Heavy metal umlaut

Note: some of the accented letters used in this article may not display properly in all fonts.
The graphic designer added the umlaut to the cover of Motörhead's first album for æsthetic reasons.
The graphic designer added the umlaut to the cover of Motörhead's first album for æsthetic reasons.

A heavy metal umlaut is an umlaut over a letter in the name of a heavy metal band. The use of umlauts and other diacritics with a blackletter style typeface is a form of foreign branding intended to give a band's logo a Germanic or Nordic "toughness". It is a form of marketing that invokes stereotypes of boldness and strength commonly attributed to peoples such as the Vikings. The heavy metal umlaut is never referred to by the term diaeresis in this usage, nor does it affect the pronunciation of the band's name.

Heavy metal umlauts have been parodied in film and fiction. In the film This Is Spin̈al Tap (which is spelled with an umlaut over the 'n'), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) opined, "It's like a pair of eyes. You're looking at the umlaut, and it's looking at you." In 2002, Spin magazine referred to the heavy metal umlaut as "the diacritical mark of the beast".


Umlauts and diaereses

The German word Umlaut roughly means sound change, as it is composed of um- (a prefix often used with verbs involving "change") and Laut, here meaning "sound". Adding an umlaut indeed changes the pronunciation of a vowel in standard (non-heavy metal) usage; the letters u and ü represent distinct sounds, as do o vs. ö and a vs. ä. Umlauts are used in several languages, such as Icelandic, German, Swedish, Finnish, Hungarian, and Turkish. The sounds represented by the umlauted letters in these languages are typically front vowels (front rounded vowels in the case of ü and ö). Ironically, these sounds tend to be perceived as "weaker" or "lighter" than the vowels represented by un-umlautted u, o, and a, thus failing to create the intended impression of strength and darkness. Therefore, maybe, the substitution of modern English th by thorn (Þ, þ) or eth (Đ, ð) would be more effective, which is wrongly done in names like Ye Olde Shoppe.

The English word diaeresis refers to a diacritic graphically similar to the umlaut; the name comes from a Greek word meaning "divide or distinguish". This diacritic is used in languages such as Greek, French, Portuguese and occasionally Dutch and English to indicate that two vowels are to be pronounced separately, as in the name "Chloë" or the word "naïve".


The progressive rock band Amon Düül II (aka Amon Duul II) released their first album in 1969. However, their name came from "Amon an Egyptian sun god and Düül a character from Turkish fiction" [1] (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=UIDMISS70406050306300345&sql=B1c8j1vsjzzza), so this use of diaereses was not gratuitous.

The first gratuitous use appears to have been by the Blue Öyster Cult in 1970. The band's website states it was added by guitarist and keyboardist Allen Lanier [2] (http://www.blueoystercult.com/History/history3.html), but rock critic Richard Meltzer claims to have suggested it to their producer and manager Sandy Pearlman just after Pearlman came up with the name: "I said, 'How about an umlaut over the O?' Metal had a Wagnerian aspect anyway." [3] (http://www.spiraling.com/words/umlaut.html)

On their second album In Search of Space (1971), Hawkwind wrote on the backside of the cover: "Template:Unicode". To add to the variation, the diacritical mark on the last "Template:Unicode" is the "Hungarian umlaut" or double acute accent (Template:Unicode)—two short lines slanting up and to the right rather like a right double-quote mark—instead of dots (Hungarian does not use the (¨) umlaut over the letter "A", though). This was before Lemmy, later of Motörhead, had become a member of the group.

Motörhead and Mötley Crüe then followed. The umlaut in Motörhead was contributed by the graphic designer of the band's first album cover. In the words of Lemmy Kilmister, Motörhead's front man: I only put it in there to look mean.. [4] (http://www.thewavemag.com/pagegen.php?pagename=article&articleid=21891) (Interestingly, the standard German pronunciation of "motör" is similar to the standard English pronunciation of "motor", the umlaut over the second "o" requiring, in German, the fronting of the vowel.) At one Mötley Crüe performance in Germany, the entire audience started chanting "Moertley Crueh!"

 used the umlaut in an unexpected place — above a consonant.
Spinal Tap used the umlaut in an unexpected place — above a consonant.

Queensrÿche went further by putting the umlaut over the Y in their name. (The symbol ÿ is sometimes used in Dutch handwriting to display the letter IJ instead of IJ/ij, and, very rarely, in French, e.g., in the placename L'Haÿ-les-Roses [5] (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Ha%C3%BF-les-Roses).) Queensrÿche frontman Geoff Tate stated, "The umlaut over the 'y' has haunted us for years. We spent eleven years trying to explain how to pronounce it."[6] (http://www.spiraling.com/words/umlaut.html)

Hawkwind-influenced 1980s space-rock band Underground Zerø used a variation on the concept, using the Scandinavian vowel ø in their name. This may have been inspired by computer systems of the time, many of which used the slashed zero as a glyph for the digit 0 to distinguish it from the letter O and thus resembled ø.

The spoof band Spin̈al Tap raised the stakes in 1982 by using an umlaut over the letter N, a consonant. This is a construction only found in the Jacaltec language of Guatemala and in some orthographies of Malagasy, although it is unlikely that the writers of This Is Spin̈al Tap knew this at the time.

The heavy metal umlaut in popular literature

In the mid-1980s, cartoonist Berkeley Breathed parodied the heavy metal umlaut in the comic strip Bloom County with the fictional group Deathtöngue, fronted by the depraved and unwholesome singer/'lead tongue' "Wild" Bill Catt and infamous for the songs "Let's Run Over Lionel Richie With a Tank", "Clearasil Messiah" and "U Stink But I Love U". Breathed eventually had Deathtöngue change their name to the umlaut-free Billy and the Boingers following pressure from congressional hearings on "porn rock" led by one "Tippy Gorp", an obvious reference to heavy metal bête noire Tipper Gore and the PMRC.

The novel Zodiac (1988) by Neal Stephenson features a fictional band called Pöyzen Böyzen, which one character describes as "not bad for a two-umlaut band".

In 1997, parody newspaper The Onion published an article called "Ünited Stätes Toughens Image With Umlauts", about a congressional attempt to add umlauts to the name of the United States of America to make it seem "bad-assed and scary in a quasi-heavy metal manner".

Journalist and author Steve Almond coined the term "spandex and umlaut circuit" in 2002 to describe the heavy metal touring scene.

Rock critic Chuck Klosterman subtitled his 2003 book Fargo Rock City with A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural Nörth Daköta.

Webcomic artist Scott Kurtz drew a series of cartoons about a fake band called Djörk in his PvP Online (http://www.pvponline.com/index.php3) webcomic. Apart from possibly satirizing the heavy metal umlaut, this name also refers to the Icelandic singer/songwriter Björk Guðmundsdóttir, whose umlaut is genuine.

Other usages of diacritics in band or album naming


Other characters

  • the German punk band Die Ärzte used three dots (triaeresis?) over the "A" in Ärzte to distinguish from its normal spelling with "Ä" (double dot) diaeresis. This can be represented in Unicode: Template:Unicode. The three dots may stand for the three band members.
  • the American thrash band Lååz Rockit actually used the letter "å" gratuitously in their logo, but the umlaut ("Lääz Rockit") in some press releases.
  • the French band Magma used a fictional language, the Kobaïan, for its lyrics. The umlaut appeared in several album titles, such as Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh and Köhntarkösz. However, this umlaut does affect pronunciation, and thus cannot be considered gratuitous. Kobaian also uses a three-dot diacritic over some letters in song titles, and an original letter that seems to be a cursive ligature of "ie", which never appears without an umlaut.
  • the English indie rock band Maxïmo Park also uses a double dotted "i" in its name.
  • the accents and cedilla in the name of the French electronica band Rinôçérôse are also gratuitous.
  • William Ørbit.
  • The dark folk / experimental / occult band Death In June used umlauts (and in the second case, even accented e's) in the original releases of their albums The Wörld Thät Sümmer (1985) and Thé Wäll Öf Säcrificé (1989) - and, on these releases, also in the band name, leading to Deäth In Jüne and Déäth In Jüné, respectively.
  • the Japanese rock group BOØWY.

Non-gratuitous umlauts

  • The US punk rock band Hüsker Dü took their name from a children's memory game, which added macrons over each u in the phrase, replacing these macrons with umlauts. Without the umlauts, "husker du" is a Danish and Norwegian phrase meaning "Do you remember".
  • The name of the Toronto, Ontario area folk-pop/geek-rock band Moxy Früvous is pronounced with long-u, "Fruuvous", so this is perhaps not gratuitous.
  • The heavy metal band Trojan used umlauts in their name on the 1985 release Chasing the Storm. For Swedes the tour T-shirts from this time are particularly amusing, as "Tröjan" in Swedish translates as "the shirt".
  • The Rhode Island "futurock" band Grüvis Malt have an umlaut in their name, but it may not be gratuitous, since it clarifies the pronunciation as "oo" rather than "uh".
  • The San Francisco band Children of Umlaut do not in fact have an umlaut in their name.
  • The Icelandic artist Björk Guðmundsdóttir is using her birth name.
  • The Ä in the Finnish heavily Manowar-influenced heavy metal band Teräsbetoni (reinforced concrete) is not gratuitous; while teräs means steel in Finnish, teras is not even a word.
  • The Japanese rock band Lä-ppisch derives its name from the German colloquialism läppisch, meaning "laughable".
  • Danish spoof band Insidiöus Törment (http://www.insidioustorment.com) feature 2 umlauts in their name, though whether they are gratuitous or not is up for debate. The first functions as the umlaut in Motörhead, arguably indicating the use of schwa (Ə) in pronunciation (in both names), whereas the second - contrary to common practice - influences the pronunciation of "torment" so that it becomes "tørment" - using the Danish, Norwegian or Faroese vowel of ø.

See also


External links and references

es:Umlaut del heavy metal


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools