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Virginia Beach, VA epic death metal duo Foretoken have returned and are poised to leave a grandiose mark on 2023 with their sophomore full-length, Triumphs, which was released via Prosthetic Records on March 17.

Following their 2020 debut long player, Ruin, Foretoken’s latest album sees the group expand upon their foundations of meticulously lofty soundscapes, mythological narratives, and elaborate musicianship. Utilizing traditional narratives of myths, legends, and folklore from a wide range of Western and Middle Eastern origins, Triumphs examines the ignored collateral damage of the cost of victory through these established mythos.

In a bit of a twist we asked vocalist and lyricist Dan Cooley to write about the core myths and folklore tales that inspired Triumphs.

Dan comments: “When writing epic death metal songs one needs proper inspiration, and the stories found in mythology, legends, and folklore provide a ton. From ancient Greek and Roman myths of tragedy to Norse legends of violence and betrayal, these stories serve as cautionary tales. Foretoken borrows from this world tradition by blending extreme metal and symphonic elements to retell these stories of violence, tragedy, and sorrow.

Here are 5 myths and/or legends that found their way from the pages of history into our new album Triumphs.”

Cú Chulainn, The Hound of Ulster

Cú Chulainn is a legendary hero of Irish mythology and his story is told in the song, ‘His Riastrad’. He is the son of the god Lugh and the mortal woman Deichtine and is best known for his heroic deeds and battle prowess. Some notable feats (at least to me) include throwing an apple through a man’s head and shaking another so hard that he became incontinent for the remainder of his life. On a more serious note, outside of possessing already superhuman strength, he can transform into a terrifying monstrous form known as the “warp spasm.” In this form he fails to distinguish friend from foe as he dominates the battlefield. Cú Chulainn died in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which is the central epic of the Ulster Cycle in Irish mythology. According to the legend, he was mortally wounded in battle against the forces of Queen Medb of Connacht, who was attempting to steal the prized brown bull of Ulster. Despite his wounds, Cú Chulainn continued to fight and hold off the enemy, before tying himself to a standing stone so he could die on his feet as a warrior. Cú Chulainn is one of the most well-known figures in Irish mythology and is often compared to the Greek hero Achilles. 

La Llorona, The Weeping Woman

La Llorona is a figure from Mexican folklore and she is featured in the song, ‘The Wraith That Weeps’. According to legend (although there are different versions of her story), she was a beautiful woman who drowned her own children in a fit of rage and/or jealousy before drowning herself. At the gates of heaven, she was not permitted to enter without the souls of her children.  She now wanders the earth, weeping, wailing, and searching for them – although she is not above drowning stray children she finds and using their souls to see if she can finally gain entry to heaven. In some ways, she’s similar to the Irish banshees, because like the banshee, if you hear her cries it is said to be a sign of impending death or misfortune. La Llorona is often used as a cautionary tale to warn children to stay away from dangerous bodies of water, and it is also used to explain strange noises or occurrences near rivers, creeks, or canals.

Zhong Kui, The King of Ghosts

Zhong Kui is a powerful demon hunter and exorcist from Chinese mythology and his story is told in the song, ‘Demon Queller’.  He is often depicted as an intimidating figure, with a fierce expression, holding a sword in one hand and a magic bag in the other. This bag is filled with the ghosts he has captured. In Chinese folklore, Zhong Kui is considered a powerful protector against evil spirits and demons, and is often invoked to ward off bad luck and disease. He is also known to have the ability to command 80,000 demons and ghosts. However, Zhong Kui was not always a god though, he began his life as a mortal man. He was once a scholar who was denied an advisory position to the emperor because of his appearance. Overcome with grief he took his own life. He would later be recognized for his intelligence and courage and was granted a position in the afterlife as the King of Ghosts, by the god of death and ruler of the underworld, King Yan.


Zahhak, The Serpent King

Zahhak comes from Persian mythology, and his story is told in the song, ‘The Serpent King’s Venom’. He is the main antagonist in the Persian epic poem Shahnameh, written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi. According to the story, Zahhak was once a handsome and ambitious prince, but he was seduced and possessed by Ahriman (the devil-like figure of Zoroastrianism), who convinced him to kill his own father so Zahhak could take the throne. As a result of this, two snakes grew out of his shoulders.  These serpents could only be pacified by the daily sacrifice of two human brains – he tried non-human first but to no avail. He was eventually defeated by the Persian hero Fereydun, who was able to capture and imprison him in the legendary Mount Damavand. Zahhak is often considered as a symbol of treachery and tyranny, and his story is used to exhibit the dangers of ambition and the corrupting influence of evil.

Nuckelavee, The Devil of the Sea

The Nuckelavee is a frightening creature from the Orkney Islands which is an archipelago off the northern coast of Scotland. It is considered to be one of if not the most terrifying figures in Scottish folklore. The Nuckelavee is often described as a freakishly large giant horse-like demon fused with a human rider – like a centaur from Greek mythology. The horse head has a glowing red eye, the human head is larger than a normal man’s with longer arms to match. It has no skin, so those unlucky enough to witness it can see its raw, writhing muscles, with black blood flowing through its veins. The Nuckelavee’s breath is said to be toxic and would cause crops to wither and die. Aside from its grotesque appearance, it is known for its malevolent nature. The Nuckelavee delights in causing droughts, blights, and plagues and overall mayhem to both man and beast. According to Orcadian legend, the Nuckelavee is said to live in the sea, and would come on land during the summer months to wreak havoc on the farmers’ crops and livestock. It is also said that the creature has an aversion to fresh water, so people would build barriers of turf and stones to keep the creature at bay. The Nuckelavee is a symbol of the dangers of the natural world and is often used to explain natural disasters or other unexplained phenomena.

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