Heavy metal has been used as a scapegoat practically since its inception. Those who embrace the aesthetics of shock or intentionally transgress from societal norms in word and deed have a tendency to be branded as boogeymen, and will often find targets drawn on their backs.
The following is a list of ten occurrences where heavy metal itself was put on trial.
During a meeting in Tucson with constituents of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in early 2011, Jared Loughner shot and killed six people while injuring thirteen others. An investigation found a video favorited by Loughner on Youtube in which a masked figure burned an american flag while Drowning Pool’s 2001 hit “Bodies” played in the background, leading many to speculate that the song inspired the massacre.
A few years prior, it was discovered that “Bodies” was used as a torture device in Guantanamo Bay. If that’s not the sign of a shitty song, I don’t know what is.
Worst. Fan. Ever. Infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez was an avid fan of Australian hard rockers AC/DC. Dubbed “the Night Stalker” in the press, it was claimed by police that he was known to regularly wear an AC/DC t-shirt and left a hat with the band’s logo at one of the crime scenes. The notoriety of Ramirez brought terrible publicity to the band, which became the target of parent groups in Los Angeles.
Colorado serial killer and total fucking loser Richard Paul White has confessed to killing six people, three of which have been confirmed. He became known as the “Linkin Park Strangler” after comments he made from jail, stating: “I would listen, actually, to Linkin Park before I would kill and, while I was killing usually that music Linkin Park was on.”
In 2002, a New Jersey man named Robert Pituch bludgeoned his mother with a dumbbell after she refused to buy him cigarettes. Later in the day, he randomly encountered an 11-year-old boy who he stabbed to death. Pituch had struggled with mental illness for years and claimed that Metallica’s 1996 song “Ronnie” was a key component in his downward spiral, saying: “I was drinking, and I was out of it. That song was always in my head, too. There was just so much pressure building up … I caved.”
Metallica were also cited as an inspiration for the aforementioned Richard Paul White… and they were dragged into the triple murder case of Chris Watts because that asshole googled the lyrics to “Battery” before he killed his family… and then there was that time that Morgan Harrington went missing after a Metallica concert and was later found dead… and then there’s that whole West Memphis Three thing… Some bands have all the luck.
A 14-year-old Scottish girl named Jodi Jones was murdered by her boyfriend Luke Mitchell in 2003. The young couple had an obsession with goth culture, with Luke, in particular, showing a strong affinity for shock rocker Marilyn Manson. An investigation proved that the injuries inflicted upon Jodi bore a striking resemblance to a painting by Marilyn Manson of the Black Dahlia. Mitchell maintains his innocence to this day.
In 1985, the parents of John Daniel McCollum filed a lawsuit against Ozzy and CBS Records, claiming that the song “Suicide Solution” from Blizzard of Ozz inspired their son to take his own life. The song, which features lyrics such as “Where to hide, suicide is the way out,” was placed under scrutiny yet the case was ultimately dismissed. According to Ozzy, the song is about AC/DC’s Bon Scott, who died of acute alcohol poisoning in 1980. Don Arden, Sharon Osbourne’s father and Black Sabbath’s former manager, said this about the lyrics, “To be perfectly honest, I would be doubtful as to whether Mr. Osbourne knew the meaning of the lyrics, if there was any meaning because his command of the English language is minimal.”
In a 2003 incident, Terry Ray Taylor was stabbed more than 20 times by his friends Jason Lamar Haris and Amber Rose Riley before they slit his throat. According to detectives, Harris and Riley listened to Slipknot’s 2001 album Iowa both before and after the murder, both quoting lyrics to the song “Disasterpiece” such as “I wanna slit your throat and fuck the wound/ I wanna push my face in and feel the swoon.” Fucking dorks, man…
In 1990, the parents of Ray Belknap and James Vance attempted to sue Judas Priest, alleging that the subliminal phrase “Do it” in the song “Better by You, Better than Me” compelled their children to attempt suicide. The case was dismissed, with the judge concluding that any subliminal messages were not responsible for the deaths. In an interview before the trial, Priest manager Bill Curbishley stated, “I don’t know what subliminals are, but I do know there’s nothing like that in this music. If we were going to do that, I’d be saying, ‘Buy seven copies,’ not telling a couple of screwed-up kids to kill themselves.”
Varg Vikernes is arguably the most infamous figure in the history of black metal. His is the kind of notoriety usually reserved for political figures and murderers, not pedestrian riff-slingers. Thing is, he is a murderer and is a political figure. Church burnings and killing of Euronymous aside, it is his comments on racial hegemony that served as part of Norwegian right wing mass murder Anders Breivik, who sent his manifesto to Vikernes before beginning his 2011 spree that left 77 dead.
Fearing his connections to Breivik, Vikernes was detained by French authorities on “suspicion of preparing a major terrorist act” after his wife purchased four rifles in 2013, with the interior ministry citing him as a “potential threat to society.”
In March of 1996, 15 year-old Elyse Pahler’s body was found near her California home. She was sexually assaulted and murdered eight months earlier by acquaintances Jacob Delashmutt, Joseph Fiorella, and Royce Casey, who periodically returned to the corpse to have sex with it. According to the perpetrators, they needed to commit an act of human sacrifice in order for their band, Hatred, to possess the “craziness” to “go professional.”
Pahler’s parents claimed that several songs from Slayer’s Seasons In The Abyss (with “Postmortem” and “Dead Skin Mask” cited in particular), gave the killers instructions to “stalk, rape, torture, murder and commit acts of necrophilia” on their daughter. They have attempted to sue Slayer twice, with both cases quickly dismissed. One of the killers, Jacob Delashmutt, said in a later Washington Post interview, “The music is destructive [but] that’s not why Elyse was murdered. She was murdered because Joe [Fiorella] was obsessed with her and obsessed with killing her.”