The vast influence of occultist Aleister Crowley in heavy metal is undeniable. You can throw a stone and hit a band that heavily employs themes of the occult, Satanism, and Thelema, the spiritual philosophy founded by Mr. Crowley himself. In addition to being a renowned ceremonial magician and self-proclaimed prophet, “the wickedest man in the world” was also a revered writer and novelist who produced an abundance of poetry and literature throughout his lifetime. It wasn’t just his teachings or writings about alchemy and magick that made him metal AF, but he also had a rockstar mystique, shocking the masses while indulging in sex and drugs until his death at age 72.

Crowley was publicized for his recreational drug use, particularly cocaine and heroin, and also his openness about his promiscuity. His bisexuality was still extremely taboo and illegal at the time, and that got him booted not only from the first ever occult society he joined, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but also from Sicily by Mussolini himself for “sexual depravity.” Now that’s punk rock!

Follow the Songs Inspired by Aleister Crowley Spotify playlist.

Ozzy Osbourne - “Mr. Crowley” It wouldn’t be right if this list didn’t kick off with the OG of evil, the Prince of Darkness himself. Osbourne was inspired to write this song after finding a deck of tarot cards in the studio and reading a book about Crowley. The song helped Osbourne carry his satanic presence over into his solo career after departing from Black Sabbath.

Iron Maiden “Moonchild” Maiden pay homage to one of Crowley’s most revered fictional novels with the title and lyrics of “Moonchild.” In the book, there is a war between the white and black magicians. A charming white magician seduces a famous dancer and convinces her to let him impregnate her with a divine child, claiming that this child will end the war. Maiden not only make references to the story’s themes of motherhood and occultism in the lyrics but the line “hear the mandrake scream” is a nod to Mandrake Press, the original publisher of the book.

Ministry “Golden Dawn” The title of this track from Ministry’s infamous Land of the Rape and Honey LP is a nod to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a British-based occult society that studied and practiced paranormal activities, metaphysics, and magic. Crowley was a member of this freemason-founded organization, where he learned about drug ritualism and ceremonial magic. Taking it a step further, Ministry use samples of Crowley’s “Call of the Second Aethyr," an Enochian chant used to summon spirits.

Behemoth “O Father, O Satan, O Sun” Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without a contribution from Behemoth, a band that has centered their music, lyrics, artwork, and stage performances around Satanism and the occult. On this particular song from The Satanist, the band delivers their own take on “The Bornless Ritual,” which Crowley popularized. The ritual is essentially used prior to magic ceremonies to invoke the spirit of “The Bornless One,” the master entity of which all spirits, regardless if they are good or evil, are subservient.

Exhorder “The Law” This thrash metal classic opens with the line, “Do what thou wilt shall be whole of the law,” which is perhaps one of Crowley’s most famous quotes and the main principle of Thelema, a spiritual philosophy and religion developed by the occultist. The term is derived from ancient Greek and religious scripture in which it is typically used to depict the will of mankind. In his own philosophical developments, Crowley encouraged practitioners of Thelema, otherwise known as Thelemites, to follow their own “true will.”

David Bowie “Quicksand” Bowie’s tribute to Crowley is straightforward in this Hunky Dory track. The song opens right up with the line, “I'm closer to the Golden Dawn / Immersed in Crowley's uniform / Of imagery.” In Sean Egan’s Bowie on Bowie: Interviews and Encounters with David Bowie (Musicians in Their Own Words), the Starman explained of his influences, “My overriding interest was in Kabbalah and Crowleyism. That whole dark and rather fearsome never–world of the wrong side of the brain.”

Samael “Crown” The line “A crown of thorns is still a crown” is taken directly from Crowley’s poem, “The Titanic.” The poem indeed was written about the infamous ill-fated voyage, while the song is an emotional piece on the pain of heartbreak.

Mercyful Fate “Desecration of Souls” While King Diamond claims that the readings of Crowley never appealed to him, he still incorporated themes of Thelema into his work with Mercyful Fate because he regards it as fantasy, much like the Necronomicon. In addition to implementing the line, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” into the song “The Oath,” much like Exhorder, but the lyrics of “Desecration of Souls” appear to be reflective of the plot of Moonchild. Not only does the opening line sing, “Stay away White Magician,” which is one of the opposing forces of the mage war in the novel, but it also depicts two lovers having sex in a graveyard. This could be indicative of the conceivement of protagonist Lisa la Giuffria’s child.

Vital Remains  “Immortal Crusade” Vital Remains narrate this Into Cold Darknesssong from the perspective of being the bornless one. In true Vital Remains fashion, the band also make many a reference to Lucifer and hell as well.

Marilyn Manson, “Misery Machine” And last, but certainly not least, is the Pale Emperor himself. Manson sings, “We're gonna ride to the abbey of Thelema” on this song from his debut album. As if the Thelema reference wasn’t clear enough, he throws in the line, “Do what I will,” further driving home the main principle of the Crowley-founded religion.

Follow the Songs Inspired by Aleister Crowley Spotify Playlist