Ten Metal Gods Cooler Than Satan
The era of Satan as the dominant deity in metal is drawing to a close. We’ve seen the Devil take so many forms within metal music–a sweaty party animal, a gasmasked force of murder, a gothic fallen angel, and even a beautiful concept of freedom–that we appear to have run out of options. And hey, Satan will always be fun, and we’ll always make sure we have a cold beer waiting for him at the Halloween party. But these days, whenever a band gets too bogged down in overly-earnest devil worship, I wonder if they’re trying hard enough.
The thing is, the spiritual world is filled with gods, goddesses, spirits, and demons that deserve a killer track (and maybe even a whole album) written about them. It’s just that in recent centuries, as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam became the three big religions, these awesome but lesser-known beings lost their cults and no longer factored into everyday spiritual discussion.
So for those of you looking to broaden your horizons in terms of myths to whom you can play blistering riffs, here are ten gods as metal, if not more so, than the Devil. And for the record, I’m not including any of the big Norse or Lovecraftian deities in here, as they’re just as played out in the genre as Satan.
In ancient Greek and Roman culture, Nemesis was the goddess of revenge, first for hubris against the gods and then for crime in general. A winged figure wielding a scourge and dagger who was known to ride in a griffin-pulled chariot, she lives not for violence or petty desires, but for balance, caring not for a god or warrior’s allegiance. Imagine an angelic dominatrix with the mind of the Ghost Rider, and you’re there.
In ancient Egypt, every morning saw the rebirth of Ra, the god of the sun. But every sundown saw Ra battle Apep, the Lord of Chaos, a giant serpent that represented all things dark, evil, and unruly. Apep had a head made of flint, and would use his hypnotic gaze to enchant Ra’s entourage before slaughtering them. He was also an underworld spirit known as the ‘Eater of Souls’, so that even the dead had to fear his appearance. Of course, there’s already a Nile song about him.
I’ve made my love of Dionysus pretty clear in the past, but I’ll always be happy to include him on a list of sadly uncelebrated metal gods. Dionysus was the god of wine, theater, and the frenzy in ancient Greece, and was followed by a retinue of insane women called the Bacchae who would seduce, murder, and dismember anyone who got in their way. So basically, this is the god of Lemmy we’re talking about. Deströyer 666’s song about him does his booze-fueled insanity justice.
The Hindu gods are hardcore–they slay, they feast, they love, and they usually dance while doing it. But none are as raw as Kali, triumphant aspect of Durga and goddess of destruction. Kali wears a necklace of skulls, appears with a sword and trident, and somewhat like Dionysus’ Bacchae appears in a constant state of bloodthirsty ecstasy. Sometimes she has four arms, sometimes ten, but she’s almost always depicted as wielding weapons and hoisting bloody heads. How much more brutal can you get?
Yeah, like from Goldeneye. The vodou loa aren’t gods as much as governing spirits that help those on earth communicate with Heaven. The ruler of the Guédé, the loa of the dead, is Baron Samedi, a foul-mouthed well-dressed cigar-chomping rum-swiller. Because he’s dead, the Baron doesn’t care for human niceties, and so does whatever he wants, which include healing the sick or allowing a person’s body to be resurrected as a zombie (do not piss off the Baron). The offerings he ask for usually include rum, cigarettes, black coffee, and grilled peanuts. In this way, vodou makes a lot more sense than most other belief structures.
When we think of witchcraft, we usually think of Satan. But in ancient Greece, it was Hecate, goddess of crossroads and sorcery, who aided the women of the night. Three-faced and bearing a torch and key, Hecate represents the give and take of magic–if appealed to, she can give your house prosperity; if angered, she can destroy ships at sea with powerful storms. She’s also heavily associated with plant and poison lore, so home-growers who want their buds at their tastiest might do well to set up an altar.
There are crazy gods, and then there are crazy gods, and then there are the Aztec gods. Among that pantheon is Itzpaplotl, the “obsidian butterfly”, a skeletal goddess and former star demon that rules the paradise of Tamoanchan. She flies on obsidian wings tipped with claws of flint, and can often appear to people as a beautiful woman of the Mexican court before exploding into a terrifying demon-creature. How the Hell haven’t Asesino written an album about her yet?
Like Hecate, Irish war goddess the Morrígan exists in triplicate–usually personified as Babd, Macha, and Nemain–but unlike Hecate she’s a little more active and vindictive. The Morrígan was a figure of the battlefield, who would often take the form of one or three huge crows and rain fire, terror, and magic over opposing armies, before washing and eating the dead (and occasionally seducing those just about to die, as a sort of final act of mercy). There’s a concept album in here somewhere.
Hine-nui-te-pō is the Māori goddess of night, death, and the underworld. Though not often depicted as too terrible or cruel, there is one story that makes her more metal than most other gods combined: she committed the first murder with her vagina. When the hero Māui tried to reverse the birth process by crawling into Hine’s vagina and out her mouth (like you do), the goddess woke and crushed him with the giant obsidian teeth located therein, thus making Māui the first person to die. You can’t make this stuff up (though someone obviously did).
Though he’s often portrayed as a giant worm in comics (for some reason), Crom Cruach is rarely described in any overwhelming detail as being wicked-looking or monstrous. So why is he so metal? Because he demanded the sacrifice of children. In fact, it wasn’t until St. Patrick showed up and dispelled Crom Cruach that the killing of children in his name stopped. Pagan practice or Christian rumor? Could go either way–the winners write the history books–but either way, fucking evil, and already in use within metal.
Any notably metal deities you’re pissed I didn’t include? Let me know in the comments section!