Feb 192014

I was at Seattle’s El Corazon venue last night. I was there for the show headlined by Dark Tranquillty, but as devoted as I am to that band, I was even more excited to see Omnium Gatherum and Exmortus, who I had never seen before. They were both flat-out amazing — as was DT.

But this isn’t a show review. While I was waiting for my companions to arrive, I had a beer in the bar and watched a video screen that scrolled through the schedule of bands on the calendar at El Corazon over the coming months. I had reactions to the bands I didn’t know, based mainly on their names (though the accompanying photos played a role in my reactions, too — so I guess this post could also be considered a commentary on the importance of promo shots).

I don’t think I’m so different from most metal lovers — superficial things like band names make a difference. They trigger reactions. My reactions may not be the same as yours, because I instinctively would want to see a band named Goatfuckers, and you might not. But can we agree that band names do make a difference in how interested we are in checking out music we’ve never heard before?

Here are some of the names I saw scrolling across that video screen, with reactions. I’m pretty sure that some of these bands don’t even play metal. I want to make clear that in almost all cases, I knew (and still know) zero about the music. So I apologize in advance to the bands who I may be offending with these snap judgments.



This name could mean anything. If this were a metal band I’d be guessing power metal or some kind of prog. The name is neither a come-on nor a turn-off, but I’m not rushing out to explore the music. Possibly, the fur-collared jacket and white-framed sunglasses have something to do with that. Now, if the name were “Galactic Goatfuckers”, that would be a different story.




One-word band names are generally righteous in metal, though not always (see Galaxy). Don’t know if this name refers to the king who committed seppuku in a battle against the Philistines or the one who hallucinated on the road to Damascus. Or maybe they’re just big fans of Humboldt’s Gift. It’s kind of an intriguing name. Based on the name — and the absence of white-framed sunglasses in the photo — I’d be willing to make time for them.




I like to think that in this case “rut” is being used in the sense of “fuck”, instead of “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change”. It’s the kind of name that puts me on the fence, because it could mean either of those things, and the second one is not enticing.




I don’t know. I assume all start-up metal bands have their fingers crossed, but advertising it just seems to convey a lack of self-confidence. On the other hand, I guess there’s something to be said for being honest, plus I see a Power Trip shirt. On the fence about this one, too.




Really? You named yourselves after someone who runs a hotel? I like hotels myself, as long as they meet certain basic standards. But it’s really not a thrilling name. If they wanted to plant themselves in the hotel space, The Night Manager would have been more alluring. I guess “The Butcher”, “The Baker”, and “The Candlestick Maker” were already taken.





One of my companions for the evening had arrived at El Corazon when this band’s name and photo passed across the video screen. She observed that any band whose name is a complete sentence is probably terrible. I tend to agree, though I’m sure there are exceptions (e.g., “We Are the Goatfuckers”). But “We Are the In Crowd”? I guess maybe they were trying to be ironic, but I’m still strongly inclined to run the other way.





Actually, they don’t. But this band’s name does. I just don’t like being told what I am and am not frightened of. The El Corazon schedule says this will be the band’s last show.




This name is too touchy-feelie for my tastes. Also, when I think of the wonder years I’m reminded of getting embarrassing hard-ons during middle school English class for no reason at all. No interest in re-living that time of life. Would be cool if this turned out to be a rancid, bile-spewing black thrash band who chose the name just to fuck with people’s expectations.




They’re running afoul of the warning about complete-sentence band names. Also, who is Dennis and why should I care if he’s dead? And why are you looking at me like that?




Naming yourself after a trolley is not the way to generate excitement and anticipation about your music. Nor is wearing horizontally striped tees and collared shirts, though wearing them in waist-deep water somewhat improves the look.




I don’t know. What was wrong with “The Dispute”? Or “La Disputa”? I wish I were bilingual, but I’m still not eager to find out what this music sounds like. I’m also pretty sure that with a name like that, they’re not a metal band. What was wrong with “La Goatfucker”?




Uh oh.  These dudes have the complete-sentence problem, but it’s exacerbated by being Yoda-speak. I guess it’s better than “Bambi I Am”, but if you wanted to go down the Yoda road, why not “Consume You It Will” or “Patience You Must Have My Young Padawan”?  Or “Goatfuckers We Are”?




A goof name, underscored by goof costumes. It broadcasts “goof music”. Maybe it would be fun, but “Goatfucker Z” would have been a better choice.




Wasn’t Miggs the dude who threw his ejaculate on Clarice Starling’s face and then died by swallowing his own tongue? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was. Obviously, I can get behind this name.




This is the only band on this list whose music I know (it’s fucking destructive and devastating and… hard as nails). I included them as an example of the excellence of one-word band names, this one word being among the best.




This name doesn’t really convey anything about the band’s musical style, but I’m attracted to anyway since it completes the sentence “live and…” — which is a good way to go — without running afoul of the complete-sentence problem. They also look like people who’d be fun to hang out with.




Humorous, without being a goof. I’d be tempted to explore the music. Plus, it looks like someone enjoys reading and using an old-school word processor. Those are pluses. But “Two Goat Garage” would have been better.


Okay, I’m done.  It’s worth remembering the point of Juliet’s argument to Romeo:

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”

Yes, it’s true that the names of things should not matter, only what those things “are”. But when you have limited time and a vast number of musical choices you could make, band names DO matter. Don’t they?

  43 Responses to “WHAT’S IN A NAME?”

  1. The Hotelier also uncomfortably smiley and should rename themselves The Jorts. Would strongly suspect a whistling chorus and a cover of some Up With People songs.. Unless you’re holding a bloody knife in your promo pick, or conjuring Jack Nicholson in the Shining, you should not be that smiley in your promo pic.

    Up with Goats.

  2. Band names are like album art, one that is unique and stands out will garner more attention from me. Despite being primarily a Death Metal kind of guy, I hate bands who try to be so brutal or gross with their name, it annoys me when it’s taken to extremes. Something like “We suck severed cocks” and “Brutal bleeding cunt anus”, it comes off as so desperate and ridiculous I am severely inclined to never care about the band.

    Then there are the band names are way too complicated, apparently they are Carcass song titles left over after Symphonies of Sickness, two to three words long, complicated and likely medical terms – usually a Slam band ironically – so it tends to be (in my eyes and to my ears) synonymous with terrible music.

    • While reading this the words Rectal Prolapse popped into my head. I don’t know why. No band has seized on that yet, though MA lists a defunct outfit named Anal Prolapse. And yes, they were a brutal death band.

    • I agree. Image IS important. A good name, a good logo, and good album art go a long way on selling me on a band that I might have been previously unfamiliar with. All these things should be deliberately chosen, and most of the time a band that doesn’t do these things well doesn’t put much effort or imagination into their music, either.

      This rule is not absolute though. Some bands have a cool name, great art, and a good logo and they still sound like shit. Others look like they have promotional material created in MS Paint and a name that sounds stupid, but the music is good. But those seem to be very rare exceptions.

      • You’re right that there’s no necessary correlation, but it sure seems like more times than not when I see a band with a good name good art, the music turns out to be good too. Maybe it’s for the reason you talk about — those things often show a degree of seriousness, effort, and imagination that’s reflected in the music, too.

  3. I sometimes look at band names and think… “really? out of all the potential options you had, out of all the languages and references and cool ideas in the world… THAT’S what you chose?”

    Sometimes I think bands just run out of the will to think about it any more and plump (mistakenly) for something that seems “clever” or “funny” a a last resort.

    • “clever” and “funny” are bad ways to go. I have still never listened to a song by “Arsonists Get All the Girls” or “The Bunny the Bear”. Actually, those names aren’t clever or funny, so forget what I just said.

  4. Goatfuckers, We Are would be a band One would like to see.

    Middle Class Rut are a two-piece band who sound quite a bit like Jane’s Addiction, but somehow less annoying to One.
    letlive. [note the period] are a Post-Hardcore/Alt-Metal band. They put on intensely physical live performances, apparently.

    Two Cow Garage gives One the impression that they play Stoner Rock/Metal, for some reason… and One is proven wrong upon watching a YouTube video. It sounds like some kind of country music.

  5. Sorry to say it, but a few of the bands mentioned above both look AND sound like hipster bands. You know, the kind that play quirky, upbeat and ironic music. Also bet The Lion I Am is a metacore band (but I could be wrong…) 🙂

    • Christian metalcore. Mark my words.

      • Considering that I’ve seen that name on lineups at SOMA (SD club that caters a lot to pop-punk and metalcore), not to mention that I think I’ve seen that name under a bill headlined by The Devil Wears Prada, I’d say you’re right on the money.

  6. A lot of the kids at my high school are hipsters, so I’ve heard of some of these bands, such as la dispute. I don’t recommend them.

  7. I could see Galaxy as a name for a post metal band, think Vygr. The problem with one word band names is almost all of the good names are already taken.

    • “The problem with one word band names is almost all of the good names are already taken.” That is indeed a problem. Yet every now and then a new one pops up that works. I think, in general, the fewer words the better (except for brutal death/slam bands, where there seems to be a requirement for many words).

  8. This post was damn funny. Praise, hail snap judgments. Goathorns up!

  9. Peelander Z are legit. OG ska-punk band, who are all Power Rangers-esque heroes. Think GWAR with less dismemberment and more kung-fu kicks.

  10. Kids these days just have no imagination anymore..Galaxy..how mundane, that could be anything. Fortunately theres still a few to there who know how to do it right…like Cemetery Piss. Thats a name that will fucking stick to whether you like it or not

    Also..never trust a band whose lead singer has lobes so stretched you can hula-hoop with them. Nothing good ever comes of that..ever

  11. Yeah I think a big point is the one of trying to avoid the numerous pre-existing band names, you’re basically throwing together a few words to try and come up with a combination not used before, which is a pretty hard game to play well I’d say. I’m tempted to agree with Andy above, there’s probably a point where you just get sick of trying to come up with something new.

    The other side of the coin is bands with names that give an impression which doesn’t fit the sound. I was recommending Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh to a few friends lately, and basically had to say ‘okay, the name probably conjures up a certain kind of music, but they’ll surprise you’.

    Also, I would totally see Peelander Z.

    • Yeah, both Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh (I refuse to portmanteau the name together) are fantastic bands, but with a name that… while true to their kvlt underground roots… really doesn’t fit their current sound all that well (in my humble opinion anyway).

      Though I suppose neither really knew at the start that they were going to become at least semi-legendary in their own right!

      When we were picking the rename I wanted something that avoided most of the cliches, and over-subscribed words (the variants on “Dark” for example are ENDLESS), and something that still had a certain amount of class (if that’s the word I’m really looking for). As well as something that fits both the sound and the lyrical approach… and could be interpreted several ways!

  12. almost all the bands i was in from teens to twenties had bad names; Nosferatu, Kiss N Kill, 2 Car Family, Lowlife, Trinity X, Julia Surrendered (that band was as awful as the name), Noise Carnival. there were others but i’m brainfarting on the names.
    my wife actually named my current project, Godless Angel. she was playing with a band-name-generator website and it popped that one out. she said it described me perfectly so i went with it. i don’t know if it’s a good name or not but i can’t imagine the project with any other title.

  13. I’ll come out here and say what while neither are metal, La dispute and Letlive are really good bands.

    Letlive is actually a supergroup with members from, I think, Glassjaw and Cave In? Too lazy to google. Either way, both pretty mind-bending groups.

  14. So in the Beavis and Butthead episode Green Thumbs, Butthead photocopies a dollar, and Beavis photocopies a nickel. They go into the convenience store and Beavis puts his photocopied nickel into the Give Today can. After the store clerk rips up their cash Beavis shakes the can and says, “Damn it, I want my nickel back!”
    And that is how I think Nickelback got their name.

  15. There’s just something too satisfying about telling someone you loved the new Fleshgod Apocalypse album, and then showing them the classical instrumental title track. Confusion abounds.

  16. Me being a non-native english speaker, read La dispute as L.A. dispute, which made me think of tough-guy rapmetal like Biohazard and/or gangstarap.

    I think some bands just accidently find names that end up suiting them sometimes. I mean, Dark tranquillity and Katatonia as we know them now has quite fitting band names. But when they started out, not so much.

  17. I just cannot comprehend how people can agree to call their band “Oliver Trolley”, and then pick the photo with the most retarded facial expressions as their promo shot. Troll alert is in overtime here…

    In the awesome one-word band name department, I have to mention Wretched. Definitely an eye-catching one. There are also more “exotic” one-“word” band names, such as Psycroptic, Allegaeon, Dyscarnate, Haemic; I could go on.

    In the full sentence department, I actually find only two good entries in my music library: Man Must Die and Mors Principium Est.

    The prize for best band name still goes to Sulphur Aeon; loved that one ever since I saw it together with that majestic Cthulhu image on their last album.

  18. Best long band names:
    Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus
    Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky (feat. members of BitGotA)
    The Number Twelve Looks Like You

    • “Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus”. A band that names themselves after Mario Savio’s speech? I’m checking that out.

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