“Mon gosier de métal parle toutes les langues”: Translations and Transformations of Baudelaire in Black Metal Music

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What does Baudelaire’s poetry sound like? How do other people make Baudelaire’s poetry sound? These two interlinked questions remind us that as poetry goes from the page to performance, it is reliant on the voices and sounds of others. Baudelaire’s poetry is constructed from sound patterns and thematic networks which afford the text a particular set of characteristics and influence particular performance genres. Black metal has been particularly influenced by Baudelaire’s poetry, weaving his language into lyrics concerned with satanic and apocalyptic themes. International metal bands such as Gorgoroth, Necromantia, Rotting Christ, and Transmetal—all well known in the field of black metal—have set his poetry to music, with examples from the 1990s to the present day. This
article will begin by exploring the thematic traits which might make Baudelaire’s poetry particularly amenable to black metal. It will then go on to analyze how these aspects have been foregrounded in four settings of “Les Litanies de Satan” in French and English. Our analysis recognizes that, unlike many mainstream musical genres, the unstable relationship between the “alloy” of words and music in black metal settings means that we need to focus precisely on those instances where the poetic text is inaudible, performed in a strange accent, or suppressed altogether. This is because these aspects are an inherent feature of the black metal aesthetic, not just in terms of vocal technique, but also in terms of how they encourage us to conceptualize otherness and alternative ways of interpreting our relationship with the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-143
JournalL’Esprit Créateur
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Baudelaire
  • poetry
  • black metal
  • translation
  • transformation
  • Agawu


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