While most bands love having their picture taken looking their best, metal bands have never really followed that route. Looking tough, dark, or, for the most part, absolutely ridiculous; as much thought goes into their promo pics as anyone else’s. There is little of the pretentiousness of rappers sitting around doing their taxes (seriously, Raekwon?), visiting a sick buddy in hospital (nice one, Junior M.A.F.I.A.), or pop sirens doing their best to construct erections for OAPs, but there is plenty of leather, denim, metal, screw faces, hard looks and ridiculous poses to last an eternity.
Here are some of my favorite bands in various odd guises.
The top one of Motörhead is a promo shot from their 1980 release, Ace Of Spades, in their best Mexican cowboy regalia. The two shots of Lemmy beneath are insane. On the left, he has some pretty intricately drawn-on detailing, and on the right, well, bullet-belt and Y-fronts? Oh, and socks. And his buddy, Mr. Inflatable Shark. Go figure.
A shift in metal to the dark side saw Venom, one of the forerunners of extreme metal in the early 80s, mocking themselves up to be like some Viking warriors, which would be a continued theme right up until today. Weird for a bunch of dudes from Newcastle, but hey.
Quorthon of Bathory was a true Viking and would later start a whole Viking metal movement. His studded sleeves are almost like a starry sky. Whether or not that was the idea is anyone’s guess.
The above pictures are almost a staple nowadays for any modern black metal band. Note how in the Jack Daniels guzzling/firebreathing pics, he is wearing bones around his neck. That is pretty unique.
Around the same time as Bathory was healing it up in Sweden and Venom doing likewise in England, Hellhammer was outdoing everyone lyrically with their rasping brand of black metal over in Switzerland. I wonder what the couple in the top picture made of these hell bastards roaming their quiet Swiss suburb in 83.
Destruction has a very ‘metal and leather’ approach to their aesthetics. I definitely feel the cropped t-shirts and weighty uniforms.
Sodom was similar in their appearance, also being of the Teutonic thrash scene, yet there is something curiously medieval about Tom Angelripper’s vest on the left.
Metallica. They were definitely influenced by British heavy metal in more ways than just their music. They look pretty ridiculous in their dress shirts and high-waisted denim, topped off with bullet-belt steez. I refuse to believe tying your shirt at the front was ever a tough look for dudes, but then it is on drummer Lars Ulrich, who is a weird dude.
I love this early shot of Slayer, down to the fake skull lying between the two tombstones.
Hellhammer decided to change their outlook somewhat, and thus, with a name change. Celtic Frost retained some of their metal and leather look, but I guess Spandex and hairspray (which would become a massive theme for them in the years to come) were a temptation too great to resist in the mid-80s.
This is a very early picture of Death, another of Death Metal’s founders. Being covered in blood was always a surefire way to sell records.
Early early pic of Brazil’s Sepultura above. I mean, they literally look 12. I am a little dubious as to this picture’s authenticity, but hey, it’s a killer pic either way. The shot of them in the dog house, literally, is one of the greatest things I have ever seen.
Around the same time Sepultura was taking extreme metal to the horde in South America, Sarcófago was rising. Led by their frontman, Wagner “Antichrist” Lamounier (who played in Sepultura briefly), the self-proclaimed “insulters of Jesus Christ” took their promo shots in a graveyard. Apparently, they couldn’t get a hold of actual bullets for their bullet-belts and instead filled them up with old batteries.
Autopsy showed the power of death metal on the inside of their debut, he he.
Italy’s Bulldozer were an insane bunch, as demonstrated by frontman A.C. Wild posing in what appears to be a priest’s robe whilst reading a porno mag. The cropped shirt on the right is about as high it gets before it is sports bra, I guess.
Canada’s little-known Dissection hit that ‘wrong alley, guy’ pose for their press shots. Iron bars and chains, yowzers.
Insanity were apparently the originators of that 1-1 drum sound that is now popular in many of today’s extreme metal styles. This is a bit like the Sepultura pic above, but this looks more like a bull’s cage. Or maybe an elephant’s.
Morbid Angel of Tampa were definitely a hard bunch. There is something kinda redneck about how they rocked their shit, and having women in bikins grasping at your ankles is never going to be a bad look, is it.