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The 100 Most Overused Metal Band Name Words

I’ve developed a growing fascination with the sheer number of extant and defunct metal bands. Since I spend a few hours every day parsing promotional e-mails and other types of band recommendation, my relationship with this ever-growing quantity is quite active. It mostly consists of rejection — practiced by me, perpetrated against bands. As time has gone on, my criteria for not listening to stuff have grown ever more numerous and fine-grained in their own right. (It’s a self-defense tactic, applied to the issues we talked about here.)

My fascination with this subject has gotten a little unhealthy as of late. While going about my business of not listening to every promo I get, I’ve noticed myself rejecting possibilities based on their utterly generic names. Moongoat. Blood Hand. Nuclear Torment. Hate Storm. (There are two real Hate Storms, but I haven’t listened to them.) You shall not pass, generically-named bands!

Eventually, I decided to start compiling a list of words that comprise generic metal band names. To do so, I turned to Metal Archives’ band name search function, naturally. Metal Archives is perhaps the most powerful symbol of the effect that information technology has had on the metal world. The push-button access it provides to virtually every metal band that has ever existed bears considerable responsibility for demystifying the genre, which many metal publications (including this one) have lamented at times. But to me, it is an indispensable tool. Plus, it allows me to do ridiculous stuff like this.

When I initially started compiling this list, I initially intended to put together a set of 20 or 30 words that merely appeared over 100 times in Metal Archives’s band name database. After reaching that target, I brought the list to the IO staff and half-jokingly suggested that we might be able to find 100 such words. We reached that target in less than two hours; I actually had to eliminate a number of lower-scoring words from contention.

Before we get to the list itself, a few notes on methodology:

—The most basic criterion was that a word had to return at least 100 entries for consideration. All of the words on the list do.

—Since many metal band names use combined words, like “Goatwhore,” we used asterisk wildcards before and after each search term, as in *death*. This method produces a fair amount of data noise; for instance, searching for *fall* will turn up Fallujah, who don’t really have the word ‘fall’ in their name. I opted for this method because it produces bigger numbers, which is fun, and it excludes fewer true hits.*

—I mostly tried to avoid three-letter words, since three-letter sequences are too common as ingredients of other words. I made exceptions for four words that I consider indispensably metal: “god,” “war,” “rot,” and “ash.” For these words, I attempted to even the playing field by removing the first wildcard — I searched for “god*” instead of “*god*”, and so forth.

—For time/sanity’s sake, I chose to eliminate words that only made it above the 100-entry mark if you searched for more than one variant of them. This removed combinations like “grey + gray” and “nuclear + nuke” from consideration.

—We stuck to words that can stand alone, grammatically speaking. The sole exception is “necro,” which got a dispensation for the same reason that “war” and the other three-letter words listed above did.

This list also isn’t remotely scientific or comprehensive; we just searched for the words that came to mind. For all I know, there’s a word that appears even more often than “death,” which ‘won’ the list with its 1,184 entries. But if there is, I’ll be surprised and a little freaked out.

If you’re curious, I compiled this post while listening to the new Jute Gyte album several times. I’ve known about Jute Gyte for a while, but Vast Chains is the first of his efforts that I’ve really focused on. It’s some of the most insane-sounding black metal I’ve ever heard, thanks largely to Adam Kalmbach’s use of microtonal guitars. Deathspell Omega and Gorguts’s harmonies sound like the Beatles next to this stuff. (Note that both “Jute” and “Gyte” return only one entry on the Metal Archives band search function.)

Now, on to the list. “Death,” “black,” and “dark” are our winners, with each returning over a thousand hits. A handful of observations follow the list proper. What words did we miss?

— Doug Moore
*Special thanks to Ian Chainey for pointing out the wildcard technique.
Thanks also to Wyatt Marshall, Vanessa Salvia, Joseph Schafer, Rhys Williams, and Matt Schmall for their contributions to the list.


1. Death1,184 entries
2. Black1,157 entries
3. Dark1,094 entries
4. Blood924 entries
5. Dead741 entries
6. Hell704 entries
7. War731 entries
8. Necro632 entries
9. Soul538 entries
10. Night520 entries
11. Fall503 entries
12. Hate470 entries
13. God455 entries
14. Evil449 entries
15. Kill415 entries
16. Fire392 entries
17. Storm389 entries
18. Rain388 entries
19. Lord385 entries
20. Head383 entries
21. Metal359 entries
22. Human347 entries
23. Light345 entries
24. Moon329 entries
25. Winter322 entries
26. Shadow304 entries
27. Demon300 entries
28. Satan298 entries
29. Pain297 entries
30. Eternal285 entries
31. Dream284 entries
32. Burn273 entries
33. Witch271 entries
34. Chaos266 entries
35. Flesh265 entries
36. Cult264 entries
37. Goat261 entries
38. Rage259 entries
39. Terror252 entries
40. Force249 entries
41. Fear249 entries
42. Throne245 entries
43.Wolf241 entries
44. Stone240 entries
45. Christ236 entries
46. Steel232 entries
47. Rot231 entries
48. Funeral230 entries
49. Torment222 entries
50. Ritual216 entries
51. Cross214 entries
52. Gate213 entries
53. Frost208 entries
54. Gore202 entries
55. Doom199 entries
56. Corpse198 entries
57. Beyond194 entries
58. Crypt189 entries
59. Infernal189 entries
60. Wind189 entries
61. Brain185 entries
62. Lost178 entries
63. Grim175 entries
64. Ash175 entries
65. Iron169 entries
66. Face167 entries
67. Raven166 entries
68. Spirit165 entries
69. Morbid164 entries
70. Forest155 entries
71. Sick154 entries
72. Cold147 entries
73. Skull147 entries
74. Anger147 entries
75. Fuck146 entries
76. Fallen145 entries
77. Grind144 entries
78. Devil140 entries
79. Ruin140 entries
80. Thrash137 entries
81. Suffer135 entries
82. Murder133 entries
83. Divine133 entries
84. Slaughter133 entries
85. Brutal132 entries
86. Child126 entries
87. Nocturnal124 entries
88. Sorrow124 entries
89. Psycho123 entries
90. Torture122 entries
91. Torment222 entries
(Double entry; will be corrected in an updated version. -ed.)
92. Wrath121 entries
93. Serpent119 entries
94. Agony118 entries
95. Slave116 entries
96. Heaven113 entries
97. Circle112 entries
98. Grace111 entries
99. Noise111 entries
100a. Ancient108 entries
100b. Dragon108 entries
100c. Hand108 entries

I compiled this list in large part so that other people could look at it and share anything interesting they notice, so I didn’t spend much time analyzing it myself. (I’d love to see what a practiced Excel hand could come up with from this data.) The chief takeaways are obviously that there are so many metal bands, and that metal bands are so unoriginal. But here are a few other stray thoughts that came to mind while I put it together:

—This list is a forceful illustration of the English language’s centrality to metal, despite its thoroughly international nature. How many words in other languages would return so many results? The British empire has declined and the American one is on its way, but their soft power remains potent.

—The words that did best were generally shorter words that appear in many different subgenre contexts. No word in the top 25 has more than 5 letters; at #26, “shadow” is the highest-ranking six-letter word.

—None of the words we searched for turned up 666 results. Lame!

—More than a hundred bands thought that their names should involve “psycho,” “anger,” or “noise.” Sigh.

—A lot of seemingly unmetal words made the list: “child,” “light,” “white,” “dream,” “wind,” “face.” Sounds pretty relaxing!

—I was kind of relieved to find that none of the sexuality-based slurs I checked for (“slut,” “whore,” “bitch,” “cunt,” etc.) made the cut. Neither did any of the words commonly associated with Nazism, though I wasn’t nearly as thorough about those.

Again, this list isn’t comprehensive by any means. We almost certainly missed a lot of good examples. If you guys come up with enough high-ranking words that we didn’t include, I’ll update the list. Go!

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