The 13 Coolest Obscure Metal Mascots
The first thing anyone thinks of when the topic of metal mascots is broached is undoubtedly Iron Maiden’s Eddie the Head. This is only natural, as the surly-looking, skeletal figure has appeared all over Iron Maiden’s everything in different forms over the past 37 years. Motörhead’s Snaggletooth has had almost as prominent a legacy, having graced 22 album covers and countless shirt and patch designs to become as representative of the band as its logo. Megadeth’s Vic Rattlehead may not have as lengthy a history of either, but the bony embodiment of “see / hear / speak no evil” has become a constant feature since being referenced in the song “The Skull Beneath the Skin” and appearing on the cover of the band’s 1985 debut, Killing Is My Business … And Business Is Good.
Those are three of metal’s most discernible mascots, and also ones that have transcended the metal underground to where they’ve appeared in the mainstream media and as part of hipsters’ irony uniforms. But there are other bands that employ the services of mascots. Some of them have their own unique backstory, history and enduring legacy. Others are fairly new to the public eye. All of them serve to represent their creators in the same way as the above-mentioned trio — just maybe not on the level that Kendall or Kayne are going to put them on fake battle jackets. Here, we discuss a baker’s dozen of mascots from the world of extreme music, while using their subjective obscurity to rank them accordingly in reverse order.
13. Skanker / Running Man (D.R.I.)
Pure simplicity, this one. A straightforward image — which looks like something that could be used as an internationally understood symbol for joggers and runners the same way cyclists 'round the globe follow pictographs for bike lanes and cycling paths — is actually the mascot for one of hardcore’s most enduring and significant bands, D.R.I. Unofficially, the skanker / running man is a symbol for a mosh-friendly, circle-pitting thrash zone, though its history is rooted in it being an art project. Back in his school days, original drummer Eric Brecht was tasked with designing a company logo. “The company was our record label, Dirty Rotten Records,” says Brecht on the band’s website, “but we just absorbed it as our band’s logo.”
12. Jack O. Lantern (Helloween)
If a metal band named Helloween hadn’t taken a demonic-looking, (usually) disembodied pumpkin head as its mascot, well, that would just be crazy and confusing. Instead, the German power metal old guard have had Herr O. Lantern as part of their aesthetic since the very beginning. Whether he’s filling in as the "o" in the band’s logo, being boiled in a stew by a dominatrix witch on 1998’s Better Than Raw, or leading an army of similarly-domed clones over an ice-packed Statue of Liberty on 2015’s My God-Given Right, Jack appears to have a gig as long as the Helloween wheels are turning.
11. Chaly (Overkill)
Full disclosure: I was never a fan of Overkill until the release of their 2010 album, Ironbound. I could do without the first 30 years of their career, but I’ve been big into Ironbound and the three releases that have followed: The Electric Age, White Devil Armory and the recently released The Grinding Wheel. Coincidentally, in addition to the audio output having made a leap in quality that makes one wonder who sold their soul at the crossroads, the band’s long time mascot, Chaly — living large since 1988! — suddenly came off less cartoonish compared to the days when green lasers were shooting out of his eyes (Under the Influence), or where he looked like something rejected from the exterior gates shots of a King Kong movie (The Years of Decay) and a graffiti stencil (W.F.O.) Thankfully, the days of his depictions living up to every dumb stereotype that non-metal people have about metal imagery are apparently over.
10. Korgull the Exterminator (Voivod)
Voivod’s Korgull has been around since the band’s early '80s inception, has had songs written about him and has withstood multiple nuclear wars to become the longest-surviving member of the Voivod warrior clan. (The album title Rrröööaaarrr is supposedly the scream attributed to Korgull after surviving multiple nuclear wars.) On 1988’s Dimension Hatröss, he had an entire concept album dedicated to his exploits. Mascot creator and artist extraordinaire, drummer Michel "Away" Langevin, has so often reimagined the character that its mythology and timeline have gotten cloudy over the past 30-plus years, but the band still features variations — both new and old — of their li'l thermonuclear warrior friend on shirts and cover art to this day.
9. Roy (Children of Bodom)
The story of why a Grim Reaper named Roy has graced the cover of each of this Finland-based, melodic shredding thrash outfit's albums since 1997 goes like so: “Children of Bodom acquired their name from a legendary murder that took place in Finland at Lake Bodom. When four teens went camping at Lake Bodom in 1960, three of them were stabbed to death in the middle of the night, and the man who survived, Nils Gustafsson, went insane and was committed to an asylum. He said he saw the Grim Reaper.” Our guess as to why Roy remains a CoB mainstay — in addition to the Grim Reaper having a lock on so much metal imagery — is because, “in 2004, the Finnish Police arrested Nils Gustafsson, who was assumed to be the killer. However, there wasn't enough proof against him, so he was acquitted and the case still remains unsolved.” While this might explain the use of the Grim Reaper as a mascot, it does nothing to explain why he’s named Roy, not Nils. [quotes provided by metal-archives.com]
8. Knarrenheinz (Sodom)
Whereas most people think biblically or anally when the word Sodom comes up, us rivetheads know better and recognize the Germans as a metallic institution. The band has been going non-stop since 1981, and their mascot — the helmeted, gas-mask-sporting, high-caliber-weapon-wielding Knarrenheinz — has been featured on almost every one of the band’s 14 album covers since 1987’s Persecution Mania. If you look at some of the military situations Knarrenheinz has been thrust in over the years (leading a battalion of tanks, retrieving skeletal remains, manning an aerial gunner crew) and create your own narrative around him, it’s not hard to imagine him as a Teutonic combination of Jack Bauer and John Rambo. And little is more metal than a lone wolf loner with a death wish and the skills to unleash a massive killing capacity.
7. Jester Head (In Flames)
Given that In Flames’ three-pronged Jester Head mascot was created by vocalist Anders Fridén alongside his good buddy and former bandmate, Dark Tranquillity guitarist Niklas Sundin — and, appropriately enough first emerged on the band’s 1996 album, The Jester Race — the relegation of their trident-lidded mascot to the covers of EPs, compilations, merch items and backdrops is almost as curious as the band’s musical transformation from leaders in the field of melodic death metal to the alt-rock musical equivalent of E.D. But I’m sure those who are still part of the In Flames army are likely to have seen it around more than the rest of us, and are happy to pay witness to its endurance.
6. Violent Mind (Kreator)
Kreator’s Violent Mind is not only the German thrashers’ mascot, but a reflection of the cruelty, struggle and darkness lurking in mankind’s collective consciousness. Violent Mind has appeared on four of Kreator’s 14 albums, and its initial appearance on 1990’s Coma of Souls as a hand-drawn hobgoblin head — with its cranial skin peeled and pinned back — may not have done the serious statement trying to be made many favors. It’s not a mascot the band regularly trots out, but when they have, the image is morphed to reflect society’s turns. For instance, when western society found itself getting more reactionary in response to events like 9/11, the Violent Mind was portrayed on 2001’s Violent Revolution as partially covered, almost like the bloody red under the rotting flesh was about to burst forth in frustration. And as society has leaned more towards divisiveness and intolerance, 2009’s Hordes of Chaos portrays Violent Mind with Pinhead-like shooting spikes, indicative of outward splayed aggression. Or I could be completely full of shit and reading way too much into this stuff.
5. Ben Wrangle (Witchery)
Witchery’s animated skeleton, Ben Wrangle, takes his name from a pun on the Swedish word “benrangel,” which, when loosely translated into English, means “skellington,” which isn’t even a really a word, but what the heck? I mean, if we’re going to suspend reality enough to give credence to a reanimated skeleton that has been employed as a necrophiliac coroner, graveyard watchman, spindly-limbed boogeyman and WWII infantry leader, then syntax should be the least of anyone’s concern. Not only has Ben morphed into different guises and vocations over 20 years, his bony fingers are most responsible for popularizing the band’s signature "W" hand symbol, which can be seen front and center on In His Infernal Majesty’s Service, the band’s 20th anniversary release.
4. Heartbeast (Kataklysm)
Whether you want to look at it as a response that embraced the positive feedback of their constituency or a pandering to the masses, the character that "Northern Hyberblast" death metal crew Kataklysm christened as Heartbeast wasn’t actually introduced until their 2006 album In the Arms of Devastation, 15 years into their career. Recognizable for its evil demon / tortured human facial duality and exposed, perpetually dripping chest cavity, Heartbeast has made four appearances, the latest being on their most recent album, 2015’s Of Ghosts and Gods, where he appears in brittle and decrepit skeletal form — which, from up here in the cheap seats, doesn’t bode well for his future.
3. Hector (HammerFall)
Barring 2008’s Infected, HammerFall’s paladin mascot, Hector, has appeared on the cover of each of the band’s 10 albums. However, for whatever reason, the barrel-chested templar knight / crusader / what have you has hardly been acknowledged by the type of metal nerd who would sit down to write nerdy pieces about metal mascots. Hector has found himself in many situations over the years: in battle, heading into battle, freezing after a battle, reveling in the spoils of battle on a fictional throne, or just hanging around flashing his muscular frame whilst contemplating his next battle. If the world of metal has a great mystery, it’s the ongoing popularity of Six Feet Under, though the lack of acknowledgement of dear old Hector surely comes in as a tight second.
2. Dr. Philthy (Exhumed)
A bloody chainsaw held by an unknown assailant was a feature of Exhumed's first full-length from 1998, Gore Metal, though the character was never given an official name or face despite chainsaws being a large part of the art and imagery of future releases, and a larger part of the band’s incendiary live show. It wasn’t until earlier this decade — when one of their roadies created the Dr. Philthy character by yanking the chainsaw from the cold, dead hands of the band, donning bloody hospital scrubs and a soiled lab coat, and started terrorizing stages, exhorting audiences, revving the chainsaw’s engine along to parts of the song “Limb From Limb” and becoming a vital part of the live show — that a legend was born. His image started appearing in promo pics and on specially-made girl tees — what you can’t see in the image above is the shirt’s back print: “I ♥ my gynecologist” — and now an Exhumed show without Dr. Philthy doing his filthy business isn’t really an Exhumed show.
1. Hooded Killer (The Dog)
Wrocław, Poland’s fastcore / powerviolence maniacs the Dog top this list primarily because they're probably the newest band of those given mention here; and, by default, this automatically relegates their Hooded Killer mascot to "most obscure" status despite his appearance on two of the band’s releases since 2013. In an interview with vocalist Igor, he confirmed that “HK” will be a regular feature going forward before describing his genesis: “[He] refers to my personal interests. I'm a big fan of American culture and its symbolism, and I cannot imagine anything more cruel then the vision of an offender wearing that kind of mask, hiding somewhere in the bushes before doing some bad things. There is a scene in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford which truly shows what kind of thrill it brings. On the other hand, there was a guy who said something like, ‘Man, I didn't know what kind of music you play — I just bought the record for the cover!’”