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Corpse paint or corpsepaint is a style of black-and-white makeup, used mainly by black metal bands during live concerts and photo shoots. The makeup is used to make the musicians appear inhuman, corpse-like, or demonic.
Corpse paint involves making the face and neck white and making the area around the eyes and lips black. Sometimes it is mixed with real or fake blood. Musicians will often have a 'trademark' style. Other colors are seldom used; Attila Csihar of Mayhem uses neon colors, while the Norwegian bands Satyricon and Dødheimsgard have experimented using other colors.
History and usage
The earliest rock groups to don makeup similar to corpse paint included Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Arthur Brown in the 1960s, Secos & Molhados, Alice Cooper and Kiss in the 1970s and, later that decade, punk rockers like The Misfits and singer David Vanian of The Damned.
In the 1980s, Hellhammer, Venom, Death SS and King Diamond of Mercyful Fate (who used corpse paint as early as 1978 in his band Black Rose) were the first extreme metal groups to use corpse paint. Other groups soon followed suit, including Hellhammer's later incarnation Celtic Frost. Brazilian band Sarcófago also pioneered the look, being dubbed by Metal Storm magazine as the first band with a "true" corpsepaint. Early corpse paint was meant simply to highlight an individual's features and make them look "dead".
Bands of the early Norwegian black metal scene used corpsepaint extensively. The first Norwegian black metal band to wear corpse paint was Mayhem, whose singer Per "Dead" Ohlin began wearing it in the late 1980s. According to Necrobutcher, Mayhem's bass player: "It wasn't anything to do with the way Kiss and Alice Cooper used make-up. Dead actually wanted to look like a corpse. He didn't do it to look cool." In the early 1990s, other Norwegian black metal bands followed suit and their style and sound was adopted by bands around the world. However, some of the Norwegian bands—such as Emperor, Satyricon and Burzum—stopped wearing corpse paint, often citing its loss of meaning or trendiness due to use by so many bands.
Similar styles outside metal
Corpse paint has been associated mainly with black metal and heavy metal in general, but it has inspired musicians and others outside metal:
- In the fall of 1996, professional wrestler Sting began wearing corpse paint in a persona inspired by the film The Crow featuring Brandon Lee.
- Another professional wrestler, The Undertaker, wore make-up similar to corpse paint in the mid-1990s in reference to his stage name.
- Japanese pro wrestler, Onryo, uses extensive corpse paint.
- Professional wrestler, Jeff Hardy, wore face paint resembling corpse paint at one point in his career.
- Mexican Wrestler Chessman uses red and black face paint.
- On the Role of Clothing Styles In The Development of Metal - Part I - Metal Storm
- Chris Campion: In the Face of Death. In: The Observer, 20. February 2005.
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