Since its Australian Music T-shirt Day, we figured what better way to pay homage to this yearly event than to list some the most controversial and downright unwearable shirts in music history? From Metallica to Cannibal Corpse, these shirts range from somewhat questionable to spew-in-your-mouth disgusting. Enjoy!
Metallica – Metal Up Your Ass
Metallica first used the phrase “Metal Up Your Ass” as the name for their 1982 live demo recording when original guitarist Dave Mustaine was in the band. The name and the image, drawn by Stephen Gorman, were meant to be used for the band's first proper album, but their record company said nope, no way. Apparently they objected to the image of a filthy toilet with a blade positioned in exactly the right place to uh, cause the user some discomfort. The next part in this story has become the stuff of legend… It’s said that in response to this shut down from the conservative record execs, Metallica's bassist Cliff Burton (R.I.P!) used the phrase "Just fuckin' kill 'em all."The rest is history and another controversial album cover (and infamous t-shirt design) – Kill Em All - was born. Metal Up Your Ass! Try it, it’s super fun to say with a couple of these \m/
Down – Smokin’ Christ
Down also went for the “let’s offend the Christians” angle (always a winner!), with their entry into our “most controversial tees” list. The band from New Orleans features Pantera singer Phil Anselmo, along with guitarists Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity) and Bobby Landgraf, with drummer Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod, Crowbar, Superjoint Ritual) and bassist Pat Bruders (Goatwhore). Their shirt design is a great visual way to get two of the band’s key points across: thumbs up to weed and thumbs down to religion - with an image of the face of Jesus, thorny crown and all, smoking a fat joint. And with song titles like "Hail the Leaf" and "Bury Me in Smoke" no one’s left wondering what side of the fence this heavy metal band is on when it comes to the marijuana debate.
Cannibal Corpse – Butchered At Birth
As far as extreme metal bands go, few pushed the limits quite as far as the NY death/grind pioneers Cannibal Corpse. One need only look so far as this shirt for confirmation. The imagery used by the band to convey their gore-obsessed lyricism was sickening, and enough to make even the toughest of extreme metal fans’ stomach’s turn. Yeah nah, I’ll be right thanks.
Mayhem – Dawn of the Black Hearts
Mayhem are essentially known as the true originators of modern black metal, due in large part to their now deceased guitarist Euronymous. He came home one night to find original vocalist (aptly named ‘Dead’), with a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. Instead of calling the police, he took photos, and made a necklace out of his friend’s skull bone fragments. Grim. Said photos have since been seen on album covers, and the t-shirt you see below. Black metal has evolved and changed over the years but Mayhem have always set the standard for aspiring black metal bands, and the image of Dead's lifeless body remains one of heavy music's most confronting images.
Misfits – Better Dead on Red
Misfits wrote the song “Bullet” in 1978 but couldn’t find a label to release it due to its references to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and sexualisation of his wife Jackie. The shirt itself featured a confronting image of the President being shot, with the slogan ‘Better Dead on Red’ emblazoned across the back. The album was finally released in 1997, but the shirt is nigh on impossible to find these days.
Black Flag – Police Story
Not many images stick in the minds of Black Flag fans like this one. The shirt depicted the artwork from the song of the same name, and served as a gigantic middle finger to authority with a cop being forced to fellate the barrel of a gun – Repulsive and darkly comedic, this was anti-fascist Black Flag at their best.
I Declare War – ‘Show me your…’
There is nothing that you can say about this shirt to make it OK. Misogyny at its repugnant worst. Death metal has long been the forefront of imagery depicting gore, horror, politics, religion and war, but for some reason deathcore has found a way to make it horrifically chauvinist. Call us sensitive, we just think its gross.
Cattle Decapitation – Forced Gender Reassignment
It should be noted that musically, Cattle Decapitation are an extremely talented bunch of dudes. Their artistic vision and ensuing imagery on the other hand, are a different story entirely. The song (and completely rotten video clip) has made headlines as some of the most sadistic stuff ever written and the accompanying t-shirt crossed all sorts of boundaries. Honestly, this one is just plain fucked. (Seriously, don’t try and find that video clip).
Cradle of Filth - Vestal Masturbation
This t-shirt is usually the winner of the top spot in any “most controversial” lists as it goes straight for the jugular - taking a close-range shot at Christianity and using everyone’s favourite – or most despised – naughty word for female genitalia. Hell, it even got fans (and the drummer) arrested. Job done! English metallers, Cradle of Filth, came up with the concept, design for the shirt in 1993, which Rolling Stone magazine later labelled as the most controversial shirt in rock history in 2015. We probably don’t need to spell it out for you, but the front image of a nun masturbating and the words "Vestal Masturbation", along with the phrase "Jesus Is a Cunt" on the back, really turned heads and caused outrage amongst Christians around the world.In New Zealand, one woman stormed into a museum hosting a t-shirt exhibition, and attempted to black out the plastic case covering the displays with spray paint. As far as marketing goes, Cradle Of Filth really nailed this one. Hey, any publicity is good publicity right?