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Features

When Rock Goes Weird

Dildos? Dinosaurs? Clowns? What have we gotten ourselves into…

For a band, a gimmick can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can make you stick out from the millions of others – you’re not just a metalcore band, you’re the metalcore band that dresses like snooker players and sing about snooker. That’s memorable. But on the other hand it can become a bit of an albatross, frustrating musicians who want to be taken seriously, hemming them in creatively, forcing them to perform novelty songs about snooker forever.

The best kind of gimmick is one that is just full-on weird, where you can describe it in a few words – parrot-fronted death metal! wrestling-based hardcore! business-themed punk! – that are immediately incredibly compelling and deeply silly. This lot have embraced their gimmicks wholeheartedly and turned weird ideas into gold. Sort of…

MAC SABBATH

Combining McDonald’s and Black Sabbath is the sort of genius idea that comes along once a generation, and amazingly, Mac Sabbath are genuinely good. Performing rewritten Sabbath covers (like Frying Pan, their reinterpretation of Iron Man, and More Ribs, their War Pigs cover), they’ve played Download Festival, crossed the U.S. on the Clown Power tour and amazingly once shared a bill with Elton John. Their guitarist’s called Slayer McCheeze, which come on, is brilliant. 

HATEBEAK

Deliberately kind of obnoxious-sounding”, this side project from Pig Destroyer drummer Blake Harrison features a parrot on vocals. Waldo, an African Grey, is now 23 and has put out four albums, the latest one being 2015’s The Number Of The Beak. They’re record-only, as doing live tours would count as animal abuse, and once put out a split 7” with Caninus, a death metal band with dog vocalists. Caninus aren’t recording anymore, as the dogs, er, moved to a farm.

HEVISAURUS

Finnish children are introduced to metal at a young age – the Finnish equivalent of the Teletubbies is Hevisaurus, an all-dinosaur power metal five-piece. They’ve put eight albums out, including one, 2012’s Kadonneen louhikäärmeen arvoitus, that reached the top of the Finnish charts. You know how there’s occasional controversy about how dinosaurs probably had feathers? Two of the reptilian members of Hevisaurus have dreadlocks. That’s a paleontologist’s nightmare.

OKILLY DOKILLY

Pioneers of Nedal’ – Ned metal – Okilly Dokilly are a Phoenix, Arizona metalcore five-piece (Bled Ned, Head Ned, Red Ned, Stead Ned and Thread Ned) dedicated wholly to the gimmick of dressing like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, performing metalcore songs made up entirely of Ned Flanders quotes. They find the nihilism lurking within the chipperness, with tracks like Nothing At All, They Warned Me and All That Is Left.

THE PROTOMEN

How much do you like the first six Mega Man games? Probably not as much as The Protomen, a collective of highly trained musicians who release high-concept rock operas based on dystopian reimaginings of said games. They’ve had almost thirty different members over their decade and a half of existence, all hidden behind sci-fi pseudonyms and masks of varying levels of wackiness. 

EAT THE TURNBUCKLE

Philadelphia’s Eat The Turnbuckle are hardcore wrestling fans in every way that can be interpreted, spilling huge amounts of blood at their shows, smashing fluorescent light tubes over each other’s heads, cheese grating each other’s faces and occasionally charmingly using a crutch wrapped in barbed wire as a weapon. In 2015 they had a show in Glasgow cancelled after a Tory politician read about them and objected to what he saw as the promotion of violence. 

SHAT

Formerly a touring member of Dillinger Escape Plan, Jeff Wood was already a self-described pretty sick kid” before being shot in the head. He survived the attack, but was now entirely obsessed with sex. Under the name Shat, he performs naked other than a crash helmet and some not-as-strategically-placed-as-they-could-be dildos, bringing women up from the audience to wee on his face and performing the kind of songs (Hermaphrodite, The Crabs, and I Fucked Your Wife) that get you on a register. Needless to say, approach watching any of his videos or playing any Shat songs with caution. NSFW? Not suitable for much.

GWAR

Intergalactic barbaric warriors extremely into bloodshed and other bodily fluids, GWAR are now 35 years into their career of covering audiences in fake blood while looking like really expensive Warhammer figures. Regularly beheading political effigies, weeing blood all over the place and generally being as over-the-top as possible, they’ve featured dozens of members over the years, with current lead vocalist Blöthar taking over following the tragic 2014 death of longtime lead monster Oderus Urungus.

THE AQUABATS

Intended as silly from the get-go as a reaction to what the founders saw as an overly testosterone-heavy punk scene, The Aquabats are a long-running superhero-themed ska band who briefly featured Travis Barker among their number. Lead singer The MC Bat Commander is also the co-creator of Yo Gabba Gabba!, the most punk children’s educational puppet show ever made. The Aquabats also had their own show for a while, a campy adventure series in the vein of the 1960s Batman. Fun!

POWERPOINT

Corporate-themed hardcore band PowerPoint™ are kind of the antithesis of what punk is about, but maybe breaking all the rules is the most punk move of all. They distribute zine versions of Forbes at their gigs, and claim Bank Flag, Minor Threat Financial and Gorilla Business” among their influences. Their track What’s The Point? (Power Point!) makes their ethos clear: 

The system is working and so are we
This is what you get with a college degree
We’re fiscally sound, financially straight
Owning my own house is really fucking great.’

If Ian MacKaye ever hears them, it seems fairly safe to say he won’t be a fan. 

SLAY DUGGEE

This lot do metal versions of songs from popular kids’ shows like Hey Duggee, Peppa Pig and Go Jetters. Their cover of The Stick Song was out within 48 hours of the original being broadcast, and was on the radio nine hours after that. There’s an album on the way, also including a metal cover of The LEGO Movie’s Everything Is Awesome featuring members of TesseracT and Nekrogoblikon.

ARNOCORPS

San Francisco’s Action Adventure Hardcore Rock’n’Roll” band Arnocorps are convinced that the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger are simply Hollywood retellings of events that took place involving the real Arnold Schwarzenegger. There’s such a fine line, gimmickwise, between stupid and great. 

Words: Mike Rampton

Posted on May 22nd 2018, 1:05p.m.
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