A couple of weeks back, apropos of the kinda disconcerting intensity of the excellent new album by Death Grips, we published a feature about the most terrifying people in hip hop. The idea proved mildly controversial, but we’re happy to say most readers saw the feature for what it was: a lighthearted idea with utility across a bunch of genres. As such, we thought we’d follow up this week with the other genre that’s been the bête noire of respectable parental types over the years: metal. As with hip hop, this is a genre that’s produced its fair share of genuinely disconcerting characters — we’ve nominated a few after the jump, and as ever, we’re open to suggestions.
Slipknot are old hat these days, but there was something genuinely disconcerting about them when they first emerged from Iowa in the early 2000s — and none more so than founder and percussionist Shawn Crahan, a man given to bringing the carcass of a bird in a jar with him on stage, and sniffing it before starting a set (a trick he may have borrowed from Dead of Mayhem, of whom more shortly). Apart from Crahan’s corpse-sniffing ways and general air of barely suppressed rage, there’s also the fact that clowns are just inherently scary.
Listening to a record by this enigmatic collective is like being transported into the same dimension that enveloped the unfortunate crew of the spaceship in Event Horizon. Stalaggh/Gulaggh’s music samples the screams of mental patients and distressed children — the excerpt you can hear above is from Vorkuta, a record which was inspired by the notorious Russian prison camp of the same name and came in a limited edition box set with photos of the camp and, wait for it, an actual engraved human bone. It’s genuinely disturbing listening, and all the more so because very little is known about its creators — as they note in this rare interview, “We do not like being called any form of ‘artist.’ Art is creative, we are destructive.”
What to say about a man who purchased a skeleton, named it “Melissa,” and then wrote a series of love songs to it? (Sample lyric: “Melissa, do you remember the time we shared?/ Do you remember the magic nights?/ I will never forget your smile/ Do you remember the love we had?”) The fact that the songs are so absurd somehow makes them even more disconcerting.
Seriously, it’s that damn nose!
Yes, yes, we know that all the stuff in their songs is imaginary, and you can’t take it literally, and in real life they’re probably lovely guys, and etc. But still, we can’t help but think we’d be more than a little uncomfortable around people who can write songs with titles like “Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s Cunt,” or “Fucked With a Knife,” or “Hacksaw Decapitation,” or “Necropedophile.” Also, we can’t help but note that there’s a pretty rancid whiff of misogyny about their output, whether its subject matter is serious or not.
Extreme metal types Portal have made a career out of strange and discomfiting Lovecraft-influenced music, so it’s only appropriate that their frontman The Curator should transform himself into a creepy Lovecraftian apparition on stage. (In a previous incarnation, he wore a clock on his head, which rather made us think of The Mighty Boosh‘s Door of Kukundu. But still. Generally scary.)
In a parallel universe, the world is ruled by aggressively homoerotic men who sing battle songs, wield large and not-at-all-phallic broadswords, and go through several gallons of baby oil a week.
Last weekend, we mentioned excellent metal documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, which has recently surfaced on YouTube. At the time, we suggested that Mayhem bassist Necrobutcher provided the film’s best quote, but on reflection, we’d actually give that prize to Gorgoroth frontman Gaahl who, when asked about his band’s greatest inspiration, replied (after a long, uncomfortable pause): “Satan.”
Meanwhile, here’s a man who used to bury his clothes and dig them up weeks later so that he could be accompanied by “the smell of the grave” on stage. Mayhem’s late frontman Per “Dead” Ohlin also pioneered the idea of taking a dead crow on stage, was given to self-mutilation, and — inevitably, it seems, given his fascination with mortality — eventually committed suicide. The circumstances of his death are well-documented — Mayhem guitarist Euronymous found Ohlin’s body and took several photographs of it, one of which later surfaced on the cover of bootleg Dawn of the Black Hearts. (Warning: the image is as graphic as you might expect.)
And finally, of course, there’s metal’s most notorious church burner, white supremacist, and convicted murderer. We won’t go into the circumstances of Vikernes’ murder conviction for killing the aforementioned Euronymous of Mayhem — if you’re interested, there’s loads about it on Wikpedia, and plenty more if you Google the subject — because as far as we’re concerned, it’s things like this piece about the Utøya killings that make him truly frightening. Happily, the majority of the metal community don’t buy into his racist right-wing lunacy.