Best Shock Rock Bands
-In no particular order
Arthur Brown – Burning Helmet
It’s safe to say that for once Alice Cooper borrowed some ideas from somebody else; case in point, Arthur Brown. Arthur Bown is most well known for the single “Fire” which is vindictive of the Arthur Brown experience. Brown extensively used fire to cause a stir in the audience while the whole band resembled some kind of medieval satanic cult. Brown himself was one of the first to use face paint/makeup to create a stage persona along with the music. His incendiary stage act was so controversial that he was even kicked off a tour with Jimi Hendrix. On one tour Brown descended on the stage wearing a suit and helmet welded from sheet metal that was doused in lighter fluid and set a flame. The band never saw huge success because of an unstable line-up and was therefore unable to gain the notoriety they deserve in the Rock world.
Motley Crue (Early Years 81-85)– Nikki Lights his legs on fire
What most people aren’t aware of when it comes to Motley Crue is the fact that they pretty much started as a shock rock band. Other than being the kings of 80’s rock and metal, Motley Crue started off with elaborate stage antics inspired by Kiss and Alice. During The Too Fast for Love era live performances The Crue aimed to shock and entertain the audience with Fire, Blood, Crazy Hair, ‘Scary’ Makeup, and outrageous outfits.
Nikki Sixx adopted the technique (from Blackie Lawless) of setting his leather pants and boots on fire during live performances which can be seen in the “Live wire” video. Also in “Live Wire”, the Kiss inspired blood dripping from the mouth technique is used by Mr Mars. Crazy thigh high boots, leather and studs, pale-face makeup, and larger-than-life hair were all used to initially shock audiences with such an extreme and wild image. Motley also experimented with the controversy of satanic symbols, not to mention pushing violent and sexual lyrics and imagery into the forefront. Perhaps Motley Crue are not usually paired with other shock rock acts because outrageous androgyny in 81-84 became the norm for the rest of the 80’s with the arrival of other Hair Metal acts. As well, the Crue toned down their image by 87. There always was a fine line between Shock Rock and Glam.
W.A.S.P. – Torture Rack
WASP, just like Motley Crue came from the sunset strip glam metal movement. Considering the fact the members of WASP and Crue played together in a band at some point (Sister), it comes as no surprise to see the similarities of these two bands in their early days. WASP is of course synonymous with the shock rock genre. They mixed Alice Cooper’s horror show with aggressive but catchy heavy metal tunes. Blackie is known for using raw meat in his performance and throwing it into the audience, as well as eating live worms on stage (although this was before WASP), dangerous fire use, and blood to get a reaction out of the audience.
WASP’s most well known ‘gimmick’ was the use of the torture rack in which they hung a naked woman and proceeded to mutilate her body (all showmanship of course). Randy Piper borrows some ideas from Ace Frehley’s bag of tricks with his smoking guitar. Stage antics considered, WASP got much of their shock rock credit from the PMRC’s filthy fifteen with the violent and sexual lyrics/image in songs such as Animal (Fuck Like A Beast).
Other techniques include: Chainsaw cod piece, pyro, and exploding cod piece (fireworks)
Alice Cooper – Beheading Himself
Credited as the godfather of Shock Rock, Alice Cooper was every parent’s worst nightmare in the 60’s and 70’s. Alice Cooper is a full on Macbeth Rock and Roll play. He coined pretty much every technique that has ever been used by any Shock Rock acts to follow. Snakes, makeup, guillotines, nooses, blood, thigh high boots, straight-jackets, etc… Alice Cooper explored the fears of Americans by experimenting with imagery and lyrics. Alice’s is one of the first to make concept albums. His lyrics ranged from tales inspiring youth rebellion to the clinically insane.
Alice Cooper’s wild stage shows inspired gossip and fear to spread among conservative America. One of the most prominent incidents during a live performance was the fiasco of a live chicken being ripped to shreds by a hostile Toronto crowd. Newspapers and media empowered the eerie Alice Cooper aura with reports of Alice beheading himself night after night. Alice Cooper is a combination of Bloody Tragedies, Houdini, and Rock and Roll.
Here is another shock rock band that was yet again influenced by Kiss and Alice Cooper. The band‘s name is inspired from a woman accused and acquitted of murder in the 19th century. Clearly borrowing from Alice Cooper, the lead singer is also named Lizzy Borden. The band’s music was pure metal influenced from bands such as Maiden (especially vocally), Sabbath, Priest, Kiss , and Alice Cooper. They are most well known for their video “Me Against The World” which showcases their outrageous glam androgyny used to shock audiences. In the early days they borrowed many tricks from Alice Cooper lyrically and visually including hacking up a woman on stage with an axe. In the 80s Lizzy Borden was an example of a heavier Glam metal band that garnered a huge underground following.
Kiss – Gene Simmons breathing Fire
Kiss is recognized as another pioneer in the Shock Rock genre. Alice Cooper was yet another influence on Kiss very early on. Kiss started as a Glam Rock band but after seeing Alice Cooper decided they would have 4 Alice Cooper’s on stage and drastically changed their image. Of course we are all well aware of Gene Simmons breathing fire and spitting blood. Kiss became one of the major targets of religious and parental organizations as well as influencing decades of bands to follow. Their stage show is constantly cited as one of the biggest around and Kiss is considered entertainment both musically and visually. Ace Frehley plays guitar with smoke spewing from his pickups, while Gene Simmons flies to the highest peak in an arena (with wires of course).
Their face paint and outfits are synonymous with Hard Rock and Heavy Metal style. Although their antics may seem more like pure entertainment versus shock value it’s important to consider the impact they had in the 70’s. The make-up never came off till the 80’s so Kiss surrounded themselves with controversy and mysticism that garnered the band even more attention. The band caused a stir with their sexual lyrics and their logo was accused of being racist (The SS in the word Kiss looked similar to the Nazi SS symbol). Like most/all shock rock bands, presently, Kiss’ antics are more just a simple form of entertainment and hardly shock most audiences but they continue to thrive due to great music.
King Diamond is Gene Simmons’ Demon meets Alice Cooper. Originating from Denmark, the band came to prominence in the 80’s with their blend of Heavy Metal Riffing and ghostly falsetto vocals. Diamond created a satanic stage persona in the vein of previous shock rock pioneers but unlike the rest was not using Satanism only for shock value. Diamond follows LaVeyan Satanism which he considers more of a philosophy than a religion.