Heavy metal often deals with the darkest topics imaginable.
Most people use it as a safe outlet for profoundly negative impulses, but every so often aesthetics cross the line into reality with life-shattering results.
Whether it be from a tragic accident or horribly intentional, here are ten musicians who have been accused to serious crimes:
Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God)
In a tragic case that shook the music world, a 19-year-old fan was fatally injured when Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe pushed him off of the stage during their set in Prague on May 24th, 2010. Blythe had no idea that this happened, only learning of the fan’s death two years later when Lamb Of God arrived in the country to play a show and he was promptly arrested. Charged on suspicion of manslaughter, the circumstances surrounding the arrest and subsequent trial drew international attention when Blythe was remanded for five weeks. He was acquitted in the end, with the court believing he was morally responsible for pushing the fan but not criminally liable.
Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth)
You probably know this already, but a bunch of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and tried to stage a coup of the United States government on January 6th, 2021. Shortly thereafter, a photo of Iced Earth founder Jon Schaffer appeared in the FBI’s Most Wanted section for his role in the attack. Turns out that Schaffer is a founding lifetime member of the notorious far-right Oath Keepers militia, a group that played an instrumental role in the insurrection. Schaffer was the first participant to plead guilty, and after rolling on a bunch of his friends he’ll most likely go into witness protection once he’s out of prison in three or four years.
Tim Lambesis (As I Lay Dying)
In May of 2013, Tim Lambesis, frontman of Christian metalcore band As I Lay Dying, forgot that whole “Thou shall not kill” line from the Bible when he was arrested for soliciting an undercover detective to kill his estranged wife. Blaming his lapse in judgment on steroid use, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison and released on probation in 2016.
Vince Neil (Motley Crue)
On December 8th, 1984, Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil lost control of his car and drove into an oncoming vehicle. While the occupants of the other car were severely injured, Neil’s passenger, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley, was killed. Charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol, Neil was sentenced to 30 days in jail, five years’ probation, 200 hours of community service, and ordered to pay $2.6 million to the crash victims. He was paroled after serving 15 days. He has never apologized to the members of Hanoi Rocks, who understandably bristle at the name of Motley Crue’s Music To Crash Your Car To box set.
In September of 2017, all four members of the band Decapitated were arrested and charged with the alleged gang-rape and kidnapping of a fan in Spokane, Washington. According to the police report, two women were invited onto the band’s bus and held against their will. One of them was able to escape, while the other claimed that she was subsequently assaulted by each band member. The charges were dropped without prejudice (meaning that Decapitated could face the same charges in the future) in January of 2018, with the prosecution citing “the well-being of the victim” as the reason for their decision.
Although he has courted controversy throughout his career, things took a dark turn for Marilyn Manson when actress Evan Rachel Wood and four other women issued statements alleging abuse. He was promptly dropped by his label, his booking agency, and his management. Although ex-partners Dita Von Teese and Rose McGowan have issued statements that their experiences with Manson were consensual, to date sixteen people have made allegations against the shock rocker, including five that are sexual in nature. Manson has filed lawsuits against Wood and another accuser, citing defamation and instances of intentional infliction of emotional distress that include impersonating FBI agents and calling a SWAT team to his house.
Bard G. “Faust” Eithun (Emperor)
On August 22nd, 1992, Magne Andreassen allegedly approached Emperor drummer Faust at a known Lillehammer gay cruising site and offered to take a walk with him. His body was found with 37 stab wounds and blunt force wounds corresponding to being repeatedly kicked in the head. Although Faust remained free for a year, the death of Euronymous at the hands of Varg Vikernes brought new scrutiny to the case. Although he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, Eithun was released for good behavior after only serving 9. Faust maintains that he’s never held homophobic views and that Andreassen’s murder was purely a crime of opportunity.
Jon Nodtveidt (Dissection)
In Gothenburg during the summer of 1997, Algerian Immigrant Josef Ben Meddour crossed paths with Dissection frontman Jon Nodtveidt and his friend Vlad Khoshnood. Belonging to a small Satanic group called the Misanthropic Luciferian Order and annoyed by Meddour’s overt homosexuality, Nodtveidt and Khoshnood took this as an opportunity to expand their ritual sacrifices from cats to humans. While it is unclear if Satanism was the primary reason for Meddour’s murder, sexuality was indeed a contributing factor and the death was treated as a hate crime. In 1998, Nodtveidt and Khoshnood were each sentenced to ten years in prison, of which both men only served seven. Nodtveidt was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2006. One of the MLO’s Satanic grimoires was found open next to the candle encircled body.
Varg Vikernes (Burzum)
In May of 1994, the infamous black metal musician behind Burzum leader was convicted of first-degree murder of in the stabbing death of his Mayhem bandmate Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth, the arson of three churches (as well as the attempted arson of a fourth), as well as the theft and possession of explosives. Sentenced to the maximum of 21 years under Norwegian law, he recorded several dark ambient / dungeon synth albums while in prison and was released after 16 years. Vikernes remains an ever-present and controversial figure in black metal due to his outspoken far-right views, super weird role-playing game, and wacky social media presence.
Ian Watkins (Lostprophets)
In a case that the presiding judge said “plunged into new depths of depravity,” Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins was accused of multiple sexual offenses involving children, including infants. He plead guilty to attempted rape and sexual assault of a child under 13, three counts of sexual assault involving children, six counts of indecent images involving children, and one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image involving a sex act on an animal. One of the children in question was less than a year old. Watkins filmed the attempted rapes, which was found on an encrypted harddrive. Wales Online, who live-blogged the guilty plea hearing, reported that the court heard details that were “too graphic to be published.” In a recorded phone call with a female fan from prison, Watkins referred to his crimes as “mega lolz.”