/Martis Decem /DXXIX /Carmina utens latin

We were on holiday in Italy last week, and seeing as we were in Rome for part of the week…This week I’m featuring songs that use Latin phrases. The Latin language was, wiki tells me, the dialect used in Latium (the region also known as Lazio, i.e. Rome and the wider region of Italy), before Roman dominance spread it far and wide.

/Martis Decem /DXXIX /Carmina utens latin

/Subject /Latin, Languages
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /040/In All Languages /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/92 /Used Prior/4 /Unique Songs/77 /People Suggesting/60
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/9 /Duration/48:54

A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.

Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).

We use a surprising number of Latin phrases in general English use, of course, and it turns out that quite a few bands do, too. So here’s ten of the best.

Needless to say, any errors in translation (which were all looked up and checked) are my own. Thanks to everyone that suggested songs.

/White Zombie
/Super-Charger Heaven
/Astro-Creep: 2000

Far from the only song on this week’s post to make extensive use of sampling, we begin today with three relentless minutes that are among White Zombie’s finest, and a song that among other things, reminds exactly why they brought in John Tempesta as drummer on the album. Things I did not know: the Devilman in this song is a Japanese manga character. It also samples The Haunting, To The Devil A Daughter, and of course Christopher Lee, who delivers the decisive sampled hook in the song’s breakdown.

Insipientia corde suo, non es deus / Non esta vita qui adorem, non es usque ad unum / Es excommunicatus, ex unione fidelium

[Foolishness in your heart, you are not a god / Do not be a life that I adore, you are not up to one / You are excommunicated from the union of the faithful]

“…It is not heresy, and I will not recant”

I mean, when you think about it, this mishmash of lyrical ideas is a bit of a muddle, but when a song is this damned good, who cares?

/Per Aspera Ad Inferi

GHOST are a band who’ve made sacrilegious imagery their thing – with a variety of anti-papal characters leading the band across time (all played by Tobias Forge, of course), so perhaps it is not surprising in the least that they use Latin phrases in their songs an awful lot, and four or five of their songs were suggested for this post. I’m going back to their earlier material, though, and indeed one of the songs that got me interested in the first place (it is particularly phenomenal live).

The Latin they use here, though, is not the original phrase. Their version means “through hardship to hell”, while the original – Per aspera ad astra – is “through hardship to the stars”, as if you must suffer to get to Heaven. GHOST think rather differently…

/Dancing With The Dead
/Call Of The Wild

A song I heard thanks to Rockfit sessions – and I’m not convinced I’d ever have heard these German loons otherwise – and it’s gloriously over-the-top fun. A song of monsters, hell, temptation, full-throttle Symphonic Power Metal, huge hooks, a fantastic guitar solo and a sense that the kitchen sink was chucked in this mix just because they could. The Latin here is chucked into the chorus (Spiritus Sanctus: “Holy Spirit”, as the protagonist in the song is tempted to the other side), and it just adds another level to the kind of song that you hear once and it’ll be stuck in your head for weeks. I speak from experience.

/Stigmata Martyr
/In The Flat Field

A rather more serious band were also pre-occupied with the holy spirit in song: but Pete Murphy was looking askance at Christianity as well. Here, amid their typically stark, raw music, he tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, to an extent in grim detail. But also, he recites part of a sacrament, “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.” (In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit.), and it’s not hard to see Murphy questioning why religion must include such suffering…


Heilung deal with what they call “Amplified History”, as they call on their ancestors for inspiration and instruction, and have become the talk of various scenes thanks to their extraordinary live shows (that I’ve sadly only seen so far on YouTube, something I really must resolve at some point). Indeed, in my talk at Nine Worlds a few years back (wrapped up on /Tuesday Ten /341), they were featured in the second half of my talk, with Dr. Simon Trafford.

Tenet itself is a palindromic word (something used to great effect in the Latin sections of this track – it is in multiple languages, and all of the musical elements are apparently palindromic too), meaning “he/she/it holds”, which has moved in English to be an opinion of absolute truth.

/Zeal & Ardor
/Zeal & Ardor

The crowning moment of Manuel Gagneux’s third album – and frankly his best song yet – is also probably his heaviest. In three brutal minutes, he sweeps through German, English and Latin lyrics as he furiously denounces right-wing Christianity, attempts to reclaim Wagner from the far-right, and creates a savage rhythm that’s pretty much impossible not to bang your head to. As for the Latin chorus that the song hinges on? “Deus / Magnus / Niger / Quoniam“, which I understand is intended to translate as “God is great and black”.

/My Dying Bride
/Sear Me
/As the Flower Withers

The first of three songs by the band using the Sear Me title – effectively a suite of songs that are each rather different as the band evolved across the 1990s – is the only song featured here that is entirely in Latin. Indeed, as befits an early MDB piece, it features the death growl of vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe – something he and the band gradually dropped almost entirely over the years (I’ve long preferred his rich singing voice) – but what hasn’t changed is the themes, one of dark sexuality and romance, which is much in evidence on this song.


/The Nile’s Edge
/Visual Audio Sensory Theatre

Twenty-five (!!) years on from release, Jon Crosby’s debut album under the name VAST remains an extraordinary album. Broadly it is a mix of industrial rock and balladry, but the trump card was extensive use of the choral work of Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares and Gregorian Chants from The Benedictine Monks Of The Abbey Saint-Maurice And Saint-Maur, which added drama and depth in unexpected ways (and made Crosby’s work at the time sound like no-one else). This track, that begins a four-song sequence as the album edges toward the end, uses the Benedictine Monks singing Salve Regina (“Hail, Queen”), a choral piece that goes back around nine-hundred years. This song in particular juxtaposes the devotional music of the monks with the deep devotion and desire of Crosby’s own delivery.

/Sadeness (Part I)

A decade or so earlier, a young Romanian-German musician had the bright idea of bringing together the Gregorian Chants of Capella Antiqua München, a sampled James Brown drum-beat, and a seductive, breathy female vocal – and sold millions. It kicked into a life a whole subset of new-age dance music that tried similar ideas, got Michael Cretu – the young musician in question – into all sorts of sampling trouble, although with the sheer volume of sales, it wasn’t long before everything was settled, and that initial single and the album that followed it remain instantly recognisable. This song takes an antiphon “Procedamus in pace!” (“Let us proceed in peace”) and when you consider the song is the subject is the Marquis de Sade and his sexual desires, it’s a heroically sacriligeous bit of sampling.

/Will Haven
/Carpe Diem
/Carpe Diem

We close this week with the ferocious, noisy hardcore/metal of Will Haven, a band of Sacramento survivors whose full-force sound was perhaps never quite as accessible as their close friends the Deftones. One of their greatest – and most bracing – songs remains the title track to their third album. Carpe Diem (“Seize The Day”) is a song built on a mammoth groove and sounds immensely threatening, but closer attention to the lyrics reveals an uplifting, positive song: one of picking yourself up after setbacks – and a loss of a friend is hinted at early in the song – and taking on whatever life throws at you – hence the Latin title. A good rule for life, too: Carpe Diem.

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