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7 Heavy Metal Conspiracies

Conspiracies include Black Sabbath, AC/DC, KISS and the metal cult.

Conspiracies include Black Sabbath, AC/DC, KISS and the metal cult.

I don't know about you, but when I'm not listening to heavy metal, I vitalize myself with conspiracy theories. I mainline intergalactic lizard people and come down off my high by reindexing my anti-globalist files. Knowing the truth is quite the trip, my friend, plus it has the best soundtrack.

As long as there have been people there have been conspiracy theories. In Italy, conspiracies are so pervasive that "behindology," or the half-paranoid, half-cynical belief that behind everything powerful is something even more powerful, is a national pastime. Closer to these shores, everything from the Freemasons to the various secret societies that dot college campuses have been the targets of various accusations. Even heavy metal is not off-limits. Although most metallic conspiracy theories are intentional nods to big names like Bohemian Grove, the Illuminati, and David Icke's belief that shapeshifting reptilians from outer space are controlling world governments by both true believers (the biggest of which may be High on Fire's Matt Pike and Megadeth's Dave Mustaine) and tongue-in-cheek songwriters alike, the genre itself has come under fire.

Unsurprisingly, most metal conspiracy theories involve Satan, satanism and the dark arts. The question now is: do you believe any of them?

7. Black Sabbath put a real witch on the cover of their debut album


Black Sabbath is unquestionably one of the most haunting albums ever committed to vinyl. Opening with the title track, which offers a rainswept parable about meeting the Devil himself, Black Sabbath is the very first incantation in the unholy book of heavy metal. Considering that, it's no wonder then that Black Sabbath produced one of the first heavy metal conspiracy theories. Namely, the green woman in the black cloak who adorns the 1970 album cover is reported to have been a real witch. Considering that the Birmingham foursome knew at least some of the folks that made up the sizable British occult scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this theory seems plausible.

Other versions claim that the "woman" is actually Ozzy in drag, Bill Ward's wife, an actual participant in a black mass ceremony, or not really there at all.  A tad more terrestrial explanation is that the woman in the photo was a model (could her name have been Louise?) who was paid to look spooky. Mission accomplished.

6. Ace Frehley's friends from above


While in Kiss, Frehley was called "Space Ace" and his makeup pattern underscored this. Later, after getting the platform boot from Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, Frehley created Frehley's Comet, a cringeworthy rock band who carried on the maestro's fascination with space.

According to Frehley himself, this obsession with the great beyond came from the skies themselves. In his autobiography No Regrets, Frehley outs himself as a UFO enthusiast. In particular, Frehley admits that he has dreamt about alien visitations ever since he was child. Not all of these dreams have been dreams, however. Not only does Frehley believe that he has been contacted by extraterrestrials on numerous occasions, but he has even chalked up his guitar skills to the infusion of alien DNA in his system. Knowing what I know about sci-fi, I would have expected excellent theremin skills as opposed to hotter than hell shredding.

5. Led Zeppelin – occult gurus


Jimmy Page's interest in the black arts, specifically the teachings of Aleister Crowley, are well documented. In 1970, Page purchased Boleskine House, a Scottish manor not far from Loch Ness that once belonged to Crowley. Infamously, Crowley had purchased the house himself in 1890 in order to perform a highly complex and exhaustive black magic ritual that supposedly brought demons into this world. Since that time, numerous ghost stories and other strange tales have swirled around the home. Recently, Boleskine was subjected to a fire that looked like something ripped straight from a medieval grimoire. Maybe the demons got bored.

Anyway, around the same time that Page's interest in the occult was made public, Led Zeppelin released their fourth album – a strange, yet cinematic production that drips with mystery. From the various symbols that decorate the cover to songs such as "Black Dog" and "Stairway to Heaven," Zeppelin IV is a magnet for conspiracy theories. It's quite likely that this was intentional, for, as Season of the Witch author Peter Bebergal has written, IV  "serves as one of the most perfectly magical moments in rock history."

4. Satanic Acronym


This one is a little personal. A long time ago, a pair of evangelicals once told me that Kiss stands for "Knights in Satan's Service." Gene Simmons spitting blood and calling himself a demon was all the proof they needed. The gruesome twosome also told me that AC/DC, that group of drunken Australian party boys, were in fact proselytizers for the land south of heaven. You see, AC/DC stands for Anti-Christ/Devil's Child. I remember clearly standing in my uncle Rich's garage and trying to laugh their suggestions away. They didn't even crack a smile, so I went back to sipping my Pepsi.

Even during the days of Elvis, rock and roll has been painted with the "devil's music" brush. Rock and roll is about vitality, youth, and sexual energy. None of these things are exactly wholesome, and as a result many continue to claim that demonic hands are at work in the music industry. AC/DC are no exception. Besides the aforementioned acronym, the band has been implicated in one serial killer's deranged quest for attention and quite possibly the greatest noise complaint-turned-criminal case in history.

3. Backmasking


Backmasking is the word used to describe subliminal messages contained within songs. Traditionally, stoned teenagers hit upon these coded messages when they played their vinyl records backwards. When their parents got wind of this, all hell tended to break loose. Far from an old phenomenon (back in the 1960s, the FBI investigated the song "Louie, Louie" because rumors abounded about salacious and indecent lyrics), backmasking is something every American teenager has been exposed to at some point in their lives. Here are some of the juicier metal entries:

  • A final scream in Grim Reaper's…well…"Final Scream" is said to proclaim "see you in hell" if played backwards. Considering that Grim Reaper recorded a song called "See You in Hell," this isn't exactly surprising.
  • Deep Purple's "Stormbringer" may contain a filthy homage to The Exorcist with the words "cocksucker, motherfucker, stormbringer" appearing if the record is played backwards.
  • The feverish chanting in the opening seconds of Slayer's "Hell Awaits" sound like "Join Us" to many.
  • "In the name of God, let the churches burn." This morsel is said to be found on Darkthrone's "As Flittermice As Satan Spys"
  • Backmasking on Cradle of Filth's "Dinner at Deviants Palace" is said to reveal incantations used for summoning demons. 
  • Thy Infernal's "Armageddon" sounds like it contains the repetitive chant "Kill for Satan."

2. Sweden vs. Norway


During the early 1990s, black metal was not just a form of musical expression, it posed a domestic terrorism threat to the people of Norway and Sweden. Fueled by anti-Christian zealotry, members of the early black metal scene in Norway (many of whom belonged to the shadowy "Black Circle" that frequented the Helvete record store) took to burning churches and random acts of mayhem (including at least two murders) in order to solidify their evil bonafides. This earned them notoriety and infamy. It may have also earned them the unremitting hatred of their Swedish neighbors. According to several sources, among them Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind's book Lords of Chaos, the Swedish black metal scene wanted in on the action and publicity. Beginning in the 1990s, Swedish black metallers began trying to one-up the Norwegians with church burnings and blasphemous acts of their own. This tit-for-tat game supposedly lasted for almost a decade, with one of the final moments being the Keillers park murder, a homicide involving Dissection guitarist Jon Nödtveidt that bore a striking resemblance to the murder committed by former Emperor band member Faust.

1. Metal: One Big Cult


The most absurd of all, some in the more hysterical reaches of the worldwide media continue to believe that heavy metal constitutes a Satanic cult. This idea reached its apex during the so-called Satanic panic of the 1980s, when everything metal was lumped in with devil worshipping child molesters, Dungeons and Dragons players, and serial killers. Although a super small minority today, anti-metal crusaders continue to look for the sincere Satanism hidden behind heavy metal's over-the-top bombast. Unfortunately, the Norwegians of the early 1990s and Italy's Beasts of Satan prove that some in metal's worldwide community are guilty of taking the whole devil worship thing a little too far.

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