In the 9th episode of the outstanding 'Metal Evolution' series Sam Dunn continues the exploration of the fascinating world of heavy metal by trying to understand the origins and evolution of 'shock rock',a term,which unlike hard rock,glam metal and so on,doesn't refer to music first,but to imagery and theatrical performances which characterize the shows of the artists to whom this label applies.In order to understand where this phenomenon appeared,Sam interviews former and present artists,including people from circuses,who make him realize that freak shows existed since the 19th century and they represented one of the biggest attractions for people who,liketoday,were looking for sensational and unusual stuff to be entertained.That form of entertainment also influenced rock'n' roll in the fifties and sixties,but the first musician to combine hard rock and shock imagery was undoubtedly Alice Cooper.
From the interview with Alice Cooper we find out that the idea of creating a complex horror show with a lot of shocking elements,fire,snakes,ghosts and so on came to him because he felt that rock needed a villain at that time,and by adopting that image which led to controversy and sometimes negative reactions from authorities the band gained a huge popularity in the 70s;the same thing happened to another big name which appeared in that period,Kiss.Their manager explains that they weren't great musicians,so they needed something to go with the music and fascinate audiences,and those were,of course,the visual elements,including their famous maks,which turned them into one of the most popular acts in the world.
Sam Dunn's exploration of the so-called ''Shock Rock'' copntinues with the 80s,a period in which there were musicians who weren't reluctant at all to associate their image with evil and hell and do it openly.The interviews with Abbadon,drummer of Venom,and legendary King Diamond,who earned his fame as the leadsinger of Mercyful Fate,reveal the fact that,although their shows were highly controversial and attracted protests from politicians or ultra religious groups,that opposition could only increase their popularity and bring them more fans attracted by the dark themes approached in their music and live show.
Going further into the 90s and the first part of our century,Sam Dunn interviews members of bans he considers as most representative for ''shock rock'' during this period:Marilyn Manson,Slipknot and Rammstein,musicians that were also linked with controversy,but there's also a lighter side of shock rock revealed by members of Rammstein;in fact,lead singer Till Lindemann even considers the term "shock rock'' silly,while one of his band mates clearly renders their attitude:"We don't want to shock anyone,we just want to entertain people."
In a world where shocking things are so accesible nowadays thanks to mass-media and the grim reality of contemporary society basically shocks us almost every day,the term ''shock rock'' seems outdated.However,I think it will continue to be used and seen as a form of entertainment,just like a horror movie,so even if it doesn't refer to a certain type of rock music,but to imagery and theatricality,I think Sam Dunn's decision to dedicate an entire episode to this phenomenon is justified because it is an important part of the rock subculture.