The Lyrics Corner: The Monolith Deathcult’s “Den Ensomme Nordens Dronning”
Metal lyrics usually suck. In this new feature, I’m going to highlight lyrics that suck less. Grab a stool and join me in the lyrics corner.
I don’t want to be like a certain former Masterlord and declare this a brand new series before doing nothing with it, so let’s just call this something I’d like to do from time to time. The lyrics corner will be used to highlight lyrics that transcend the typical juvenile satanism, gore, misanthropy, and tough-guy posturing penned by most metal lyricists. Instead, I’ll be examining bands that take a more poetic, humorous, historical, or just generally clever approach to word choice. This feature includes: a link to the song, the lyrics themselves, and my annotations annotations. I’m going to avoid lengthy personal interpretation in favor of highlighting allusions and providing relevant context. I hope you enjoy it.
In this first edition, let’s take a look at the lyrics for The Monolith Deathcult‘s song “Den Ensomme Nordens Dronning”. These lyrics stood out to me because they tell the tale of a historical event, namely the sinking of Russian submarine Kursk (K-141). Press play below and read along as Michiel Dekker and Robin Kok growl about this nautical nightmare.
Sleep, oh Majesty surrounded by massive darkness
Her skin torn apart by sub-zero claws
Buried deep in thy ice dungeon
Sleep, oh Majesty, Lonely Queen of the North1
‘Eternal Father, strong to save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!’2
The huntress from the land of Magog3
manacles on her seabed
Mauled in the deep she waits
for the Czar of Mesech and Tubal4
The blood of the 1185 drips
from her glowering gaping mouth
She patiently bears suffering in the Barents6 abyss
‘Eternal Father, strong to save…
K-141 headed north for a Russian naval victory7
Armed with 24 “Granit”8
she prowls through the Barents Sea
118 hearts beat as one when Kursk submerges
from the mighty ocean depths
She is the bride of Gog, a post-Soviet Czarina9
The Czardom’s silver bow,
CzArtemis10 leads a fleet in bloom
Drunk with exuberance she arrogates the briny deep
Invulnerable became funereal
after insubordination and sabotage!11
A deathly blow from within, the assassin assassinated
Now 117 men must die for
Der Dolchstoss12 of one Judas Ephialtes13
In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her,
stilly couches she.
Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn
to rhythmic tidal lyres.14
Till the Spinner of the Years
Said ‘Now!’ And each one hears,
And consummation comes,
and jars two hemispheres.15
Over the missiles meant
To smite the opponent
The sea-worm crawls
dumb, (and) indifferent.
And now the Queen and Antaeus16 lie dead
The twain forever converged on the seabed
‘Eternal Father, strong to save…
“Curse the sun, and all that’s holy
Turn back, I dwell around
Come to me, as a shadow
Engrave the sun, with the blackest moon (shadow)”17
- Den Ensomme Nordens Dronning translates from Danish to Lonely Nordic Queen.
- This is the Hymn of the United States Navy. The K-141 sunk in 2000, well after the end of the Cold War, so the use of the US Naval hymn seems less inappropriate in context. The vocalists probably included it merely for its tone and to convey a feeling of abandonment and hopelessness at the mercy of the rigors of the frozen sea.
- In Judeo-Christian eschatology, the nation Magog, ruled by Gog, appears as the apocalyptic enemy of Israel during the end times, as supposedly seen in the books of Ezekiel and Revelations. Subscribers to millenarian eschatology, especially during the Cold War era, often ascribed the identity of Gog to Russia’s leadership and Magog to the nation itself. Some use the Hebrew phrase rosh meshek found in Ezekiel as proof that Russia and Moscow are the fabled seat of power from which Gog will strike against his foes. Millenarian eschatology has waned over the years, but adherents often still identify Gog and Magog with Russia. Alternatively, some interpret Revelations to depict two distinct nations, named Gog and Magog, and some theorists identify Gog with Russia and Magog with China.
- Tubal, according to Hebrew literature, is the grandson of Noah and settler of the Iberian peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal). In Ezekiel 39:1, Gog is referred to as prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. There may be a secondary allusion at work here because the K-141’s only completed mission was an observation of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea during the Kosovo crisis.
- 118 sailors died when the K-141 sank.
- The Kursk sank in the Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia.
- The Kursk was to be part of the first large-scale Russian naval exercise in over a decade and would be using a full complement of armaments.
- The K-141 was armed with a number of dummy Granit-class warheads and torpedoes.
- Pre-Soviet designation for Empress of Russia.
- This is a clever portmanteau of Czar and Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt.
- The sinking of the K-141 was caused by an internal explosion. A concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide had been used as the propellant in the dummy torpedoes, but some of this compound seeped out of the casings of one torpedo and came in contact with a catalyst, causing an explosion roughly equal to 550 pounds of TNT. This explosion caused a fire that detonated several other torpedoes, creating such a large detonation that effects were felt in Alaska.
- Der Dolchstoss was a widely held belief in post-World War I Germany that Germany’s loss to the Allies was caused by betrayal and a lack of support from civilians at home. Here, the allusion is used to refer to an internal betrayal, namely the faulty handling and care for the torpedoes that caused the HTP compound to leak.
- Ephialtes of Trachis is the Greek who supposedly revealed the secret passage through the Hot Gates to invading Persian forces that enabled them to defeat the Spartan soldiers at the battle of Thermopylae. Again, the reference (including the use of Judas here) is to convey a sense of internal betrayal.
- A stringed instrument from Greek antiquity. The reference here is used both for its rhyme scheme and to convey the rhythmic, poetic nature of the ocean and its justice.
- President Putin and the Russian Navy were heavily criticized for how they handled the sinking of the submarine. The Russian Navy delayed its response and rebuffed offers of assistance from the American, British, and Norwegian Navies.
- Antaeus was the half-giant son of Poseidon in Greek mythology who would challenge passers-by to fatal wrestling matches. He was bested by Hercules during the demigod’s 12 trials. In Ray Bradbury’s novella Fahrenheit 451, the wrestling match between Hercules and Antaeus is used as a metaphor for man’s overindulgence and lust. By using it here, TMDC are referring to the naval exercise of the K-141 as a prideful overindulgence that cost the lives of under-prepared and under-equipped sailors. According to the band itself, the phrase “The Queen and Antaeus” is also a reference to Hardy’s “On the Convergence of the Twain”, which is about the Titanic.
- I am unable to locate the original source of this refrain, but it seems to be of some importance because it is used in other metal songs beyond this one. Help me out if you know this one!
So, did you learn anything? Did I miss anything? Have any suggestions for songs we should examine? Let me know in the comments below.