year Of No Light, or the filthy doom sludgers, Wreck Of The Hesperus. Black Shape of Nexus is also a great name!

  23. Nephthys says:

    All of the band’s on that list are on my iPod…not because of the names but because they are all awesome old-school groups. Here is my random input *one-word names are usually the best- Death, Suffocation, Decapitated, Destruction, Nihilist, etc. *Amon Amarth really should have called themselves something else. If you’re going to write about Nordic mythology, why ruin it with Tolkien mythology instead? *Demilich is a great band with a great name, Epichardidectomy or whatever is a boring band with an incredibly long name. *best band name? Probably THERGOTHON from Finland, the original funeral doom band.

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