As this month’s cover feature explores, Slayer may have made the art of shocking their calling card, but they were by no means alone. Be it through panicking the church, frightening parents or chucking poo, countless bands have pushed the envelope in the name of sticking a middle finger up at all that is safe, sanitary and decent. We salute the metal moments that outraged, disgusted and appalled the world at large, through the absolute fiends that made it all happen.
WATAIN SPILL BLOOD ON U.S. SOIL
For anyone with a functioning sense of smell, Watain’s shows have been notoriously noxious experiences. The Swedes’ obsession with the spiritual properties of putrefaction sees them bedeck their stages with rotting animal carcasses and use pigs’ blood of uncertain vintage as incense, ensuring the first rows are occupied by their most ardent followers. But when the band stopped by at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, New York, in June last year, their onstage ritual caused a stir on gossip website TMZ. It reported that the Swedish black metallers “sprayed pigs’ blood on concertgoers”, which triggered a “vomit-fest” in the audience. A clip of the gig footage was labelled as “DISGUSTING”.
“Having blood as an integral part our performances, of course, opens up for unusual situations every now and then. In general, the use of blood adds to tension, wonder, disgust, a primal upheaval of the mind and spirit. Something predatory, even…” vocalist Erik Danielsson tells us. “When TMZ stumbled into our show in Brooklyn, all of this was new to them, and I can imagine the confusion and shock they must have felt when seeing a human skull– adorned with goat horns and lush human hair – on an altar, constituting the chalice from which blood was being generously sharedwith the audience.”
MARILYN MANSON INVADES THE MAINSTREAM
Marilyn Manson rode into the living rooms of America on a wave of hype, half-truths and self-mythologising that swiftly saw him installed as the numero uno cultural bogeyman in a country with no shortage of sick-fuck fruitcakes. Twenty years ago, the US was still a nation built on a fervent belief in God, guns and government. It was ripe for provocation.
A 1994 debut album, Portrait Of An American Family, and 1995’s provocatively titled Smells Like Children EP saw the artists previously known as Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids gain underground notoriety, much of it due to a close association with producer/mentor Trent Reznor. But it was 1996’s Antichrist Superstar that made Manson a global proposition, ever ready to provoke the perceived cornerstones of the establishment and prick the bubble of hypocritical religious piety.
In the early days of the internet, much of the band’s mainstream infiltration was down to press coverage and a strongly cultivated image. Rumours abounded: Manson had sucked off Reznor. Bassist Twiggy Ramirez had sucked off Manson. Manson had had ribs removed so he could suck himself off. He had smoked human bones. He sacrificed goats and kidnapped kids. He was a former child actor. He was the Devil incarnate.
“When I wrote Antichrist…, it was grandiose of me to predict what was going to happen to me in achieving fame,” Manson reflected in 2000, of the role he nurtured. “It’s the old art-imitating-life argument, and as things went along, Antichrist… began to write my life and I became what I’d feared as a child.”
The publication of Manson’s 1998 memoir, The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, sealed his reputation. It documented his journey from teenage rock dork rooting through his grandfather’s wanking dungeon to budding journalist, and concluded with a band on the cusp, complete with tales of tour mayhem: death threats, S&M sessions and narcotics. To illustrate the gullibility of the public – and perhaps demonstrate the power of image – it also featured sworn affidavits from gig-goers who attested to witnessing such things as a vibrator-wielding “female guitar player”, and Manson having sex with a dog onstage. All bullshit, of course.
“I’ve never been interested in shocking,” Manson tells Hammer today. “I just like to get people to think. You can’t be a rock star without scars and experience… I’m not willing to abide by all the rules, but I do have a moral code. I’ll break the law if I feel it’s necessary. I don’t want to get arrested, but I’ll defend and protect everything that I love and care about.”
Manson became the figure-head for the world’s freaks and outsiders. And unlike the mass media, they understood him: “My fans understand the delineation between the different characters on Manson albums,” he explained. “When I say characters, I mean the role that I play. And when I play a role it’s something I live. ‘Characters’ refers to it in layman’s terms, because I don’t ever feel like I’m truly living a role.”
That he did it all in a G-string while professing a passion for the occult, sex and cocaine, not to mention a distaste for all authority, ensured Manson was hounded by the right-wing media wherever he went in the 90s. His career was made.
“I’ve taken a stand when other people have been afraid to,” he remarked. “That’s something to be proud of. I feel responsible for people who remind me of myself, and my fans remind me of how I was when I was growing up. There’s no one there for them to say, ‘What about their rights? What about their feelings?’”
IRON MAIDEN COMMIT HOLY WAR
For Iron Maiden, The Number Of The Beast changed everything. Not only did it make them arguably the most important metal band of their era, it also gave rise to rumours and stories that made them one of the world’s most controversial bands. First off, the album title’s Satantic glint led some people to believe the band were dabbling in the black arts while they were in the studio. There were reports of uncanny and unexplained incidents, such as odd, spontaneous sounds turning up on tapes when they were played back. However, shortly after the album’s release in 1982, frontman Bruce Dickinson was determined to dump those tales in the metaphorical incinerator.
“We had quite a few things go wrong in the studio when we were recording. You could put it down to dark powers if you like, but I don’t believe in that,” he laughs. “Every time you go into the studio, something will go wrong. Maybe we had more than our fair share this time. But… it’s equipment failure, nothing supernatural or spooky.”
But Clive Burr, on what would be his final album with Maiden, disagreed with the vocalist over the cause of these unusual occurrences.
“I felt that, at times, the atmosphere in the studio was weird,” he said early in 1982. “You could feel a presence, and sometimes when I was playing drums there the temperature would drop. Now, I’m not suggesting we were being haunted, but nobody could explain it away.”
It was actually producer Martin Birch who became the most anxious during the recording process, as Steve Harris explained soon after the album’s release.
“One weird thing that happened was that Martin went to get his car repaired after it had been in an accident, and the bill came to £666. He was so freaked out that he insisted the garage charged him £667! It must have been the first time that garage had ever come across someone who demanded to pay more.”
Whether this story is true or was a publicity stunt from the band to create a little more spice around the album is open to conjecture, but a lot of people seemed convinced Maiden were openly glorying in Satanism. While the subject matter of some of the songs was certainly in this vein, there was no question of the band indulging in these practices.
“If we were a pop band, do you think anyone would claim we were Devil-worshippers?” questioned Bruce at the time. “It’s because we are a heavy metal band that we get those sort of comments. And it’s why we get interviewers believing they have to ask us. It’s crazy. Come on, what about the lyrics to 22 Acacia Avenue? Has anyone suggested we’re running a brothel? Of course not. But it’s equally stupid to have questions asked about our ‘love of Satan’!”
When Maiden toured in the UK and Europe, there wasn’t even a ripple of outrage from religious groups about The Number Of The Beast. But things were a little different in America, where, Steve admitted later, they did get unwanted, and unwarranted, attention. Some protestors even burned the band’s records, while fanatical religious factions smashed them with hammers instead, for fear of inhaling the unholy smoke given off by the fires.
“We had a lot of Christian groups protesting outside venues in America. Sometimes they’d chant ‘Rot in Hell!’ at us. These people really do believe we’re Satanists. But it hasn’t caused us any problems. If anything, it’s helped to publicise the album,” the bassist explained.
Some religious factions handed out leaflets protesting about Maiden’s support for Lucifer; one group went so far as to erect a 25-foot cross outside a venue, to draw attention to the band’s perceived negative influence. But, as Steve pointed out, all this did was help sales of The Number Of The Beast, and showed up the ignorance of those who believed Maiden should be boycotted.
“The people obviously haven’t read our lyrics,” insisted Steve. “Otherwise, they’d understand how wrong they are!”
CRADLE OF FILTH GET INTO A BAD HABIT
Back in 1993, Ipswich’s finest were about to tour with Emperor when they came up with the devilish idea to print a controversial t-shirt. On the front would be a picture of a nun masturbating with a cross and the phrase ‘Vestal Masturbation’. On the back, the immortal words ‘Jesus Is A Cunt’. Cue 22 years of arrests and incidents, the most recent of which happened in February of this year, and saw a woman spray-paint a display of the shirt in a New Zealand museum. She was asked to leave, funnily enough, but not arrested.
“I’m glad there is still some satisfaction to be had from the occasional religious uproar, especially in these over-zealous times, where issues of real importance are overshadowed by the rather cheeky slandering of a mythical deity,” reflects frontman Dani Filth today. “And I know if Heaven truly existed, there would definitely be a few words to be had with St Peter at the Pearly Gates for anyone wearing it. Though on closer inspection, one way or another I’m sure he would eventually see the fanny side of things…”
KING 810 COME OUT ALL GUNS BLAZING
After Ohio’s Rock On The Range festival last May, reports came in of a metal band playing shows flanked by armed gunmen. The firearms might have been fake, but King 810’s statements about their crime-filled home city of Flint were menacingly real. “I don’t care if people don’t like it, or don’t approve, or they’re unsatisfied, or think we suck,” David Gunn says of attitudes towards their violent imagery. “I hope that people get that this is a true story.” When the band made it to the UK in September, they brought the ‘gunmen’ with them.
NEUROSIS FIND A SUICIDE SOLUTION
For the reissue of their Pain Of Mind debut album in 1994, Neurosis used an image of Robert ‘Budd’ Dwyer – a scandal-ridden US politician who had shot himself in front of reporters gathered at a press conference in 1987. The suicide had been captured by cameras, and was broadcast on Pennsylvania TV that day. When Neurosis toured Europe in 1997, a decade after Budd’s death, they went one step further by playing the full video on a loop throughout their sets. As a visceral symbol of corruption and deliverance it was hard to beat, but it left an indelible scar on their aghast audiences.
L7 STAGE A BLOODY PROTEST
Back in 1992, when LA all-female grunge-punk band L7 took to the stage at Reading Festival, they met with an unfavourable response. Singer Donita Sparks’ solution? To remove her bloody tampon and fling it at the unsuspecting onlookers.
“Some in the crowd were hostile and throwing mud onto the stage, hitting us and our guitars. We were having equipment problems, too, resulting in our set’s flow being a little off,” Donita tells us. “That’s where my own personal, biological flow came into the picture. I pulled out my tampon and threw it at the crowd, proclaiming, ‘Eat my used tampon, fuckers!’ I put the ‘red’ in ‘Reading’.”
For Donita, it was a chance to regain control of a frustrating situation, in the most punk rock way possible. “I went feminist performance art on their asses!” she laughs. No strangers to shock tactics, years later L7 raffled off a one-night stand with their drummer, Dee Plakas, with Donita announcing, “Rock’n’roll is prostitution. We want to give our fans more bang for their bucks!”
RAGE GET WILLY SERIOUS
In 1993 in Philadelphia, Rage Against The Machine took to the stage at the Lollapalooza festival stark naked, with black tape over their mouths. Each member had a letter of PMRC on their chests, in protest against the Parents Music Resource Center, who were responsible for the Parental Advisory stickers. Rather than playing their set, the revolutionary rap-metal band simply leaned their instruments against the amps and let them feed back. As the crowd became restless, police hauled the bandmembers offstage. “That was a… special moment,” recalls bassist Tim Commerford.
DILLINGER LOSE THEIR SHIT
Ten years after L7’s messy set at Reading, Greg Puciato expressed his distaste for the state of music by pooping into a plastic bag and throwing it into the crowd during the math metal icons’ Sunday Main Stage opening slot.
“I was young and obnoxious and full of uncontrollable energy, and I wanted to destroy everything that I thought sucked just as much as I wanted to create things of my own,” he explains today. “The early 2000s weren’t exactly a high watermark for music, and I figured The Dillinger Escape Plan would maybe be around a few years at most, so I felt it was necessary to do as much damage as possible. Attack, destroy, create – any and all of those as often as I could. Now I’d rather just let output speak for itself, but 22-year-oldme was all about any means necessary…”
GWAR CROSS THE LINE
In their 1992 film, Phallus In Wonderland, GWAR disembowelled a priest and sodomised him with his own cross. Needless to say, it didn’t go down well in certain circles. “Father Bohab was a puffed-up paedophile,” vocalist/bassist Blothar tells Hammer. “A predatory ‘man of the cloth’. The ‘cloth’, for GWAR, is nothing but a filthy sock used to wipe up our caustic cum after another disappointing wank. Father Bohab and other figureheads of organized religion seek to deceive humans at their weakest point by offering false hope in a desperate and cruel world.”
NINE INCH NAILS SUFFER FOR THEIR ART
Depicting a man lying on a table being tortured by a machine, experiencing pain and pleasure as his blood drips down to fertilise plants below, and finally getting ground into meat, Nine Inch Nails’ Happiness In Slavery video was banned on multiple networks. The concept was a twist on the novel The Torture Garden, where wealthy people visit a Chinese prison garden to witness torture.
“The difference is that in Happiness…, people enter willingly,” explains director Jon Reiss. “In my idea they are seeking a transcendent experience, and the room provides that to them in exchange for feeding the garden.”
The protagonist was played by Bob Flanagan, a writer and performer who used sadomasochism to fight the pain of cystic fibrosis.
“On the first cut, Trent felt the experience seemed too painful, so we actually did reshoots to get a more pleasurable expression from Bob,” reveals Jon. “We didn’t really rip him to pieces and grind him up into hamburger meat! However, whenever you don’t see flesh being ripped, that is all real.”
OZZY STEPS ON TEXAS
In 1982, Ozzy famously caused outrage when he pissed on The Alamo Cenotaph. To Texans, this was the defiling of a revered monument, and the singer was arrested, although bailed in time to play that night in San Antonio. However, a riot at the show, coupled with his earlier action, led to him getting a city-wide ban, which stayed in place for a decade. “I was drunk at the time; I don’t know why I did it,” he confessed. Fair enough.
BLACK METAL GETS FIRED UP
The black metal movement was reignited – rather literally – in early 90s Norway, primarily by Euronymous and his band Mayhem. As well as pioneering a new musical approach, Euronymous and his comrades (including Burzum’s Varg Vikernes, the man who would later kill him) demonstrated a militant ethos involving assaults and church burning. The arsonists of Bergen’s historic wooden stave church in Fantoft were never found, but the remains later featured on the cover of Burzum’s Aske (‘Ashes’) EP.
SHINING MAKE A BLOOD PACT
Depressive black metallers Shining already had a reputation for self-destruction when, in 2006, they issued a statement saying that their founder Niklas Kvarforth was missing, feared dead, but they had appointed a successor for the band’s live return. This replacement turned out to be a disguised Niklas, and the show in question in Halmstad, Sweden, 2007, saw him assaulted by various guest musicians including ex-Mayhem frontman Maniac who, incidentally, had a swastika carved in his forehead. Razors were allegedly thrown into the audience. The media reports were hysterical. “‘The desperate screams from the women and children. Through my ringing ears I could still hear them. I will never forget that night… never,’” mocks Niklas today. “No. Of course not. Not even close. But [it was] probably not that far away from what some of you have heard. That gig was a perfect example of small-town Swedish journalists unable to understand something that was a little bit different.”
SLIPKNOT VS THE WORLD
From the moment Slipknot came stomping into the world, there were telltale signs that their lifestyle was as extreme as their music. Subtle giveaways, mind, such as them getting high by huffing on a crow’s corpse in a jar. This foul, infamous deed happened in 1996, during Slipknot’s first few hometown shows at Des Moines reggae club Safari, a renowned shithole beside a church. When metalheads gathered to see this crazy mob of young maniacs, Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan gave them more than they bargained for.
“I had the same dead bird in a jar for five weeks,” Shawn revealed. “Every week, I would come onstage with it, and it was starting to liquefy. I’d open the jar lid, then puke in my mask all over myself – I made sure I ate before the show. I’d hand the jar to the kids and they’d put their hands in there, touch this bird, then wipe it on their faces, stick it in their mouth.”
Slipknot’s creature-related onstage antics didn’t end there: at one point, beaver-munching occurred in the name of entertainment. “Corey and I got this tail from a fan, who was actually a police officer,” Shawn recalled. “In Iowa, beaver tails are extremely illegal unless you have a permit to trap beaver.”
Shawn gave the tail to frontman Corey Taylor, just before they went onstage. “Next thing you know,” said Shawn, “Corey and I pretty much started digesting this tail. We were squeezing the juice; oozing the fluids all over us.”
As Corey told it, “We got offstage and we were puking our guts up. What the fuck were we thinking? But when you’re onstage, in that zone, you’ll do anything and everything possible to bring all that negative stuff out of your system.
I don’t know if that’s good or bad…” When Slipknot felt they’d started to attract the wrong kind of “trendy” gig-goers in Des Moines, they responded by compiling a video of what Shawn has described as “the sickest shit you’ll ever see in your life. Shit, piss, you name it” – and screening it during a Safari club show.
Half the audience walked out. Job done. The band’s uncompromising war on decency showed no sign of abating when they signed to Roadrunner and released their self-titled 1999 debut. If anything, it only bought them more stuff to hurl around US Ozzfest stages that summer. Enormous metal keg-drums and mic stands spent more time in the air than they did onstage, creating a dangerous atmosphere which mirrored the music perfectly. Show DJ Sid Wilson any given balcony, and he’d throw himself off it. The spectacle was unspeakably, thrillingly intense. “We were jacked,” then-drummer Joey Jordison recalled. “We were maniacal. We were ready to kill!”
One particularly shocking moment came at that year’s Seattle Ozzfest, when Shawn smashed his head open on his own keg, cutting himself right down to the bone. “My mask was full of blood,” he recalled. “I must have swallowed two pints. The band kept playing, so when the ambulance people tried to take me away, I told them to chill the fuck out because I wanted to watch the greatest band in the world. It was pretty much one of the most religious experiences I’ve ever had – the pain and pleasure all in one.”
Shawn toned his act down just a touch after emerging from hospital with 39 stitches, but Sid would still piss all over Shawn’s drums before the two of them rolled in the puddle, punching each other in the face. So every cloud has a yellow lining. Thankfully, Shawn has yet to indulge his most deranged onstage fantasy: “I’ve seriously, sickly, in my own head, thought about breaking my own limbs during shows, then continuing to play.”
Over the years, there have been many broken bones, severe back problems, sprains, bruises, concussion and third-degree burns. The band have been stupidly accused of inspiring real-life killers, and wacko religious extremists still travel to Des Moines to protest outside their homes – the latter being a great sign that Slipknot have still got the magic. That putrid crow in the jar, however, has never made a comeback.
SOCIETY 1 COME OUT SWINGING
At Download 2005, Society 1 singer Matt Zane spent his set suspended from meat hooks, wildly swinging above the Main Stage. It was the first time he’d attempted a full show while suspended, and it provided one of the year’s biggest talking points. He even upped the ante by using only four hooks instead of the ‘usual’ six.
“The festival played a video of me getting pierced backstage before we went on and I could hear the 80,000 people roar,” Matt remembers. “I think it may have been from that moment I went into a kind of shamanistic trance. I don’t remember much from the actual performance; I just remember standing at the edge of the stage after it was over. I had finally achieved something I’ve been dreaming of since I was a child – creating rock history.”
His recovery was not without difficulties, though. “We were on a plane the next day to begin another tour in the States, and my wounds bled through my shirt onto the airplane seats…
BEHEMOTH GET RIPPED
During the Kentucky date of 2007’s Sounds Of The Underground tour, Behemoth played after Christian band The Devil Wears Prada, who had a Bible with them. Nergal asked a stage tech to bring him the holy book before Behemoth played Christians To The Lions, where he ripped it up onstage. The band continued the Bible-defacing practice on the touring cycle for The Apostasy album, but their show in Gdynia, Poland, took on extra significance when officials, at the behest of the All-Polish Committee for Defense Against Sects, accused the band of promoting Satan, leading to a protracted court case that the frontman eventually won.
“To me it had a much deeper aspect than it seems to some people,” reflects Nergal today. “It was really a freedom cause in Polish history, and it was definitely a groundbreaking shift for all the art now and in the future. Because art is all about being free!”
BODY COUNT COP A FEEL
The lyrics of Cop Killer (‘Cop Killer – it’s better you than me/Cop Killer – fuck police brutality’) sparked so much anger from police associations and members of Congress that Ice-T agreed to remove the track from Body Count’s debut album. “If you believe that I’m a cop killer,” the rapper pointed out, “you believe David Bowie is an astronaut.”
BRING ME THE HORIZON TRY CROWD CONTROL
In October 2011, BMTH made headlines after violence broke out at a show in Salt Lake City, USA. When they stopped to make sure a fan was OK, the crowd started getting rowdy, so Oli poured bottled water on their heads, triggering
a bunch of guys to climb onstage and start brawling with the band. Down in the audience, a young girl’s jaw was broken in the melee
RAMMSTEIN SWAP PYRO FOR PORNO
From getting arrested for indecency to pissing off fire marshals, Rammstein and controversy go hand in hand, but it was their video for 2009’s Pussy that really got people talking, as body doubles of the band had sex with adult actresses on camera.
“I heard the song and read the lyrics, and my treatment to the band was, ‘Let’s do porn’,” remembers director and former Bathory member Jonas Åkerlund, who has also directed controversial clips such as The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up and Satyricon’s Fuel For Hatred. “The band said, ‘Yes!’ It was that easy. We shot it in Berlin in a real brothel, with real porn stars, and they were super-professional. So you don’t get a boner on set or anything like that. It’s just like shooting a normal video, except you have to say, ‘And now we do the cumshot’. The goal is always to get reactions, whether people are horny or pissed off or whatever that may be – you just want to touch people and make a fingerprint in people’s lives.”
BABYMETAL BREAK THE INTERNET
They may be cuter than a button, but that didn’t stop Babymetal causing an outrage of their own when their Give Me Chocolate! video was picked up by western news sites. Millions of views soon followed, but the mixture of J-pop hooks and metal riffage induced an internet meltdown, and the debates rage on to this day. Are they metal? Is this OK?! A sneaky Download appearance, a showing at the 2015 Golden Gods and a projected Wembley Arena show next year have ensured that the invasion is complete