Twenty-two years ago today, Rob Halford and Judas Priest were put on trial in Nevada. The accusation: using a backwards masking technique in their music to allegedly incite two young fans to shoot themselves with a twelve gauge shotgun. Although it was settled that the group had no intentions to back-mask the phrase "Do it" in the song "Better By You, Better Than Me" (Halford claimed it was simply him breathing into the microphone), the group went down in history as the first band to be accused of including negative, subliminal messages in their music.
This all came about at a very sensitive time for music, considering that, by the mid 80s, Tipper Gore's Parent's Music Resource Center (PMRC) was in full effect and the idea of censoring songs which glamorized drug use, promoted violence, or contained lyrics of a sexual nature was a major topic. I don't think that Judas Priest did it - here are a few artists who actually included negative backward messages in their songs.
New York City's punk/metal group Plasmatics had a reputation for high-intensity concerts and an anarcho image. At the end of the group's fourth studio album, the following message can be heard when played backwards: "Consensus Programming is dangerous to your health/ the brainwashed do not know they are being brainwashed." Although no one has ever come forward and blamed singer Wendy O. Williams or her group for any pain or damages inflicted on listeners, Wendy O. fulfilled a fantasy of hers in 1998 by taking her own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound from a sawn-off shotgun.
PLASMATICS - COUP D'ETAT, 1982
In 1985, British heavy metal rockers Grim Reaper included the line "See You in Hell" at the very end of their second studio album. Although the line contextually comes off as a response to a voice of a child who says "Goodnight Daddy" at the end of the track "Final Scream," the hidden phrase is also the name of their debut album, See You in Hell.
GRIM REAPER - "FINAL SCREAM" - FEAR NO EVIL, 1985
The infamous Seattle grunge group Soundgarden took a facetious position on the controversy of subliminal messages in music. On their debut album Ultramega OK, Chris Cornell can be heard wailing "Santa, I love you baby/ My Christmas king, Santa, you’re my king/ I love you, Santa baby/ Got what I need" when the track "665" is played in reverse.
SOUNDGARDEN - "665" - ULTRAMEGA OK, 1988
On this track, Lemmy can be heard growling his semi-unintelligible thoughts on the PMRC and music censorship throughout the song. You know, stuff like: "Now tell me about your miserable little lives/ I do not subscribe to your superstitious, narrow minded…"
MOTöRHEAD - "NIGHTMARE / THE DREAMTIME" - 1916, 1991
Floridian death metal act Deicide reversed the lyrics in the chorus of the song "Satan Spawn, The Caco-Daemon," and added the sound of provoked sheep.
DEICIDE - "SATAN SPAWN, THE CACO-DAEMON" - LEGION, 1991
This dark, ambient track by London neofolk post-industrial group Coil contains the following message at the end of the B-side track on this two song single: "When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers…" leaving the question "is suicide a solution" open to interpretation.
COIL - "IS SUICIDE A SOLUTION" - "AIRBORNE BELLS / IS SUICIDE A SOLUTION?" SEVEN-INCH, 1991
While at the peak of their career as one of the pioneering groups of the Norwegian Black Metal cycle, Darkthrone released their fourth album, Transilvanian Hunger. As the race to become the most evil metal group in Norway's music scene escalated, the concept of burning churches went from concept to reality, appearing in band lyrics and occurring in Norway between 1992 and 1996. Right smack in the middle of this chaos, Darkthrone's track "As Flittermice as Satans Spys" was released. At the end of the song, the following backwards message can be heard: "In the name of God, let the churches burn."