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Black Sabbath, Slayer & More Sound Off on Pop Stars Wearing Metal T-Shirts

Skolnick, Snider, Holt & Halford
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Clockwise, from top: Skolnick, Snider, Holt & Halford weigh in on heavy metal culture being used by contemporary artists.

In October, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider fired up Twitter to attack pop music’s latest fixation. “This new trend of non-metal fans wearing vintage metal T’s is pretty sickening. Metal is not ironic! Dicks,” he vented. “It’s not just the wearing of our metal T’s, it’s their cherry picking of our style #skulls #metalhorns. These are OUR symbols; OUR image.”  

Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Kanye West are just a few of the contemporary acts who in recent years have mined metal symbols and logos for merchandise, and worn outfits inspired by acts from Slayer to Marilyn Manson. Calling out posers for repping bands without knowing the music is about as old as rock tees themselves, but rock dudes reacting against pop trends goes back just as far, and Snider’s not the only metalhead who is willing to stir the pot. Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick says he feels the genre is being “marginalized” (he also calls out awards shows and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Slayer guitarist Gary Holt goes so far as to accuse Beyoncé of “appropriation” for using his band’s logo for “Slayoncé” merchandise without permission on her Formation World Tour.  

But not every metal artist finds the trend threatening. Rob Halford of Judas Priest doesn't “have any problem” with it, saying he wouldn't mind if someone slapped Mickey Mouse on his band’s shirt. “It shows you the reach and power of metal as a global force now in music,” he says. “That is the epitome of popularity, when you get a Kardashian wearing a metal shirt ... suddenly metal is on the front page of every newspaper and social platform.”  

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi likens the trendy use of metal’s gothic-style lettering and graphics to musicians using the same riffs he wrote decades ago. “I’m honored that they do,” he says. “The more the merrier.”   

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 9 issue of Billboard.

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