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Shock Rock 101: From Alice Cooper to GWAR

Shock Rock 101: From Alice Cooper to GWAR

by Justin Farrar  |  October 26, 2014

Shock Rock 101: From Alice Cooper to GWAR

Guillotines and boa constrictors, fire-breathing bassists, naked punks with chainsaws, Satanic sacrifice, thrash-raging demons spewing vomit onto their audiences ... welcome to the world of shock rock! Over the course of 25 demented jams you'll receive a 101-style introduction to the movement's gnarliest over-the-top practitioners.

Our twisted journey begins at the dawn of the '70s, back when Alice Cooper, KISS and the now-forgotten Black Widow married high-volume hard rock and heavy metal to elaborate stage shows inspired by horror-movie schlock and comic book-style fantasy. From there, we wind our way through the late '70s and '80s, an era when The Plasmatics, Venom, W.A.S.P. and many others deployed novel tactics in winning over teens desperately seeking escape from suburban-bred boredom, conveniently offending stodgy grown-ups like Tipper Gore in the process.

Venom in particular played a crucial role. By filtering their theatricality through Satanic imagery and a sonic assault that made Judas Priest and Iron Maiden sound like Judy Garland and Bing Crosby, the British trio laid the groundwork for black metal, one of two genres to help carry shock rock into our current era (see Darkthrone and Cradle of Filth). The other genre is industrial. Closely tied to metal since the late '80s, its obsession with dystopian futurism, genocide and serial killers informed the likes of White Zombie, Marilyn Manson and, of course, those mighty scumdogs GWAR.

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