Rock and Metal's Most Notorious Crimes
The world of Rock and Metal music isn’t always the glitz and glamour strewn landscape it appears to be on the surface. On (thankfully) rare occasions a gritty, darker side can emerge that shocks fans all around the world.
With that said, let’s dive into some of the most notorious crimes that left a black mark on the world of rock n roll.
1 - Varg
Any list on this subject would not be complete without including what is possibly the most notorious and well-known crime in the music industry on a whole, let alone the metal sphere.
Those well versed in Black Metal lore feel free to scroll past this one as you will know all there is to know about this, however, if you’re of those who may have never heard of the infamous name Varg, please read on.
Varg has gone by a few names over the years being born Kristian Vikernes, in Norway, 1973, he is also known as Louis Cachet but more popularly as Varg Vikernes. Founding the now legendary, black metal powerhouse, Burzum.
For the uninitiated, in order to understand Varg’s crime, you need to understand the state of not only the music scene but his mind at the time he was rising up the ranks of Norway’s black metal underworld.
Producing four albums under the Burzum banner in the early nineties, Varg was gaining a reputation as a ferocious musician who was outspoken and intimidating. It was around this time that the equally infamous church burnings began to spiral out of control across Norway, lead in part by Varg who was found guilty on numerous counts of Arson, some of the churches attacked were deemed of incredible historical importance.
Competing for top spot in Scandinavia was a small band called Mayhem, lead by Øystein Aarseth, better known by his stage name Euronymous. The musical rivalry between Mayhem and Varg’s Burzum project grew bitter and twisted into personal hatred between Euronymous and Varg coming to a bloody and shocking end one August night in 1993.
Varg viciously stabbed Euronymous to death at his own apartment in Oslo, Norway after the two met to discuss an unsigned contract, with previous arguments about royalties and music rights being common between the pair.
When arrested Varg claimed he had acted in self-defence, telling police that Euonymous had planned to attack him first with an electroshock weapon before torturing him to death. He went on to explain that he had discovered this information from a close group of mutual friends, even going as far to say he would have never believed the plot had he heard it from others, but as it came from such a core group he had no choice but to take it seriously and act first.
The series of events leading to the fatal stabbing according to Varg included a scuffle just moments after Euronumous answered the door, with Varg being kicked in the chest before Euronymous fled to the kitchen to grab a knife, Varg, fearing for his own safety managed to wrestle the knife free and in turn stabbed his rival twice in the head, sixteen times in the back and five times in the neck.
Also on the scene was Snorre "Blackthorn" Ruch, who had driven over with Varg, later going on to say that Varg had forced him to come along. After the stabbing, the two drove to a nearby lake and dumped the bloodstained clothes. Blackthorne has since stated that he believes Varg planned to murder Euronymous that night.
Vikernes stood trial in May 1994 and was sentenced to twenty-one years in prison which was the maximum sentence in Norway, in addition to the murder charge his sentence included charges of Arson, Attempted Arson and the Possession of Explosives.
2 - Michael Todd
The name Michael Todd may not be instantly recognisable to some but the band, Coheed and Cambria sure will be.
On July 10th, 2011, Todd was arrested on charges of armed robbery, a crime committed just hours before he was due to be on stage with Coheed to open up for Soundgarden.
The Police report stated that Todd had entered a Walgreens pharmacy a little after 1 pm and had shown a pharmacist manning the counter a note written on his cell phone. The note was a threat that Todd would detonate a bomb right there on the spot if he was not given the prescription pain killer Oxycontin. The shaken pharmacist was not paid enough to play hero and so handed over six bottles of Oxycontin which Todd greedily snatched up before quickly booking it back to the venue in a cab. The pharmacist called the robbery in and police quickly tracked the cab and the bassist was later arrested at the Mansfield Comcast Centre.
This criminal act was not Todd’s first, being earlier convicted of drug possession in 2004 in Florida and driving under the influence in New York. In 2006, he temporarily left the band to seek treatment for heroin addiction and returned the following year until the robbery in 2011.
He was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer in 2012
3 - Gaahl
The former frontman of Norwegian black metal titans Gorgoroth and founder of Gaahlskagg, Gaahl, born Kristian Eivind Espedal was another high profile figure in the Scandinavian black metal scene caught up in the infamous wave of church burnings.
Espedal did far worse than arson, however. In 2002 he was fined over 150 thousand Norwegian Krowes and sentenced to one year in prison without the possibility of parole on assault and torture charges.
According to his alleged victim, Gaahl prevented him from leaving a social gathering by blocking his exit after he made it very clear that he felt threatened and wished to leave. The next thing the victim claimed to remember was a blow to the head and waking up in another area of the house.
He would go on to state, "From the moment I got hit, I thought to myself that this was the end. It was as if I could view the whole situation from the outside: Now I'm dying."
Over the next few hours, Gaahl was accused of torturing the man with increasing levels of violence described in the courtroom as “extremely raw and brutal” at one stage the victim claimed Gaahl cut him and collected his blood in a cup before telling him that he planned to sacrifice him and consume the blood in the process.
Later, in 2006 Gaahl was sentenced again, this time to fourteen months (serving nine) and fined 190 thousand Krones for torturing another man. Gaahl, however, claimed he was acting only in self-defence and told the courts “I was the one who was attacked, but they think I punished him too hard. As I always say, when people cross my line… then I will be the one to decide what their punishment will be.”
4 Tim Lambesis
Imprisoned in 2014, As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis faced charges of attempted murder after it was revealed he tried to hire a hitman with the intention of killing his ‘estranged’ wife. Fortunately, the hitman he hired turned out to be an undercover cop and Lambesis was caught red-handed.
Lambesis pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison but was released in late 2016. He was at the time of the crime locked in a fierce custody battle over the couples three adopted children, Lambesis asked a trainer at his gym if he knew of anyone who could kill his wife in return for payment. The trainer was rightfully freaked out by the conversation and tipped off the police who set up the sting.
Part of Lambesis’ defence was based around his use of steroids which “altered his thinking”. In a lengthy post on the band's official Facebook page Lambesis started out by saying “Words cannot begin to express how deeply sorry I am for the hurt that I have caused. There is no defence for what I did, and I look back on the person I became with as much disdain as many of you likely do” He went on to apologise to his family, children, his former wife and everyone else he let down.
5 Marylin Manson
In 2001, Marylin Manson was famously charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual assault following an incident during a live performance in Michigan.
During his set, Manson, dressed in a thong and pantyhose, was accused of approaching a 25-year-old (at the time) security official positioned at the front of the stage, spitting on him then proceeded to wrap his legs around the man’s upper body before rubbing his crotch on the man's head.
The security guard was less than impressed with Manson’s actions and wasted no time in pressing charges, the county prosecutor dealing with the case at the time said “The guard was a non-consenting participant. This was not something that was orchestrated or choreographed as part of the act. The security guard was there for the protection of the performer, but he ended up being assaulted by the person he was protecting. Obviously, the guard was very offended and humiliated.”
The case rolled on into 2004 before being dropped by the accuser in return for an undisclosed settlement.
6 Vince Neil
Immortalised somewhat grimly in the recent Motley Crue biopic The Dirt, Vince Neil’s horrific car accident in 1984 resulted in the death of glam rock outfit, Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle, real name Nicholas Dingley.
Neil was heavily intoxicated when he regrettably got behind the wheel, he later collided with an oncoming car. Those in the car he hit, Lisa Hogan and Daniel Smithers, were also severely injured and sadly left with brain damage. He didn’t escape unharmed and was badly injured himself, he was not aware of the passing of Razzle until he was at the Police Station later that night where he turned himself in and faced charges of vehicular manslaughter.
The frontman has lived with the tragedy and guilt ever since with his ex-wife writing Neil’s autobiography Tattoos & Tequila, "Razzle's death really changed Vince's life. Before Razzle died, Vince was a happy drunk. After that, he turned dark. I don't think he's ever recovered."