Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Lots of dots and umlauts

Posted in Heavy Metal, Music, Observations, TV & Film by Jacob Zinn on June 21, 2009

In heavy metal, it’s not uncommon to find bands with dots over their vowels to jazz up metal up their name. These are metal umlauts, though only a handful of bands can really make it witht them. There are dozens of bands with umlauts, but there are only four worth mentioning here in yet another unneeded hard rock segment on this site.

Blue Öyster Cult

Best known for songs like “Godzilla,” “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” Blue Öyster Cult are credited with being the first to have an umlaut in their name. It was either suggested by former member Allen Lanier or music critic Richard Meltzer.

They’ve also grown in pop culture, having those three aforementioned tracks in Rock Band and Guitar Hero games.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” also reached a new audience in a Saturday Night Live skit starring Christopher Walken as record producer Bruce Dickinson (not as Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson) and Will Ferrell as fictional B.Ö.C. member Gene Frenkle. In a spoof of VH1’s Behind the Music series, the band is in the studio recording “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” with Frenkle on the cowbell. They stop playing midway as his cowbell-playing proves distracting to the other members of the band, but Dickinson walks in, saying he has a fever and that the only prescription is more cowbell.

Motörhead

Though casual listeners won’t know much beyond “Ace of Spades”, Motörhead were part of the new wave of British heavy metal in the mid-‘70s. Their loud guitar riffs and lead singer Lemmy Kilmister’s distinct voice give them a raw, edgier sound than most acts.

When asked about the umlaut over the second “o”, Kilmister has been quoted as saying, “I only put it in there to look mean.”

More recently, they’ve appeared as a group in Guitar Hero: World Tour (with Lemmy appearing on his own in Guitar Hero: Metallica), and for the last few years, they’ve provided the entrance music for professional wrestler Triple H, who is a big fan of the group.

Mötley Crüe

Made up of lead singer Vince Neil and his “buddies [Nikki] Sixx, Mick [Mars] and Tom[my Lee],” the Crüe are the most famous rock group with the double umlaut. Why two umlauts? The story goes something like this: Mars was in a group called White Horse, a bandmate said they were, “a motley looking crew.” Mars remembered this when forming Mötley Crüe and wrote it as “Motley Cru-.” It was supposedly changed to add the umlauts when the band was drinking Löwenbräu.

Mötley Crüe are best known for way too many things. Wikipedia them if you must.

Spın̈al Tap

Okay, they’re not really a heavy metal group–they’re a parody of heavy metal acts from their 1984 rock mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap. But they do have a discography of 15 studio albums (12 of which are fictional).

Being a spoof group, the Tap put their umlaut over a consonant instead of a vowel, putting two dots over the “n.” They also removed the dot from the “i,” just for kicks.

Like the other three groups, they’ve had a song on a Guitar Hero game (Mötley Crüe had “Shout at the Devil” as the first song on Guitar Hero II). “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” is an encore track on Guitar Hero II.

They’re likely the only group on this list that’s been featured on The Simpsons. At the end of the month, they play the O2 Arena in London for a “one night only world tour.”

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