5 Epic Rock + Metal Songs Inspired by Books, Selected by Twelve Foot Ninja
Australia's Twelve Foot Ninja went big in 2021, not content just releasing Vengeance, their first new album since 2016, but having also dished out an accompanying comic book and a nearly 1,000 page novel, The Wyvern and the Wolf, which dives head-first into the origin story of the fictitious being the band is named after. So, we invited singer Kin Etik to pick his favorite rock and metal songs inspired by books, short stories and other pieces of literature.
Distilling an entire story or even part of it, as told in its original form through literature, is a complex challenge and one that comes with a certain aura of expectations — if it's a legendary book, you better make damn sure your song is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath!
That's not a problem regarding any of Kin Etik's selections, as he embraced a wide range of adaptations lifted from the pages of works by H.P. Lovecraft, George Orwell and even psychedelic adventurer Timothy Leary, among others.
See what songs have grabbed his attention the most below.
Twelve Foot Ninja's new album 'Vengeance', the companion comic book of the same name and 'The Wyvern and the Wolf' novel are all out now and can be purchased here. Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.
An official summary of the novel reads, "Set in a grim and savage world, The Wyvern and The Wolf tells the tale of an orphaned samurai boy named Kiyoshi who is adopted by the ruthless leader of a clan of ninja."
Mastodon, "Iron Tusk"
This track was my first exposure to Mastodon, and the opus that is Leviathan. It draws from the classic Herman Melville novel Moby Dick.
Opening with a cracking drum fill, courtesy of Brann Dailor, it’s a straight-out-the-gate belter that sounds like it’s being performed by a band of bearded, seafaring beasts. All aboard!
Metallica, "Call of Ktulu"
Continuing on the nautical tip, we have Metallica’s, epic instrumental homage to H. P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which is the tale of a malevolent underwater civilization, and is part of the ‘Cthulu’ mythos.
This Ride the Lightning instrumental sounds sea-born, drunk on brine, and is as colossal as its abominable inspiration — an oceanic epic that clocks in just under nine minutes. Their 1986 song, the megalithic "The Thing That Should Not Be" is also connected to the same mythos. Apparently Cliff Burton was a Lovecraft fan. Killer tracks!
David Bowie, "Big Brother"
This post-glam powder keg of a track was written by Bowie, and intended for a TV-based musical that was never produced, based on George Orwell’s 1984. It was included on the seminal Diamond Dogs, which included other tracks written for the unrealized musical. The theme on the album is quite dystopian, so the songs inspired by Orwell’s dark prophecy feel right at home. This is my favorite of those tracks.
The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"
This psychedelic romp, that was way ahead of it’s time, and sounds like a cut off a Chemical Brothers’ album, was inspired by the book, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manuel Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, by psychonauts Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner.
The book is about a guided experience of psychedelics toward a shamanic, or "Ego Death." Apparently, John Lennon bought the book, and went home to take LSD, and follow the instructions to the letter.
There are lyrics in the song, directly pulled from the book. “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.” Good advice.
The Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil"
This classic track was written by Jagger and Richards, and inspired by the book, The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgkov, which is based on what would happen if the Devil happened to visit the U.S.S.R. Jagger's lyrics are a meditation on global atrocities from Satan’s point of view.
Upon the line, “I shouted out, who killed the Kennedys? / When after all, it was you and me.” we are pointed towards the realization that the Devil is in everyone. Heavy.