Heavy music is renowned (or perhaps notorious) for its use of controversy and shock value in the imagery of everything from lyrical content, to stage antics and cover artwork. So it should come as no surprise that this recurring theme should also transfer onto the merchandise stores, and, more specifically, the t-shirts of bands who dare to offend. Raising a few eyebrows and even more questions, it sparks a timeless debate over the social and political lines that are so often crossed with a metaphorical wink, snicker, and middle finger pointed at the face of humanity. Is it a way for individuals on a public platform to hide discriminatory and derogatory views behind the term “art”? Maybe. Are we as a society too sensitive or not sensitive enough? Well, if art’s purpose is to provoke thought, then you could consider it a job well done.  All things considered, it’s a method that places the artist in a position where there is no real losing reaction; love, hate, or indifference, the name of the game is to attract attention, spark conversation, and, for the more thoughtful artists, to make a statement. What better (or arguably, tasteless) way to send such messages than via obnoxious use of vulgarity, and at times satire, which is impossible to ignore?  Whether you’re for or against this tactic, there is no denying the stroke of marketing genius. In no particular order, I’ve compiled an assortment of some of the most outstanding shirts that I’ve come across yet. Be warned, these are not for the sensitive! UK metalcore band, Asking Alexandria seem to have made a habit of selecting obscene one-liners from their lyrical content and slapping them onto their shirts. How the teens love their curse words…             

They have sparked a lot of controversy with feminists over their sexist and misogynistic undertones.


Australian hardcore favourites The Amity Affliction, whilst milder than others on this list, has still featured the occasional curse and drug reference on their merchandise.


American punk rockers, Ceremony made a clear statement against religious corruption and discrimination after Jerry Falwel– a pastor and segregationist – passed away in 2007. The back of the shirts reads a quote from Falwell: “If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being”.  An example of positive activism, despite the strong use of language, which would obviously be unsavoury to certain palates.

Thanks to the American metal group, Down, you could sport yourself a shirt of Jesus smoking a joint. Classic.


Let’s not forget this gem from Metallica

Or the time Marilyn Manson crowned himself “The God of Fuck”.


Cannibal Corpse is the kings of gore, and if this one’s new to you, then you’re probably in for a gasp. Otherwise, it should be standard: raising the topic of societal desensitisation to violence through imagery exposure in the entertainment industry.

English extreme metallers, Cradle of Filth are partial to getting a little, well, filthy when showing their love for religion…


Brace yourselves, folks… because with American grindcore bands like Anal Blast and Anal Cunt, could you really expect anything PG? “Body by Auschwitz”. Yep, they went there.


Aussie technical death metal legends, Psycroptic pulled out a nice little number, paying witty tribute to the Tasmanian Devil.

The late Melbournian death/doom metal group, Surgical Disembowelment cracked out their class with this enticing piece, proving that chivalry is not dead.


Melbourne’s own death/black metal champions, Whoretopsy recently released this shirt which is available for pre-order now via their web store. A fine throwback for some; childhood ruining for others.

American deathcore band, I Declare War aren’t out to dress to impress, with a particularly distasteful ‘tribute’ to the late actor, Chris Farley. However, they redeem themselves a little here with this bold statement of pro-LGBTQI rights.


Last, but not least, here are a couple more examples from Emmure and Atilla… American metalcore bands seem to love their profanity.

Tell us what are your most favoured and most hated in the comments section below, and if you have one in mind that’s not listed here, I invite you to show us in the comments also.