To paraphrase internet humor progenitor Strong Bad, the gift of metal does not smile on the good-looking. Most heavy metal musicians and fans don't belong in front of any kind of camera, lest the world see that the tastiest licks are written by skin tag casualties who look like they're chewing even if they're not. But no one got into metal to NOT get noticed, so there is actually a surprisingly long history of metal appearing on TV, the ugly person's version of the movies.
Below are 13 of the best, worst, and most notable heavy metal TV appearances. Surprisingly, most of them are from the late 90s and onwards, long after metal was the dominant form of popular guitar-based music in the world. Enjoy watching these videos and cringing at how often minor pieces of spoken dialogue can be so easily botched.
Judas Priest Is Mislabeled on The Simpsons
Emerging from the late 80s/early 90s, The Simpsons has always shown a healthy respect for metal (there's a classic scene where Satan urges Bart to keep listening to it, and Spinal Tap are one of the show's earliest guest stars, and of course the general existence of Otto as a character). In a later-season episode (so you probably haven't seen it), government officials have Judas Priest try to blast the family out of the Swedish Embassy. Of course, the show made the mistake of calling Judas Priest "death metal," which got a million sets of hole-crotched boxer briefs in knots, but the show later apologized for it via a Bart chalkboard gag. Classic.
Megadeth's Dave Mustaine Plays Too Fast on The Drew Carey Show
The Drew Carey Show was good for a laugh if you were a doughy good ol' boy from the suburbs, and of course there's no demographic more receptive to metal than doughy good ol' boys. In this episode, Drew and the boys are auditioning guitarists, with potential players including Joey Ramone and Lisa Loeb. When Mustaine attempts to play for them, they ask him to slow down, which Dave just can't do. Fun fact: the whole time he's on camera, Mustaine is secretly hating gay people! Who knew?
Anthrax Get Rowdy on Married…With Children
In 1989, MTV sponsored a contest in which NYC thrashers Anthrax would trash one lucky fan's home. The contest was so popular in its absurdity that Married…With Children used the idea in an episode, in which the Bundys win the same prize. What's especially cool is that, in the episode, we get to see Dark Anthrax, the black-clad version of the band around the release of 1990's Persistence of Time. They even play "In My World," a super dark introspective track, reminding fans that it can't be teal shorts all the time.
Alice Cooper Plays D&D on That '70s Show
When you're a complete showman like Alice Cooper, making TV appearances is sort of a must, and given that That '70s Show rides that Dazed & Confused thing so hard, it was only a matter of time before shock rock's grand wizard appeared. I'm not sure seeing Alice playing Dungeons & Dragons in the Forman basement is what any of us expected, but you're lying if you claim to be surprised.
Slayer Disappoint Jesse Camp in This MTV Commercial
Technically, this isn't an appearance by a metal band, but it's a pretty hilarious reference. VJ Jesse Camp is hosting a video marathon with the cast of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, only he thinks… you know what, just watch the video, you'll see what I mean. They use "Seasons of the Abyss," and there's a brief shot of Sarah Michelle Gellar, so hey, maybe 90s MTV wasn't a total loss.
Brann Dailor Is Very Rude on Late Night With Seth Meyers
Seth Meyers does all right by metal, having hosted bands like Megadeth and Anthrax. Perhaps most interesting, however, was when Mastodon's Brann Dailor sat in as the drummer for Meyers' house band. The appearance was a fun one, and included Dailor calling Meyers a bitch, living the drummer dream right there.
Eyehategod Perform a Song About Incest or Something Comparable on Treme
If you're going to make a show about New Orleans, you need to include Eyehategod, whose music is as humid and puke-spattered as the Big Easy itself. The makers of HBO's Treme obviously knew this, as they featured an EHG concert in an episode of the show. There's a concert, people are at it, you know the drill. Sadly, they didn't show the part where a security guard slams a still-pissing concertgoer against the urinal and pulls a hypo out of his jacket pocket.
Rob Zombie Becomes a Giant Reptile on Spider-Man: The New Animated Series
Given his penchant for costumes and grotesquery, it's not surprising that Rob Zombie has a history with Marvel Entertainment; the dude's done cameos on both Guardians of the Galaxy movies (director James Gunn is a fan). Less known is that Zombie voiced Curt Connors, better known as The Lizard, in MTV's short-lived CGI Spider-Man series. Yeah, Zombie's voice acting is a little straightforward and deadpan here, but then again, one doubts Marvel wanted The Lizard to start scatting about vampire pussy and hot rod murder.
Everyone Does a Voice on Metalocalypse
Given that Adult Swim's Metalocalypse was the first truly metal cartoon show of all time—it's about a metal band that becomes so massively rich that they can do metal-as-fuck things—it's unsurprising that genre stars wanted to get in on it. Voice cameos include James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica; Ihsahn and Samoth from Emperor; Devin Townsends and Gene Hoglan of Strapping Young Lad; Jeff Loomis and Warrel Dane of Nevermore; Michael Amott of Arch Enemy; Silenoz and ICS Vortex of Dimmu Borgir; George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher of Cannibal Corpse; and King Diamond as the Devil himself. We're probably forgetting a couple, but fuck it, you get the idea.
Anthrax's Scott Ian Gets His Brains Skewered on The Walking Dead
We know we've already done an Anthrax entry on this list, but hey, those Queens boys are just master small-screen thespians. Besides, this entry is pretty metal in all it's glory, because not only did Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian appear on The Walking Dead, he did so as a zombie, and he got KILLED as a zombie, meaning he died twice, which is all any metalhead can really ask for in this crazy world.
Marilyn Manson Sucks Leeches on Salem
When he's not making bad puns and being the "last true rock star" or whatever, Marilyn Manson is happy to now play roles that only a nebbish Jewish dude with a waning chin can pull off. In Salem, which is a soap opera version of the Salem witch trials, Manson plays a barber-surgeon, which were real things back in the day (you know this if you watch Flapjack). One of Manson's songs is also used as the show's theme, unsurprisingly.
Danzig Teaches a Life Lesson on Portlandia
Two of Portlandia's more popular culture-skewering characters are the Goths, who often do Goth-inappropriate things and act all spooky about them (what hilarity!). Thankfully, in the show's beach episode, Glenn Danzig is there as a poorly-accented European who teaches Fred Armisen a little something about personal comfort… and himself.
The Devil Goes Up to Toronto on Kids In The Hall
We all know that Satan has this bad habit of challenging people to instrument-playing contests and losing terribly. But Satan has never faced a defeat quite like when he played against Bobby in Bobby's parents' basement. Take a look at the funniest thing Tenacious D ripped off that wasn't their own show.
Christopher Krovatin is a New York-based writer and author. Follow him on Twitter.