When groups are just starting out in the underground music scene, many of the wisest groups with the biggest aspirations realize they soon need something to set themselves apart. Standing and playing in more plain clothes often just won’t do — so the most outrageous acts, from metal to horror rap, have turned to costumes. Here are five of the most outrageous costumed acts to emerge from underground music to mainstream notoriety! Almost everyone’s heard of KISS, but have you heard of Lordi or Insane Clown Posse?
KISS: One of the original costumed bands, the group emerged from the New York City underground rock scene in the early ’70s. Led by frontman Gene Simmons, KISS took the make-up and dramatic flair of glam rock but took it to its extreme. The look of the band, with skin-tight space-age outfits and black-and-white makeup, became instantly recognizable. That, combined with other stage antics like flaming guitars, quickly propelled the group out of the underground rock scene and into mass stardom.
Gwar: This act started out as a staple on the underground rock scene of Richmond, Virginia as a relatively straightforward punk and metal act. But in a sea of similarly dressed underground rock acts, the group soon began to wear costumes and make its appearance progressively crazier. Eventually, Gwar morphed into a collection of larger-than-life monsters and aliens who squirt blood onstage almost nonstop, with its underground music almost becoming an afterthought to some fans. The band has been playing for 27 years and is still beloved on the underground rock scene for its sticky live shows.
Lordi: Considered to be sort of like the Gwar of Finland, Lordi got its start in the underground rock scene of its native Finland in the mid-’90s. The group struggled with money problems and at first floundered in the underground music world. Eventually Lordi achieved some success, but its popularity again waned until it shot back out of the underground rock scene when its song “Hard Rock Hallelujah” won the 2006 Eurovision song contest. Lordi, too, dress as statuesque monsters and are extremely fond of pyrotechnics.
Slipknot: This group is probably the biggest success story of the Des Moine, Iowa underground rock scene. From the beginning, Slipknot offered a new take on hard rock that picked up on the so-called “nu metal” trend in the underground music scene. underground rock with horror themes, a move which frightened parents but pushed the group into mainstream success. Now, fans even wear Slipknot replica masks to the group’s concerts and on Halloween.
Insane Clown Posse: Insane Clown Posse is unusual on this list because the group’s form of underground music is rap, rather than rock or metal. But in underground music, even rap is full of acts with outrageous appearance. As the name implies, Insane Clown Posse took on an early persona of murderous clowns. The look has changed slightly over the years but Insane Clown Posse has always stuck with the circus make-up, which has only added an air of absurd menace to their unusual take on underground music.