Biology in popular culture – HEAVY METAL

Many of you might not know this, but I was (and still am) a big fan of metal music. I included word “heavy” in the title, but I actually prefer doom, melodic death, death, some black metal and also gothic/love metal. What does this have to do with biology? Well, many bands use animal imagery in their music videos or album art, with some of them being really interesting.
Of course, there are many that are obvious (Powerwolf, anyone?), and some animals are used more than others (crows, snakes). However, I wanted to see which animals dominate the heavy metal world, and which bands, that are usually not connected to such artwork, would use it.

Now, I would very much like to include these album covers in this post, but they are copyrighted and I’m not 100% sure I can do that, so if you’re not already familiar with the covers, I would kindly ask you to use a search engine, or links I’ll provide to each cover.

Paradise Lost

A doom/gothic/synth-pop band from the United Kingdom, Paradise Lost often uses biological motifs in their album art (Medusa, 2017; Tragic Illusion 25, 2013; Tragic Idol, 2012), but I would like to focus on the art that dominates the picture – in this case, we have Symbol of Life (released in 2002), its single Erased, and Believe in Nothing (2001).

Link to the official Paradise Lost web-page.

Symbol of Life and Erased are, at least to me, very interesting album covers. Yes, the animal in question is a snake, but it’s an x-ray of a snake. Now, I don’t know which species, or even a family, but I’m pretty sure it’s a snake. I don’t know how these photos were made, but are really special and distinct. For a better view, you can visit this blog. Erased is done in a very similar way, only with different coloring scheme. The animal theme is also presen in the music video for the single – there are scenes of a cougar and something that I believe is Thompson gazelle (I might be wrong on this one). I don’t know in which ecosystem could these two ever meet, outside of Paradise Lost video.

A gazelle
Nick Holmes in his apparent natural state

(Photo by Tobias Adam on Unsplash)

Believe in Nothing cover is simply straightforward: it’s a picture of bees. To be more precise, it’s a picture of a honey queen bee surrounded with bee workers. I will go out on the limb and say the species is probably Apis mellifera, Western honey bee.


Another one of my favourites, Katatonia and their dark melodies have adopted a bird from the Corvus genus as a motif that often appears on their album artworks (Dead End Kings, 2012; Tonight’s Decision, 1999). They were also the main focus of one of the earliest Katatonia’s albums, Brave Murder Day (1996), and latest, The Fall of Hearts (2016). Just by looking at these, I honestly can’t tell if it’s a crow, raven, or something in-between, but it does compliment Katatonia’s music perfectly.

A crow
Insert random lyric about crows, ravens, or E. A. Poe

(Photo by Sergio Ibanez on Unsplash)


To me, Opeth always had interesting, dark album covers, but two caught my attention – art for their debut album Orchid (1995) and Sorceress (2016). For Orchid, the artwork is, you guess it, orchids; apparently the pink flowers on the cover were ordered from the Netherlands.
Sorceress is a different story – it shows a peacock with blood dripping out of his beak. This might seem odd, since most people, including me, always picture birds as eating seeds, but peafowls (name that includes male and female individuals, and three species) are actually omnivores, and their diet can include insects and even small reptiles.


Satyricon is a black metal band, with different sounds, and with that, different artwork. Some animal species, however, still remain!
On the cover of Nemesis Divina (1996) is a bird of prey, which one, I honestly can say. It could be a falcon, or a hawk, I have to admit that my bird knowledge is weak. Volcano (2002) album cover is kind of simplistic – in the main view, we have a head of a snake. At first, it looked to me like a python, but I actually believe it’s a boa, Boa constrictor even. For their 7th album, The Age of Nero (2008) they went back to their raptor roots and choose… Some kind of eagle?

Brown and black snake on a tree branch; black bacground.
Metal’s next top model

(Photo by David Clode on Unsplash)


Gojira is a death/progressive metal band famous for often including environmental themes in their songs. Their album From Mars to Sirius (2005) is completely dedicated to these issues, and as such, has a very nice album art, with the drawing of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) being a centerpiece.


A heavy metal from Iowa, Slipknot chose a goat for the cover of the 2001 album titles Iowa. These kind of imagery is usually used by black metal bands (see honourable mentions, also Baphomet), but in this case, I think it works nicely.

A goat
Felt cute, might grow human limbs later

(Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash)

Honourable mentions

Bathory – Bathory (1984) – goat
Behemoth – Zos Kia Cultus (2002) – baphomet
Dimmu Borgir – Stormblåst (1996) – goat
Immortal – All Shall Fall (2009) – ravens?
Mayhem – Grand Declaration of War (2000) – dove

Nile – In Their Darkened Shrines (2002) – snake

Rammstein – Herzeleid (1995) – flower (chrysanthemums?)

Bring Me the Horizon – Count Your Blessings (2006) – jellyfish, shark, fish

The Rasmus – Hide from the Sun (2005) – butterfly

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