The 12 Greatest Costumed Rock Bands Ever

Rock and Roll has had its share of larger than life characters. Some were born with an innate charisma that just demanded attention: Elvis, Jim Morrison, and Iggy Pop, for example. Other artists, however, fully embraced rock and roll’s shared sense of rebellion and theater to create new personas through costume. At StarCostumes.com, we have an affinity (and maybe a little bias) for these artists. So, without further ado, we present you The 12 Greatest Costumed Rock Bands Ever!

12. Mortiis

Behemoth.jpg

Havard Ellefsen is the brainchild behind the man and the band, Mortiis. Hailing from Norway, a nation whose musical contributions are most associated with the black metal genre, it is not uncommon for artists to sport some sort of make up and leather. Combining industrial rock and ambient electronica, in turn, Mortiis take costuming further with custom created prosthetic face and ear pieces, dreadlocks, and dress that sometimes is no more than mummy wrapping and sometimes shredded leather covered in corn flour.

11. Behemoth

Behemoth

For nearly 20 years, the Polish black metal band has been using it’s anti-Christian lyrics and breakneck rhythms to become one of the most notorious metal bands in the world. While their live shows may feature them wearing standard black metal fare of leather with big steel spikes, and white face paint with some black smears here and there, it’s the photo shoots where Behemoth shines. From custom fit leather frocks laden with zippers and chains to body armor reminiscent of Roman warriors, Behemoth takes their costumes seriously. After all, they have a bad reputation to uphold.

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers

While they may not be the first band that comes to mind when you think of costumed bands, but there was a time in the mid-90s when these SoCal funky punks donned some of the most outrageous costumes ever. From being dresses as light bulbs, to wearing just a sock on their genitals, to wearing helmets that shot fire 10 feet into the air, they not only wore these things, but actually delivered full 90-minute sets that way!

9. Mushroomhead

Mushroomhead

From the hometown of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, Ohio), comes the masked metal band known as Mushroomhead. While their costumes have changed little over the years, their most popular look features black jump suits and black masks with X’s across the face. Interestingly, the impetus for Mushroomhead to wear costumes was not to create a new identity as much as it was to hide their own identities, because they were originally a side project of several other more popular Cleveland-based bands and wanted to keep their identities separate.

8. Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper

Every trend has to come back to one individual, the person who set the trend in motion. When talking about rock bands and artists who perform in costume, it all starts with Alice Cooper. From the streets of Detroit Rock City, Alice Cooper used the experimental period of the ’60s to start changing a normal rock show to a theatrical tour de force, complete with guillotines, snakes, electric chairs and, of course, his trademark black eye makeup and leather costuming. Without Alice Cooper, it is suffice to say that nobody else on this list would be here.

7. Hollywood Undead

Hollywood Undead

The youngest band on this list, Hollywood Undead are also the least adventurous when it comes to costuming. Often sporting simple plastic hockey masks, poorly applied makeup, or just bandanas, it’s as if they hardly even make an effort. The genius of this, however, is that they motivated thousands of young angst-driven boys on MySpace to also start wearing bandanas on their faces, specifically because it didn’t take much effort. Yes, they lowered costuming bar to reach the most apathetic crowd… and it worked!

6. Lordi

Lordi

When your front man is a costume designer by trade, well, it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that you are a band that is going to be wearing costumes. Hailing from Finland, the band Lordi is named after founding member… Mr. Lordi. They rose to fame as the winners of the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, making them the first Finn’s to ever win the contest. Their grotesque masks and medieval garb combined with big ’80s-era hooks landed them gigs on the Ozzfest tour mainstage. In recent years, however, their popularity has waned.

5. Mudvayne

Mudvayne

While Mudvayne no longer wears makeup or costumes, part of their identity early in their career was very much tied to makeup and costumes. During the era of their first release, the band relied very heavily on facepaint coupled with experimental hair styles. For their second release, they donned alien masks and colored suits to offer their fans something new and different. Since that time, they have been makeup and costume free, but their diehard fans still associate them with that style.

4. Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson

While costume is primarily used as a way to draw attention and controversy, perhaps no artist on this list has received more of either than Marilyn Manson. Early in his career, as the front man of Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids, his garb was more colorful, evoking images of circus performers or even Willy Wonka. By the time he released Antichrist Superstar in 1996, his image and costume switched very heavily to a raw gothic style characterized by prosthetic wings and other appendages, as well as rag clothing. While he has reinvented his look several times in his career, he is most often associated with goth makeup and costumes today.

3. Slipknot

Slipknot

Few bands on this list have reached such critical acclaim as quickly as Slipknot. With seven grammy nominations (and one win), two platinum records, and two gold records in just 10 years, it’s easy to forget that Slipknot’s initial notoriety came in large because they wear masks. In fact, with matching jumpsuits, horrific masks, and numbers (instead of names), Slipknot’s initial image was a new level of shock. Kudos to The ‘knot for having the good sense to license their masks for merchandising as well.

2. Kiss

Kiss

There are stars. There are superstars, Then there’s Kiss. With 24 gold albums and more than 100 million records sold worldwide, they aren’t just an amazing costumed band, they are the band that used face paint and costumes to create a brand that is as instantly recognizable as Nike or Coke. Add firebreathing, blood spitting, lasers, and enough pyro to stock a small army, and Kiss’s live show does everything to cement their reputation as the quintessential rock band, even as the members of Kiss enter their 60s.

1. GWAR

 Gwar

Until Gwar, Alice Cooper and Kiss had the market on shock rock, but their approaches were rooted in makeup and traditional theater posturings. When Gwar arrived, they did so in full latex costumes and sci-fi personas. Looking less like something from a Kubuki production and more like something out of an Alien movie, their stageshows notoriosly address taboo subjects and often leave concert-goers walking home drenched in fake bodily fluids. With an image like that, it would be easy to forget that they also have two Grammy awards.

There you have it. Some shock. Some thrill. Some channel their inner demons. But they have all done it with some type of costuming, though. And along the way, some of them have changed the course of rock and roll… forever.

And if you’re in the mood, don’t forget we carry our own assortment of rock star costumes to help you take the stage in style.

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21 Responses to The 12 Greatest Costumed Rock Bands Ever

  1. John Parks says:

    SLipknot should have been #1! Loving ther new album as well- reminds me of some of the work I did with my first band.My new group and I just submitted our tunes to be on a new movie soundtrack (any other singers out there can do the same). Go to imadeamovie.com and let me know what u think ouf us… thanks for the feedback!!

  2. Todbot says:

    NO DEVO? Fail!

  3. Manticore says:

    Slipknot sucks, Gwar is hilarious.

  4. Meds says:

    Well played. GWAR destroys!

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  6. Rc15call says:

    How is Dee Snyder not on this list?

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  8. Will says:

    Don’t forget Big Nazo!
    http://www.bignazo.com they have been doing it forever and rock!

  9. Marlon says:

    How can the Chili Peppers make this list with one measly lightbulb costume and a band like the Residents who have never been seen out of costume, not make it?

  10. Johan says:

    The Finnish band Hevisaurus gets my vote. If you’re going to teach children about the awsomeness of heavy metal, dressing up as dinosaurs really is the way to go. One of their videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aovaRsVV28

  11. Clajef says:

    What, no daikaiju? Monster Surf Rock by kabuki masked wild people. Check daikaiju.org.

  12. Noelle says:

    KISS comes AFTER slipknot? WAT?

  13. japaholic says:

    Honorary Mention for The Beat Crusaders?

  14. Garrett says:

    Uhhh, where is Immortal??

  15. John says:

    The Aquabats

  16. Teri says:

    No John Parks Slipknot should not have been number 1. And their new album sucks FYI. They just all around suck anyways.

    Anyways, loves these pics with the exception of Slipknot. And I’d also like to thank you for not adding the Fagotry of ICP in this!! THANK YOU!!!!!! I know they’re not rock but some people, erm morons I meant, think they are :)

  17. Buster says:

    hollywood undead made the list, but bowie didnt, devo didnt, daft punk didnt, hell the village people didnt make it, this list is bias and only heavy metal made the list, how lame…

    teddybear
    misfists
    super nova
    the residents

    i mean come on

  18. CausticC says:

    WHAT ABOUT THE RESIDENTS????

  19. DisturbedfaN says:

    I wonder if Disturbed has done anything like this.? Because Disturbed is one of the most awesome bands ever! Along with Metallica… they are one of my favorites, too.

  20. Ugh..
    Kiss fucking sucks.. I have no respect for Gene Simmons, how can you be in a band that (somehow) is that popular, and say you just wanted to be famous? Ftg.
    And old school Slipknot was badass.. Then they lost it after 3.0.
    3.0 was great, but they fucked it up with AHIG.
    And dude.. I love most all of these bands (minus red hot chili peppers, Hollywood Undead, lordi, Kiss and whatever else)
    But Marilyn Manson should’ve been number one… Hands down.
    He is the fucking king of Shock Rock.
    Nobody else in there career has caused as much controversy, hate and love to spark, or political and religious groups to protest and riot. Or be such a smart businessman as well as to feed off the hate thrown his way with Antichrist and Holy wood. He’s a genius, and he knows it. I have the most respect for him, he should’ve been number one. His theatrics make it perfect because yeah, he’s shock, but he does some things I doubt even the most devoted of Black Metal bands wouldn’t do. All due respect. And I think Cradle Of Filth should’ve been on this list, they were pretty fuckin crazy back in the day.
    But overall, badass list dude. Would’ve been completely perfect if Manson was 1st. Lol

  21. RAMMSTEIN says:

    Uh. Where did Rammstein go? Last time I checked they were a pretty rock group… And their stage shows are legendary… Flaming costumes? Fire-shooting bows? Custard-filled dildos? Till dressing up as a butcher, in lederhosen, as a sailor, as whatever the occasion calls for?

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