Translations, adaptations, quotations from Baudelaire’s poetry into metal music: an anti-alchemy?

By: Camile Migeon-Lambert


Volume: 06
Issue: 01:2020
ISSN: 2459-2943
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2020.0011
Pages: 221-242
Lic.: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
metal music



This study examines how metal musicians appropriate Baudelaire’s poetry, one of the favorite sources of metal lyrics’ intersemiosis. We will consider several levels of intersemiosis, from the reference to the literal quotation, including the music inspired by Baudelaire’s life, inquiring what metal music, which is both counter-cultural and popular, does to a great classic of French poetry. Moreover, we intend to look closer at Baudelairean intersemiosis in the work of non-French-speaking metal musicians. When they retain the original French text, the lyrics reflect the vocalist’s relation to the foreign language. Eventually, the translation processes are all brought together in those cases involving an adaptation into the band’s own language. Some of the songs we analyze belong to the most extreme genres of metal. Given the French post-Romantic poet’s controversial reception and his sense of scandal, this partiality is far from being surprising. We propose using Baudelaire’s theory of correspondences to explain the adaptation of his verses into weighty, violent notes, and sounds. Finally, the case of Baudelaire’s reception allows us to analyze the many translations at stake when a contemporary music genre such as metal incorporates literary works into its lyrical material.


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