The phenomenon of subliminal messages hidden deep inside songs is not exclusive to hard rock and metal. The Beatles pioneered the practice of ‘backmasking’ (layering-in vocals on tapes played backwards) in popular music and hid signposts right throughout 1966’s Revolver and 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. Jimmy Hendrix opened Electric Ladyland with them on And The Gods Made Love. Country rockers The Eagles even jammed them into their 1976 anthem Hotel California, gasping away that 'Satan had ‘em; he organised his own religion…'
The sheer insidiousness of these sounds, however – that sense of almost-occult subversion that comes with smuggling dark motifs within your art – has always found a place within heavier music, from Steve Vai to Iron Maiden to Slipknot. It’s caused many a stir, too, never less than where in 1980 the Metal Gods themselves, Judas Priest, found themselves on trial for purportedly hiding messages like ‘try suicide’, ‘do it’ and ‘let’s be dead’ in their cover of Spooky Tooth’s Better By You, Better Than Me, inciting a pair of young men from Nevada to kill themselves. The Brummie legends were acquitted, of course, but despite frontman Rob Halford’s simple explanation - “When you’re composing songs, you’re always looking for new ideas, new sounds…” – the dark power of those subconscious whisperings have only grown in infamy.
Here, we pick out 13 of the finest. Tsuj rebmemer, sdrawkcab si tseb….