A History Of The Umlaut In Popular Music (You Know, Those Two Little Dots Above A Letter That All The Metal Bands Use)

  • Amon Düül IIYeti

    [Artwork courtesy of Falk Rogner] [Record Company: Liberty Records and Repertoire Records]

  • Blue Öyster CultBlue Öyster Cult

    [Artwork courtesy of Bill Gawlik] [Record Company: Columbia]

  • Motörhead “Motorhead”

    [Artwork courtesy of Joe Petagn] [Record Company: Chiswick]
  • Mötley CrüeToo Fast for Love

    [Photo courtesy of Michael Pinter] [Record Company: Leathür and Elektra]

  • Husker DuEverything Falls Apart

    [Record Company: Reflex Records]

  • Terveet KädetÄäretön Joulu

    [Record Company: Hiljaiset Levyt and Poko Rekords]

  • Spinal TapThis Is Spinal Tap

    [Director: Rob Reiner]

  • BjörkVolta

    [Photo Credit: Nick Knight] [Designs courtesy of Bernard Willhelm, SHOWstudio] [Record Company: One Little Indian Records and Atlantic Records]

  • Jaÿ-ZReasonable Doubt

    [Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion] [Artwork courtesy of Cey Adams] [Record Company: Roc-A-Fella Records and Priority Records]

  • dälekFrom Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots

    [Record Company: Ipecac Recordings]

  • RöyksoppMelody A.M.

    [Record Company: Wall of Sound]

We often ponder the origins of famous band names, whether they be boy bands, metal bands or even just really offensive ones. It’s less often that we ponder the diacritical marks some bands use to make their monikers extra special. What’s a diacritical mark you ask? They’re the little doodads you often see above words in other languages that connote how it should be pronounced. The coolest of all diacritical marks is obviously the “umlaut,” which you see used by many heavy metal bands, such as Motörhead and Mötley Crüe. We started wondering, when did bands first start adding it to their logos and what does it mean anyway? 

Though used in many languages and also known as a “diaeresis,” most bands are mimicking the German usage which typically occurs over the vowels ä, ö and ü. The first bands to use the umlaut as part of their names actually were the German bands Amon Düül and Amon Düül II. Starting in the early 1970s however, hard rockers like Blue Öyster Cult began using it to give their logos a tough, Teutonic feel, conjuring up images of Viking hordes and gothic horror. In almost all cases among English speaking bands, the usage is purely for visual effect. But as the music industry went global, European musicians whose actual names made proper use of the umlaut began making inroads into the music scene. The umlaut was eventually adopted by musicians who just thought it looked cool, regardless of their genre or national origin.

This post isn’t meant to include every band that have ever used an umlaut in their name, so don’t start complaining Queensrÿche and Accüsed fans. Rather, we wanted to chart the evolution of its usage in popular music over the years, and what better way than by looking at album covers which prominently display umlaut-sporting band logos in all their non-phonetic glory. You might be surprised at some of the bands that have used them, so learn the history of the umlaut in music through 10 band names and logos. Hell, add one to your own name if you want to do like Motörhead’s Lemmy and make it “look mean.”

Go backstage at That Metal Show with Mötley Crüe guitarist Mick Mars and see if he can Stump The Trunk.