The Holy Trinity: Songs Named After Albums Named After Bands

Cover Photo Credit: Rolling Stones

If you listen to the radio enough, you’ll eventually hear something similar to the following, declared by a radio host who thinks they’re clever, perhaps while even hiding a smirk. “This is the song “Motörhead” off Motörhead by the band Motörhead!”

The phenomenon we’ll be discussing today is something I personally dub the “Holy Trinity,” an instance in a band’s discography where a song is named after an album, which is named after the band. A self-titled number on a band’s self-titled album, if you will.

While this odd musical occurrence isn’t exclusive to metal music (songs like “(Theme From) The Monkees” (1966), “Kool & The Gang” (1970), “Bad Company” (1974) are notable non-metal “self-titled” on the self-titled examples), the metal genre has an interesting relationship with the inclusion. A large number of the genre’s founding bands deferred to the “Holy Trinity” on early landmark albums within the genre, carving their name in metal music’s opening explosion.

The group who started this trend was, fittingly, the group who invented metal. “Black Sabbath” opens Black Sabbath’s debut self-titled 1970 album, a song that produced out of a nightmare bassist Geezer Butler had after borrowing a tome of black magic from vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. Apparently originally impromptu lyrics, Ozzy’s somber opening utterance “What is this that stands before me?” is the introduction to heavy music for many. Apart from the legacy that still surrounds the song over 50 years later, “Black Sabbath” is extra special, given that it was named after the 1963 horror film of the same name. So it’s actually a song named after an album named after a band named after a movie.

The phenomenon spread as fast as metal music did. “Motörhead” opens Motörhead’s 1977 self-titled debut, interestingly a cover of a Hawkwind track, vocalist Lemmy Kilmister’s prior band. The song itself represents the energy of metal music, as comparing Motörhead’s blaring 1977 version to proto-space rock band Hawkwind’s 1975 version is like pitting a rabid rottweiler against a frog. Lemmy also added the umlaut to the song title of Motörhead’s version, further metal-izing the track (thanks, Mötley Crüe).

Iron Maiden also closed their infamous 1980 self-titled declaration with “Iron Maiden,” an anthem track for the band and for metal music in general, with lyrics like “Iron Maiden's gonna get you, no matter how far.” The same thing can be said for NWOBHM titans Angel Witch, who opened their self-titled debut from the same year with a self-titled number. “Angel Witch” less-so defines the band, and rather helped to kickstart the genre’s borderline embarrassingly overdone fascination with witch imagery. Other notable examples of self-titled “Holy Trinity” tracks released on influential metal self-titled debut releases are “Saint Vitus” (1984), “Metal Church” (1984), “Carnivore” (1985), “Overkill” (1985), “Deicide” (1990), “Iced Earth” (1990), and “Electric Wizard” (1994). These songs/albums/bands are all landmarks within the development of metal music.

This collection of songs is notable because they all stem from the formative years of the aforementioned groups, who all largely influenced their respective scenes at the time. Of course, these tracks were open declarations of a new music movement, with many becoming fan favourites as the years passed. Songs like “Deicide” and “Iced Earth” tie back to a time before things like fame, fat cheques from record labels, and artistic stagnancy would go on to plague every band named so far. These songs were whipped up by angsty kids, unknowingly writing music history that would define them forever.

Looking closer at the very handle I’ve been using for these tracks paints an even broader picture. Please excuse the religious reference for a notoriously anti-religious genre, but much like the Christian Holy Trinity, these songs represent the mind, body, and soul of the artists that wrote them. Self-titleds like “Black Sabbath” and “Iron Maiden” come from the minds of young artists, actualizing their newfound creative visions. The tracks themselves are the body, the tangible life-blood entities that come together to create what we call music. They represent the spirit of the artistic medium, with bands singing about the meaning of metal itself, or adding much-needed punk energy to old tracks, creating something entirely new with pure aggression and noise.

The “Holy Trinity” is also infinite and unkillable in essence. When Black Sabbath opened their last ever concert in 2017 with “Black Sabbath,” the song didn’t die. It will forever remain in the hearts of the societal outcasts who call themselves metalheads, among landmark numbers like “Motörhead” and “Saint Vitus,” with new generations discovering these sonic declarations to this day. New bands continue to wave the flag, with notable tracks like “Skeleton” (2020), “Kvlt of Odium” (2020), and “Deer Lord” (2020) marking a new wave of “Holy Trinity” tracks from smaller artists carving their own names in the living flesh of metal music. Some of those names aren’t as catchy, though.

Hunter co-hosts The Iron Club, your weekly guide to the dark and mysterious realm of underground metal, which airs every Sunday from 9:00 - 11:00PM.