Shock Rock might best be described as a bastard cousin of heavy metal, or perhaps a twisted sister of punk rock that transcends genres, and can be applied to a cluster of bands, artists, and styles of music over the past three to four decades, respectively.
Sometimes Shock Rock can be used as a pejorative; other times it is a fittingly accurate description of a music, style, image, stage show or persona of a band or performer. Early proto metal /hard rock acts such as Alice Cooper (known as the father of Shock Rock) created a theatrical based experience to accompany the typical rock concert.
Performances often included the use of makeup, costumes, blood, fire, self-injuries, destruction of property, sexual simulations and, in Cooper's case, even mock decapitations. This early sound gave way to bands such as KISS, The Plasmatics, Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, and hordes of others, whose live shows and aesthetics are both violent and extreme. Shock Rock can encompass anything from psychedelic and classic rock, black metal, grind core, punk, thrash, and even industrial.
This list aims to showcase some of the most prominent Shock Rock artists, yet at the same time give credit to others who are less known, but whose contributions to the scene remain relevant. Most of all, the artists on this list were chosen because they were not afraid to push the limits of artistic expression. If you're not offended, shocked or disgusted at the following musicians, then we didn't do our job. We now present the top 10 Shock Rock Bands of All Time.
For just over two decades, this local horror punk band with roots in Southern California has gathered a cult following for its spectacular live shows which include an electric chair, mock crucifixion, flaming pentagrams, fire breathing and an oozing brew of doom, stoner metal, dark psychedelic rock and hardcore punk.
A psychotic, medieval-themed stage show, over the top theatrics, and a mysterious energy over the years has allowed Rosemary's Billygoat to share the stage with The Dickies, 45, Grave, Circle Jerks, GWAR, Green Jelly, WASP and tons more.
The Dwarves began in the mid '80s in the Chicago area, and first started as a garage rock band, but later evolved into more of a hardcore punk sound. Led by vocalist Blag Dahlia and guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed, the band has undergone multiple lineup changes. The band gained notoriety in the late '80s on into the early '90s for unpredictable, often-violent live shows. Furthering their status as a cult band, many of the bands performances resulted in violence among the crowd and even the band themselves. Intense fistfights were a common at Dwarves shows.
HeWhoCannotBeNamed often performs with a wrestling mask and jockstrap. While the other band members sometimes wear various costumes. Over the years, the band has also been accused of performing various simulated and real sex acts on stage. The Dwarves create a sonic form of music that is full of perversity, sexuality, carnal lust, rage, violence, and a hardcore punk rock ethos. The band's sound have developed to include wider ranges of influences including surf rock, grunge, hardcore, pop punk and even hip-hop.
Formed in 1994, these Teutonic mad men created a sound that was a mixture of dark techno, Electronic music, keyboards, samples, and industrial metal. The music was aggressive, and heavier than most industrial bands, and sounded creepier due to the German lyrics and ambient use of keyboards. But, the stage show is what truly sets this band apart from others. A massive amount of pyrotechnics have been used from the beginning, and these firebug industrial metal maniacs also bring a flame throwing arrow gun, an enormous, dazzling light show that includes collapsing lights, explosions, massive lasers, and more. In the past, their stage antics have caused them legal trouble. While on tour in 1998 in the U.S. As part of the first Family Values Tour with Korn, Ice Cube, Orgy and Limp Bizkit, the band was arrested for lewd conduct for a simulated sodomy act on stage during their performance.
Marilyn Manson's career has been no stranger to controversy. He has been a scapegoat for Columbine, and has been attacked, protested against and criticized for his image, lyrics, music, concerts, stage shows, albums artwork and even girlfriends. Early on, Manson took the industrial harder edge metal sound at the local level in the early '90s industrial club scene in Florida. His early albums and image was comparable to a mix of Alice Cooper and Rozz Williams from Christian Death, only angrier, with more evil tattoos and make up, corpse paint and colored contact lenses.
It was Manson's breakthrough album Antichrist Superstar (1996) however, that made a truly lasting impression on rock music. This was the album that made him super star with the heavy, catchy, yet eerie single, 'The Beautiful People.' When Manson toured for this record, he performed with some alleged Nazi-like imagery, and even tore pages out of the Bible. Manson was also a member of the Church of Satan, and during the late '90s, he indulged in an unholy amount of drugs and other mayhem, that can be found chronicled in his autobiography from 1998, The Long Road Out of Hell.
6. Matt Zane
Matt Zane leads the LA based industrial metal band Society 1, and has recorded six studio albums with the band he formed in the mid '90s. With a sound akin to Skinny Puppy-meets- Pantera, Society 1 has had various lineup changes and only recently began a comeback from a hiatus lasting several years. Although Zane might be known for his past in the adult film world, both as a performer and director, he is also a member of the Satanic religion, and an accomplished author, poet, film and video director, conceptual artist, cameraman and behind the scenes production guru.
In 2008, Zane broke world record, held previously by Criss Angel. He was suspended hanging with four meat hooks into his back for 6 hours, beating out Angel's time of just over five and a half hours, in 2002. As a suspension artist, he has been filmed and also has performed with Society 1 while hooks held him over 30 feet in the air. He has appeared on various documentaries and TV shows, and has performed at festivals with Society 1, to tens of thousands of fans. Society 1 are back together, with a new line up, and paying shows again. Catch them live Dec. 1, at the Viper Room in West Hollywood.
Arguably, the forefather of Shock Rock, Alice Cooper began at first as a band in the late '60s by that name, then evolved into a main character/solo act that the singer/song writer still performs as to this day. Initially formed as a rock group that incorporated the sounds of pop music, psychedelic and hard rock, Alice Cooper became known for the strange, intricate and macabre stage shows, which induced crowds to insanity with the mutilation of dolls, giant boa constrictors, the use of a guillotine and Cooper's dark, androgynous make up and clothes. His image, stage show and sound would lay the foundation for countless early heavy metal and punk bands.
His most famous hits include the timeless classic songs 'I'm Eighteen,' 'No More Mr. Nice Guy,' and 'School's Out.' What is now considered classic rock, at the time was edgy, spooky and over the top. There would be no Ozzy Osborne, Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson without Alice Cooper. After selling millions of records world wide, Cooper, (now in his mid 60s) is also an accomplished golfer, Radio DJ, convert to Christianity, and restaurateur. With the experience of over 25 studio albums, Cooper is no stranger to the music industry, and can still attract crowds of thousands of fans for his concerts.
4. Anal Cunt
Anal Cunt's 'singer' Seth Putnam was known in grind core circles as the GG Allin of grind, and he sure lived up to this name. Anal Cunt was a very extreme, caustic grind core metal band formed in 1988, which was built on a foundation of offending people through music and drugs, lots and lots of drugs. Putnam insisted the band perform only short, spastic, violent songs with indecipherable lyrics, and a disturbed sense of humor, and the shock value of their song titles, which were based on homophobia, misogyny, incest, the Holocaust, spousal abuse, adultery and various other random topics. Some of the band's most offensive song titles include: “I Sent A Thank You Card To The Guy Who Raped You,” I Sent Concentration Camp Footage To America's Funniest Home Videos,” “You're Pregnant, So I Kicked You In The Stomach,” “Women: Nature's Punching Bag,” and “You Robbed A Sperm Bank Because You're A Cum Guzzling Fag,' just to name only a handful in the band's two decade career.
In 2004, the front man fell into a coma after an overdose of heroin, crack cocaine, alcohol and a massive dose of sleeping pills. He recovered and eventually had to relearn to walk again from the damage done to his brain and body. Yet, in 2011, Putnam died from an apparent heart attack, at the age of 43, bringing Anal Cunt to rest with him.
Putnam lived to the excess, and had admitted substance abuse problems including an affinity for sex, a hardcore drugs, and alcohol. He loved to shoot heroin, smoke crack, take PCP, swallow pills, bang groupies and gulp booze. There is even a photo from one of Anal Cunt's early shows, where Putnam is playing guitar on stage, while simultaneously shooting heroin, and receiving oral sex from a female in the crowd.
How could we not include our favorite intergalactic mutant killers from outer space, GWAR on this list? For over a quarter of a century, this band of aliens has been scorching the planet with live shows that leave fans soaked in blood, puke and alien slime. Comprised of leader singer Oderus Urungus, the band also includes Jizmack Da Gusha on drums, Beefcake the Mighty on bass and newcomer Pustulus Maximums on guitars. No GWAR show is exactly the same, as over the years, GWAR concerts have included characters indulging in beheadings, mock executions of celebrities and politicians, and giant monsters devouring zombies. Musically, GWAR produces a gnarly blend of rock, punk and metal that fans can slosh around and head bang to as they swim through the fountains of blood.
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2. The Mentors
The Mentors began in 1976 in Seattle by fusing the sounds of early heavy metal, and garage rock style punk. After relocating to LA, in 1979, the band found themselves at the forefront of the '80s LA hardcore scene. But, what set this band apart was its appearance, playing shows in all black hoods, and the sexually degrading and explicit songs and lyrics. The band's raunchy sound and lyrics become known as 'Porno Rock,' or worse, 'Rape Rock.'
The original line up of the Mentors included guitarist Sickie Wifebeater, bassist Dr. Heathen Scum and drummer/vocalist founding member, Eldon Hoke, aka 'El Duce. The band took pride in various forms of debauchery, and classic Mentors songs from their band's extensive catalogue include 'Donkey Dick,' 'On the Rag,' 'Golden Shower,' and 'Sandwich of Love.' The band gained quite a bit of notoriety in the mid '80s as being one of the bands targeted by Tipper Gore and the PRMC, and also reached wider audiences in the late '90s, when El Duce appeared on the Jerry Springer show with GWAR. On this now infamous episode, El Duce made racist and pro-rape comments, and was criticized by Oderus Urungus from GWAR, members of the audience and even Jerry Springer himself.
The Mentors continue to play to this day with a new line up, despite the fact that El Duce was found dead near railroad tracks in Southern California, in 1997 after an apparent drinking binge. Although his death was ruled as an accident, others have claimed the possibility of foul play. Some point to the fact that just before his death, El Duce went on record claiming that Courtney Love offered him a large sum of cash to kill Kurt Cobain. But, even after his death, the Mentors carry on his legacy with the band, and still play live shows full of filth, lust, sex drugs and Rock n Roll madness.
Hands down, GG Allin is the king of all things sex, sadomasochism, sleaze, violence, and punk. Some considered him a sadistic psychopath, and a junkie, while others cite him as being one of rock music's most rebellious figure among in the early '80s and early '90s punk community. Fueled by misanthropy, endless amounts of drugs, booze and a sexual proclivity that included fetishes with feces, self-mutilation and sex acts on stage, Allin's performances were infamous and revered for their unpredictable shock value. Allin thrived on the reaction and the hatred only earned him a reputation as one of the most extreme performers in rock history. He was attacked numerous times on stage, threw his own shit at the crowd, performed many shows nude, or sometimes in a bloody jock strap, and would attack himself, fans and band his band mates.
With such a unstable, turbulent lifestyle, Allin even served time in jail for various violent offenses over the years, and thus never remained with one musical group, instead creating his songs with numerous bands and lineup changes, from the Jabbers, and the Scumfucks, to the Murder Junkies, to name just a few. His songs were anti-authorities diatribes of perversion, extremely graphic sexual exploits, violence, and drug/alcohol abuse all laced with a dark, witty yet demented sense of humor.
Rumor spread, that Allin would commit suicide onstage in 1990, on Halloween, but due to a prison sentence for assault he was in and out of jail, and never went through with his promise.
However, in 1993, after a show in NYC, which ended in riots on the street, Allin disappeared with fellow punkers into a hyper binge of drugs and alcohol. A day later, he was found dead in an apartment, of an apparent heroin overdose. He was buried in a leather jacket and jock strap, and many at the funeral, band members, and fans posed with his bloody, feces covered corpse, shoving bottles of alcohol, and other drugs down his cold stiff mouth. What a way to go!
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Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.