Artists find inspiration in many places, but the one source that always proves inexhaustible is art itself. Whether it’s stories from hundreds of years ago or black and white films from just a few decades ago, artwork of all types continues to inspire today’s musicians. We’ve compiled a list of 10 songs that were either inspired by or closely resemble other works of art—from a hardcore version of Hemingway to a metalcore Harry Potter.
The Ghost Inside – “Mercy” / Ernest Hemingway
This brutal song is unmistakably inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom The Bell Tolls as the first lyric bursts forth with the book’s title. Vocalist Jonathan Vigil nears the end of this crushing track by roughly quoting lines from the rest of the text: “I have an inheritance from my father, it’s the moon and the sun/And although that I roam all over the world, the spending’s never done.” If Hemingway were still alive, we’d like to think he’d be jamming this hard.
Escape The Fate – “There’s No Sympathy For The Dead” / Sherwood Anderson
Ready for this throwback? I doubt young Ronnie Radke read the short story “The Strength of God” by Sherwood Anderson before writing the lyrics to this song (hey, you never know), but they’re eerily similar. In the story, a religious figure in the town finds himself struggling with his biblical morality and his intense desire for a woman he can see through his window. The story ends:
“‘I smashed the glass of the window,’ he cried. ‘Now it will have to be wholly replaced. The strength of God was in me and I broke it with my fist.’”
The matching Escape The Fate lyric:
“I have the remedy to the poisonous kiss/ I struck the glass/ It shatters bones in my fist.”
Alesana – “Heavy Hangs The Albatross” / Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Though Alesana’s The Emptiness is loosely based on select Edgar Allan Poe poems, most notably “Annabel Lee,” “Heavy Hangs The Albatross” references a different poet altogether. The band sticks to the plot of their concept album with the lyrics of this song, but the title of this track points to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.” After the mariner shoots down the giant albatross that circles his ship, he suffers a series of punishments, including wearing the dead bird around his neck. The albatross becomes a symbol of guilt for the mariner and fittingly describes the guilty conscience that haunts this song.
Ice Nine Kills – “Me, Myself & Hyde” / Robert Louis Stevenson
The infamous tale The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde was written by Robert Louis Stevenson and was first published way back in 1886. Despite its age, it remains influential to today’s artists, including Ice Nine Kills whose “Me, Myself & Hyde” from their latest album Every Trick In The Book was blatantly inspired by the sinister Jekyll/Hyde character. They even set the lyric video in computer animated London, where the original story takes place. In the INK song, the monster wins out in the end: “The doctor is dead/I bid thee farewell/Fuck my fate/Just save a seat for me in Hell.”
From First To Last – “I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up To No Good” / J. K. Rowling
Take out your copy of the Marauder’s Map for this one, because anyone who has read the Harry Potter series (so everyone) will immediately recognize this reference to J. K. Rowling’s hugely successful magical series. The map first appears in the third book of the series, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, when Fred and George Weasley present it to Harry so he can go on adventures of his own to Hogsmeade despite not having the proper permission. In order to reveal the map and not just find yourself staring at a blank piece of parchment, you must vow, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” You’ve never experienced Harry Potter like you do with this heavy and creepy FFTL song.
Motionless In White – “We Only Come Out At Night” / Bram Stoker
Travel back to MIW’s debut record Creatures and remember the opening to “We Only Come Out At Night” is a grainy recording of Bela Lugosi’s famous lines in the 1939 Dracula film:
“Listen to them, children of the night. What music they make.”
Though this sound bite is taken from the film, we all know that Dracula was originally a book written by Irishman Bram Stoker. Stoker was inspired by both Dr. John Polidori’s The Vampyre, which helped introduce vampires into fiction, and a Shakespearean actor who inspired many of Dracula’s famous mannerisms. On this track, Motionless In White take that character and craft an homage to everyone’s favorite bloodsucking aristocrat.
Note To Self – “We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes” / Alfred Hitchcock
Sticking to the realm of film, who among us doesn’t know the horror classic Psycho? The Hitchcock movie has inspired everything from television shows, to music, to other feature films, mainly because of the chilling Norman Bates character who crossdresses as his dead mother and murders people who stay at his roadside hotel. “We all go a little mad sometimes,” Norman says to his victim, Marion Crane, when they’re making polite—yet freaky—small talk. We wonder what Hitchcock would think of Note To Self’s take on the famous line.
The Devil Wears Prada – “Planet A” / Ray Bradbury
The Devil Wears Prada’s latest concept release, the Space EP, was not based around any work of art in particular, but rather just the concept of, well, space. However, listening to these six tracks, especially “Planet A,” we couldn’t help but be reminded of Ray Bradbury’s seminal collection of sci-fi short stories, The Illustrated Man. The short story “Kaleidoscope” specifically deals with members of a spaceship crew floating helplessly apart through space, knowing that they’re about to die. It’s not quite a perfect match point by point, but it’s interesting to put the two side by side.
Zoúme – “The Masque Of The Red Death” / Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe has influenced countless artists of all kinds. He was a dark guy who wrote dark stories, which naturally appeals to misfits. This song takes its title directly from Poe’s short story of the same name. The track opens with sounds of a lively party; loud chattering, the breaking of glasses, and then, of course, screams. Zoúme take this gothic tale on death and turn it into a roaring metalcore banger off their 2014 Storyteller EP.
Every Time I Die – “Romeo A Go Go” / Cervantes and Shakespeare
It’s no secret that ETID vocalist Keith Buckley is a pretty well-read dude. Proof? He manages to reference both Cervantes’s Don Quixote and Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet in the same 2 minute and 41 second song. “Tempt not a desperate man…” because he will show you how it’s done.