Cryptozoology: (from Greek κρυπτός, kriptos, "hidden" + zoology; literally, "study of hidden animals") The study of and search for animals which fall outside of contemporary zoological catalogs. (Wikipedia)
Heavy Metal: "The gods made heavy metal and they saw that is was good / They said to play it louder than Hell / We promised that we would." (Manowar)
Upon first glance, the worlds of cryptozoology and Heavy Metal may not seem to have much in common, but a closer inspection reveals that quite the opposite is true. Heavy Metal imagery is rife with cryptozoological specimens (or "cryptids"), from album covers to T-shirts and posters. Metal and cryptozoology have, in fact, had a long and fruitful relationship, probably one of the most harmonious marriages of science and art in recent memory. Several examples of Heavy Metal Cryptids (HMCs) are listed below, and while this is by no means a complete list, it should give you a good start in your own study of the Cryptozoologic Metal Kingdom.
Below: A classic example of an HMC, the wolf/man/deer from the cover of Suffocation's 1991 album, "Human Waste". Known as Homocervilupus suffocatius (literally, "Suffocation's man-deer-wolf"), its skeletal structure resembles that of Homo erectus, but several key elements give it away as an undiscovered species. First, the man-antlers (or "mantlers") reveal H. suffocatius to be linked somehow to the elk or deer kingdom. Confusing enough, but consider the large fangs. Similar to those of a saber-toothed cat, the main difference is that the fangs of H. suffocatius protrude from the LOWER mandible, rather than the upper jaw, proving this particular HMC to be some sort of sick, genetically mutated freak.
Probably the best known HMC is Motorhead's mascot Pachycaninus kilmeisterii (literally, "Kilmeister's elephant-dog"). This high-profile beast has the basic cephalic structure of the common dog (or canine), but with two small tusks protruding from either side of its mouth, similar to those of a mammoth or elephant (pachyderm). P. kilmeisterii appears in one form or another on almost every Motorhead album, and can be seen on T-shirts worn by everyone from the lowliest Haight Street crusty punk to well-known movie celebrities.
Another early British Metal band, Budgie, gave us a glimpse of the mysterious Were-akeet on the cover of their 1975 album "Bandolier" (above). Not much is known about the Were-akeet, but from its depiction here, we can deduce that it is some sort of parakeet/human hybrid that travels by horseback and hunts in groups of three.
Another part-man/part-animal hybrid of note is the Wereweasel (above and right), mascot and frequent album cover element for the long-running New York metal band Riot. The Wereweasel's hideous appearance makes it one of the most fearsome HMCs, resembling a cross between a puffy ferret and a Tenderloin crackhead.
Above: The Wereweasel reveals its crackhead tendencies as it squats to publicly defacate on the bones of its fallen foes. Riot was so fond of the image that they used it again (twice!) on the cover of a later album (below).
Above: A recent discovery in the world of Heavy Metal cryptozoology, Arachnibovinus homovorae (literally, "man-eating spider-cow) was featured on the cover of Cattle Decapitation's 2006 album, "Karma Bloody Karma". Due to its recent discovery, very little scientific research has been performed on this frightening cryptid, but judging from its appearance I think it's safe to say that A. homovorae should be considered ARMED and dangerous (pardon my tasteless pun).
Above: The menacing Brachyuradomus infernalis ("crab-house from Hell"), as featured on the cover of Sepultura's 1991 album "Arise". B. infernalis, a sea-dwelling creature, lures in its prey by resembling a totally sweet Satanic castle, but upon entry they are devoured by one of its many sharp-toothed mouth apertures. Hideous in countenance and malicious in demeanor, this album cover is the most realistic depiction of the beast, although Cryptopsy showed a mutant version of it on their 1994 album "Blasphemy Made Flesh" (below).
Above and right: Another mysterious HMC band mascot, Overkill's Cephalopteryx overkillum ("Overkill's winged head"). Though there are many species identified by the designation "cephalopod" (foot-head), such as snails and octopi, C. overkillum is the first species assigned to the "cephalopteryx" (winged-head) family, and as a result deserves further scientific scrutiny.
Above: A close relative of H. suffocatius, Homocervilupus triposopon (literally, "three-faced wolf-man-deer") appears on the cover of Mastodon's 2006 album "Blood Mountain". The telltale mantlers are, of course, present, with the main deviation being H. triposopon's odd facial structure. Not to be outdone by the two-faced cow (left), this HMC has the face of a wolf at either side of its head, in ADDITION to a deer face in front. Fascinating.
Well-known groove-metal band Pantera has tried to deny the existence of their 1983 debut album, "Metal Magic", for many reasons. But it's not just the shitty glam-metal contained therein that Pantera is trying to hide. "Metal Magic"'s cover depicted the elusive Brakanepsios pantera ("Pantera's cousin-of-Brak", so named due to its resemblance to Brak (right), recurring character from "Space Ghost Coast To Coast") for the first and only time, a decision that Pantera came to regret. You see, B. pantera is a secretive and violent beast, and when the band placed him on their album cover it became enraged, stalking them menacingly for years.
Some cryptozoologists attribute B. pantera's aggressive nature to its obvious lack of genitalia, but these claims have yet to be verified.
Below: Today's last example. Not neccessarily a "Metal" cryptid, Cultosaurus erectus is a member of the much broader Rock 'N' Roll cryptozoological realm. Generally benevolent and fond of bubblegum, you can read more about C. erectus in an old post I wrote here.
This concludes today's lesson. Thanks for reading and feel free to share any HMCs I might have missed in the 'Comments' section below. Your input, as always, is greatly appreciated.