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Scary monsters and super beats

Horror has stalked the heart of rock 'n' roll since Screamin' Jay Hawkins donned a voodoo priest outfit and was led on stage inside a flaming coffin.

That was back in the '50s. A lot has changed. Of course things now are much more graphic, what with Ozzy Osbourne's biting the heads off small, furry animals and the mere existence of Marilyn Manson.

The only thing that would scare us about Screamin' Jay today would be his child support payments. It is documented ol' Jay fathered more than 55 kiddies before shedding this mortal coil.

Having said that, I'm a huge Screamin' Jay Hawkins fan and I still think his act is unparalleled in the realm of shock rock. Not only could he play nearly every instrument placed before him, his sense of humor and bravura showmanship is sorely lacking in today's creepy rock scene.

The closest thing we have to Screamin' Jay is Rob Zombie. Like Jay, Zombie combines chills with carnival freak show goofiness to great effect. Zombie might not be near the musician Jay was, but he understands all horror is tinged with more than a little humor. Call me misguided, but I think "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is one of the funniest films of all time. I put it right up there with "Duck Soup" and "Raising Arizona."

A few examples of scary moments in rock history are:

Alice Cooper:

Sure, you can point to the one-eyed monsters Alice did battle with on stage during his halcyon '70s years, or the oversized electric chair in which he strapped himself to end a night, but the scariest aspect of Alice's show is just how realistically it portrayed what was going on in his mind at the time.

Alice's battle with booze is well-documented. My parents caught several Cooper gigs in their younger years. They said the quality of the show depended on the amount of whiskey Alice imbibed before donning the black eye makeup and roaring onto the stage.

Too much whiskey led to a sloppy performance; too little, and it seemed Alice had trouble getting into character and the whole thing dissolved into low-rent Grand Guignol.

In later interviews Cooper talked about his mind-set in those days. He described "Alice Cooper" as an alter ego who lived to engage in horrible debauchery and self-destruction. It grew from the real Alice Cooper's self-loathing at being an unrepentant drunk.

So the act, which concluded with Alice being beheaded in a giant guillotine or cooked in said electric chair, was some Jungian projection of his desire to kill himself. Think about it, the guy enacted his suicide a hundred times a year to a mob of cheering stoners, my ma and pa included.

Am I off-base for finding that a little creepy?

It's a shame that the one-eyed monsters and fake blood have overshadowed Cooper's music. The landscape of '70s hard rock would be marred without "Love It to Death" and "Killers."

Mercyful Fate scares Metallica:

Legend has it, and I always believe legends, that one day during a break from recording "Ride the Lightning," members of Metallica snuck into an adjacent studio where Mercyful Fate was working.

Legend states the Bay Area thrash metalheads snuck a peek at Fate singer King Diamond's notebook that held his arcane and relentlessly morbid lyrics.

Legend goes on to say that Metallica let out a collective girly shriek and fled the room.

Satanism is to rock 'n' roll as apple pie is to America. You can't have one without the other. However, the majority of bands who claim allegiance with the Dark One do so with a wink and a shrug. Hey, it sells albums and the kiddies seem to love it. Ozzy has laughed it off, and Slayer members have stated they never believed in the devil, but liked the fact that his image made for cool album covers.

Not so with King Diamond. One time through "Don't Break the Oath" and you get the sense the King actually believes this crap. Most of his songs dissolve into straight-up Satanic dogma amid the wail of ax master Michael Denner's guitar and Timi Hansen's wicked bass lines.

Diamond himself has never denied his convergence to Satanism. What worries me is that someone who lives by its tenets is bound to come across the parts that call for blood orgies and human sacrifice. Diamond describes these acts as if he has taken part in them. There's not much humor to take solace in once you dive into Mercyful Fate's oeuvre.

So, Mr. Diamond, what are you not telling us? And is it all going to come out once you've joined Screamin' Jay in the arms of your Dark Lord? Just asking"¦

Norway is new capital of rock 'n' roll:

You think Norway and the first thing that comes to mind is its peace prize that seems to get both sides of the political spectrum's panties in a wad.

To me, Norway has become the new Mecca of rock 'n' roll following a series of gruesome murders committed by its resident metalheads.

No two ways about it, Norway's black metal scene in the '90s was rock 'n' roll taken to its most extreme.

In 1994, Varg Vikernes, of Mayhem, was convicted of killing a bandmate and setting fire to four churches in what will surely go down as metal's finest moment.

The practitioners of Norway's black metal went crazy for a while, setting fire to numerous churches under the guise of returning to some bizarre pagan past, which never really existed, at least not in the way they believed.

Personally, I think they were kind of awesome, but I certainly can understand why Norway's law enforcement would want to nip that thing in the rear ASAP.

The scary thing about the whole mess was that we live in a world where people listen to lyrics by Venom and Slayer and find some sort of truth in them. I don't believe art causes violence; morons with no lives do.

And considering how many no-life-having morons there are in the world, it's a wonder anyone can sleep at night.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.