Shock rock and heavy metal

One thing I’ve noticed in some heavy metal is the influence of shock rock. All the way back to the 70’s, when flower power was declared dead and Alice Cooper first let loose.


Alice Cooper’s act consisted of not just facial make-up, but also stage performances that shocked audiences in the 70’s and 80’s. This would also inspire acts like KISS in the 70’s, and W.A.S.P. in the 80’s, who would evolve the facial paint and shocking performances respectively, although KISS had pyrotechnics in their shows. AC/DC’s Angus Young was also wild on show, and was known for jumping across the stage. Another artist who took on these elements was King Diamond, who would adopt facial paint in both his band Mercyful Fate and his solo career, and his on-stage persona was also in some ways reminiscent of Alice Cooper.

A W.A.S.P. live show.

Later on, the face paint of King Diamond since Mercyful Fate would become a black metal tradition, as many black metal bands employ this. Come to think of it, shock rock is elementary in black metal, especially in Norway. And the king of black metal shock rock has got to be the Norwegian band Gorgoroth, whose live shows take the principle of shock rock to disturbing and extreme levels, to the point that they make W.A.S.P. seem tame by comparison.

King Diamond from Mercyful Fate.

Non-black metal acts also took up shock rock elements in the 90’s. This includes Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, and, one of my favourite acts, Rob Zombie. Marilyn Manson is probably the most notable due to his controversial stage shows, which include burning the American flag (which Rage Against the Machine did later), desecrating Bibles, and handing out drugs to the audience. Slipknot band members were rather disturbing costumes and their concerts are known to be out of control. And Rob Zombie can be seen in facial makeup in concerts and promotional pictures, and I’ve heard his stage shows have pyrotechnics in an interview with him.

Rob Zombie

Of course, there’s probably more to the story, but I just felt like expressing my thoughts on the influence of shock rock as an element of heavy metal acts.


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