SLAYER VS. THE AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEM

By Courtney Jerk

“I love you and I’m going to bed,” Elyse Pahler told her parents on the night of July 22, 1996. Not long after going to her room, she slipped unnoticed from the house, lured away by three teenage boys; two of whom she knew from riding the bus to school. Royce Casey (17 at the time), Jacob Delashmutt (15) and Joseph Fiorella (16) were in a band that they called “Hatred,”a death metal band that relied heavily on messages of necrophilia, the occult, and torture. The three boys were so into the band that they believed it had been formed with the sole purpose of glorifying Satan, and that by committing the ultimate crime against God–killing a virgin–they would earn themselves a one way ticket to Hell.

With the promise of weed presented to her, the blonde haired, blue eyed Elyse left her home and went with the three boys to a dense eucalyptus grove about a mile from her house called the Nipoma Mesa, an area that the boys believed was a naturally designated Devil’s Alter.

As the group sat around and smoked, Delashmutt stood up and walked behind Pahler. He removed his belt from his pants and wrapped it around her neck, pulling it taut. As she struggled, Casey held her hands down. Fiorella produced a 6 inch antler handled hunting knife and began repeatedly stabbing Pahler in the neck; after he was finished, he passed the blade to the others for their turns. Pahler lay bleeding on the ground, crying for help, while the boys stomped on the back of her neck to silence her. They then dragged her body to the edge of the grove by her feet, where she soon bled to death from the 12-15 stab wounds inflicted upon her. Casey later told investigators on the case that the boys had planned to have sex with the corpse, but decided not to go through with it; however, police and authorities believe that they did, as the girl’s legs were spread, and her genitals exposed, when the body was discovered. Pahler was considered a runaway after she disappeared. Lengthy and involved searches went on for several months with no sign of the girl.

“I’m fighting on the other side now,” Casey wrote in his journal three months after the murder. “Allied with the darkened souls, satans arised (sic) and shall conquer and reign… In the bible it says that in the end Lucifer will bring out his best in everything, music, love, murder… All the psycho serial killers and rapists don’t know that if they would just build an alter of sacrifice and kill the person on the alter and then [have repeated sex with] the corpse. Virgin meat is the ultimate sacrifice.”

In March, 1996, Casey–who had recently been attending church–went to the police and confessed to the crime. He told them that he was afraid his urge to kill might surface again, not to mention the fact that he was worried that he may be the next victim of Fiorella and Delashmutt. Casey led the authorities to the eucalyptus grove, where Pahler’s body lay rotting among the foliage. All three of the teens pleaded no contest to the murder charges against them, and are currently serving sentences of 25 years to life.

Pahler’s parents thought of her as a good child, with good grades, a pleasant personality, and a bright future ahead of her. “She was not a problem child. She was an independent girl who wanted to meet and know everyone in school,” said her father, David Pahler. Although she had snuck out of the house before, and had also tried marijuana on one other occasion, Pahler said that those incidents were no big deal. When several of Elyse’s fellow classmates were asked abouther, they said that she had tried drugs more than just a few times. She had been suspended for five days in junior high for drinking, and had attended a drug recovery center.

It was discovered during the court proceedings that the boys were all fans of Slayer. This quickly turned into a scenario that is now, unfortunately, all too familiar–throughout the eighties, it seemed the horns you commonly saw thrown up at metal shows around the world more appropriately represented those of a scape goat rather than a satanic entity.

Fiorella told police after the murder that Slayer “started to influence the way I looked at things.” The parents of Elyse Pahler reacted quickly on knowledge of the boys’ musical tastes, and filed a lawsuit against the band, claiming that Slayer, its label, producer Rick Rubin, and music retailers should all be held responsible for providing the teens with the material they needed to pull off their virgin sacrifice. “This case isn’t about art,” said Elyse’s father David Pahler. “It’s about marketing. Slayer and others in the industry have developed sophisticated strategies to sell death metal music to adolescent boys. They don’t care whether the violent, mysogynistic message in these lyrics causes children to do harmful things. They couldn’t care less what their fans did to our daughter. All they care about is money.”

Attorneys for Slayer and the related music companies said that the band’s work is protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. Family attorney Allen Hutkin argued, “this case has nothing to do with the First Amendment. It’s about protecting children. The Pahler family is not out to censor or to stop Slayer from making this music. They’re simply saying we don’t want them to market this stuff to kids without parents being involved in the decision about the kids getting to hear this stuff. They would like it to be off limits. …Just like a child can’t go to X-rated movies, they don’t want them to be able to buy X-rated music. Kids can’t go watch snuff films, but we’re giving them snuff music. People say not every kid who listens to Slayer turns into a killer. The reality is [that Slayer is] standing up at the top of the Empire State Building throwing golf balls off. They may not kill somebody with the first golf ball. They may not even kill somebody with the second golf ball or the third, but eventually they’re going to hit somebody on the head and kill them.”

Reaching the pinnacle of capitalism over the last thirty or so years, profitting from personal grief was a logical progression. So long as there has been provocative, strange, or controversial art, the respective authors have been blamed for the tragedies surrounding the lives of their patrons. It usually does not end favorably for the plaintiffs, however, as the First Amendment trumps most arguments that angry parents and relatives bring before the courts. The famous Judas Priest case, in which two teenagers entered a suicide pact because an album supposedly contained the subliminal message “do it,” was dismissed after it was discovered that the boys’ troubled backgrounds had more to do with the situation than the music they listened to. Ozzy Osbourne has been sued on several separate occasions. The first suit centered around similar suicide pact (three teenagers killed themselves while listening to his records), the second because of a boy that shot himself while listening to “Suicide Solution” (the alleged line “I tell you to end your life” was proven to be “I tell you to enjoy life”), and the third and fourth both being other suicide cases, one in which the albums were found at the scene of the crime; the other involved a boy telling his father that Osbourne had “the solution” before shooting himself. All of the cases were thrown out of the courts.

The three boys involved in the murder all seemed to be in agreement that Slayer was the driving force behind their actions, albeit in varying levels of seriousness. Delashmutt said, “It was harmless at first. We used to smoke weed, play guitar, kick it. I was just into heavy-metal music.” Fiorello was more serious about the idea. “It gets inside your head,” he told a police counselor a year after Pahler’s murder. “It’s almost embarrassing that I was so influenced by the music. The music started to influence the way I looked at things.” Almost as an afterthought in one interview, he added, “of course, I feel bad that she’s dead.” Delashmutt also said that one day Fiorella asked “if I’d be down for sacrificing a, whatever, a virgin. I didn’t take it seriously. I said ‘whatever’.”

Lawyers for the family hoped to use the argument that the music companies sold materials to minors knowing that the band’s violent images and lyrics were just a tool to sell records. The firm dealing with the case was Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, the same firm that won the court case stating that RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company had marketed the Joe Camel character to children. The lawsuit said, “The distribution and marketing of this obscene and harmful material to adolescent males constituted aiding and abetting of the criminal acts described in this complaint. None of the vicious crimes committed against Elyse Marie Pahler would have occurred without the intentional marketing strategy of the death-metal band Slayer.”

The 38 page claim also included pages of Slayer lyrics (specifically to the songs “Altar of Sacrifice,” “Kill Again,” “Tormentor” and “Necrophiliac”), photos, and liner notes, and background information on the boys involved, as well as cited civil rights violations against Elyse Pahler and negligent supervision charges against the parents of Delashmutt, Fiorella and Casey.

Slayer do not have much to say about the case. Back in 2001, drummer Paul Bostaph said, “They’re trying to blame the whole thing on us. That’s such nonsense. If you’re gonna do something stupid like that, you should get in trouble for it.” He also noted that the boys hadn’t even done the rituals that were outlined in the songs correctly, anyway. Singer Tom Araya quipped, “We’re part evil. If we were really evil, we would be doing everything we’re writing about.”

In the end, Judge E. Jeffrey Burke looked at the band’s lyrics and recordings and dismissed the claim, stating that it infringed on the band’s right to freedom of speech. “There’s not a legal position that could be taken that would make Slayer responsible for the girl’s death. Where do you draw the line? You might as well start looking through the library at every book on the shelf,” he said. He also added that “Slayer lyrics are repulsive and profane. But they do not direct or instruct listeners to commit the acts that resulted in the vicious torture-murder of Elyse Pahler.”

Judge Burke observed that the lyrics to the songs appeared to be more descriptive than instructive, as the family of Elyse Pahler had claimed. He advised the Pahler family to rework the claim and try submitting it again, which they did, two more times, without success.

“What are we talking about here?” David Pahler said at one point. “We have children ending their lives because the lyrics say they’re worthless. It’s about money. That’s the driving force. I can’t imagine the adults in the band, in the distribution end, really think this so-called music or the lyrics are good.” Elyse’s mother Lisanne added, “They have families of their own. Where’s their conscience?”

The Pahler family has since formed a non-profit organization “for the protection and welfare of children” that will supposedly educate the public about the dangers that “satanic” music presents, as well as help to develop computer software that will aid parents and law officials in finding missing children.

ALEISTER CROWLEY: RAVE, RAPE, RIP AND REND

By Courtney Jerk and Max Dropout

Aleister Alexander Edward Crowley, a popular occult persona, founder of a philosophy based on doing what you want, and participator in many indulgencies including drugs, sex, violence. It’s no wonder he has been and continues to be a lasting influence in rock and roll. From being immortalized in song lyrics and on album covers to inspiring and mentoring many musicians with his philosophies, Crowley is one of the few musically uninclined artists to impacted modern music to a profound degree. Over the last half century, numerous bands have displayed their interest in the occult personal by embroidering his wisdoms into their own work — the game of “Where’s Crowley” even includes the cover of one of Rock history’s greatest albums ever, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, with the spiritual leader’s visage looming amid the spread of the Beatles’ influences. While you might expect to find lyrical references to Mister Crowley from the likes of Al Jourgenson and Ozzy Osbourne, he even pops up in some of the most unlikely places, such as the cover of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous LP. Continue reading

SUBLIMINAL AGENTS IN SATAN’S SERVICE

By Courtney Jerk

The infamous Wilson Bryan Key

A few months ago, Wild World profiled the Vance vs. Judas Priest trial, wherein the band were brought before a US court of law following the suicide and maiming of another boy, who claimed that the heavy metal band’s music provided inspiration for the self-focused violence. This was the stuff the PRMC’s dreams are chock full of, and subsequently, the band’s music was scrutinized by lawyers and their expert consultants, who alleged that back masked messages had in fact influenced the boy’s actions. After receiving some mail about the actual validity of back masking as well as subliminal messages, I’ve decided to expand a bit on the mechanics of back masked suggestions and even explore their supposed validity. Continue reading

LET’S GET KA-NIVED! – TALKIN’ BOUT THE KA-NIVES

By Andra Litton & Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/kanives-lets_dance.mp3]

By Aubrey Edwards

To say the Ka-Nives are uncontrollable is an understatement. Watching the three members, Matt Murillo, Will Adams and Tony Hall sputter around on stage like a pack of half-retarded, sugar-addled kids is more like an episode of Romper Room than a rock show. But then again, that retardation, sugar-spasms, and the interactivity of stupid shit like the aforementioned show might just be the very brine of the modern rock n’ roll dynasty of which the Ka-Nives are very much a part.

Considering the band’s ADD-pace, it’s no wonder it took me about three months of long-distance interviews, and a reference to the band wench roadie wingman, Ty Mahany, before I was able to get a half way straight answer on the band’s status. Continue reading

BLACK TOP, BLACK YEARS

By Kevin Borke & Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/black_top_-_planet_earth.mp3]

Pulling up stakes can let up some mighty mean vampires. However, socking yearfuls into boxes the size of two months, finding pilferings that offer evidence of your mental deterioration over the last several dozen months, and running across artifacts from your lame ex that radiate that intestine boiling vibe is probably something you should force yourself to do every two years or so, even if you aren’t moving. You should remember where you’ve been, since it’ll obviously keep you from a step backward.

Grim reminders are underrated. They keep you conscious of where standing, remind you of how you got there in the first place, and they might just keep you out of a hard time somewhere down the line. The principle behind the severed head on the pike is to detour those from traveling down the path it marks… but there’s also a halo of gruesome attraction around the whole mess. Hard times have all the colorful appeal of cautionary tape. Continue reading

JUDAS PRIEST AND THE DEADLY DECEPTION

by Courtney Jerk

People see all kinds of things in everyday objects – Elvis in an especially lumpy potato, the face of Jesus in a Pizza Hut billboard, the Virgin Mary in a cloud of condensation. Seeing these images all depends on a person’s sense of perception and on their reasoning. In the case of the Jesus face in the Pizza Hut billboard, several dozen motorists reported seeing the savior’s likeness, but were they only seeing it because they were looking for it? Was God really sending a message to all these people, as one person claimed, or was it all a matter of seeing something that they thought they were supposed to see? Often, one’s faulty reasoning can have devastating circumstances. Personal perception, internal reasoning, and the subject of interpretation all came into question when two Nevada boys, James Vance (20) and Ray Belknap (18) attempted suicide in the winter of 1985. Belknap died instantly of gunshot wound, while Vance, the less fortunate of the two, lingered on in disfigurement afterward, dying some three years later due to drug complications that occurred during a surgery. Continue reading

THE STORY OF SIMPLY SAUCER

By Christina Whipsnade & Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/simply_saucer_-_-nazi_apocalypse.mp3]

If you measure a band’s underground credibility by exposure and the number a record’s pressing is limited to, then Hamilton’s Simply Saucer were probably six feet under the motherfucking downlow, but the fact that they were also twenty years ahead of schedule didn’t help much either. Stating that Saucer’s flavor wasn’t exactly en vogue with prevailing tastes during the early to mid 70s would be slightly unfair considering they were met with label resistance while attempting to provide the public with an official release, but their reluctance to tour didn’t exactly improve their chances of creating a clamouring demand for an LP. In fact, the scant fifty shows they did play between 74 and 79, mostly held at highschools and YMCA’s throughout Southern Canada merely contributed to the band’s ghost-like reputation. Until recently in fact, Saucer were ironically almost a cryptozoological myth, with only a few reported sightings and drunken eye witness accounts left in the wake their sporadic appearances. Continue reading

BEING UGLY IS DIFFICULT: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TINY TIM

By Christina Whipsnade & Max Dropout

How the fuck do you people not know who Tiny Tim is? Am I dealing with a bunch of cultural morlocks here? Seriously, after we published that Darkness dissertation comparing that twitter throated dip shit singer of theirs to Tiny Tim, we made the disturbing discovery that a lot of you assholes were totally fucking clueless about who this guys was. Generally, after you assail somebody with a few bars of “Tiptoe Thru The Tulips,” most people manage to excavate some vague image of this unlikely sex symbols.

From ‘68 on through ‘70, Tim was probably the most talked about celebrity around; and while the appeal of a sexually ambiguous falsetto voiced pop star with the 23 skidoo entertainment ethic seems a mystery to most today, Tim embodied the very spirit of the underdog. There was nobody quite like Tim, and while his persona verged on downright spooky at times, there was a certain charisma about him that you just don’t find in even the most conventionally attractive mega-star. Continue reading

ROCK N’ REEL: TRICK OR TREAT

by John Wenz

Ahh, the 1980s. A time for walking closet cases, borderline economic collapse, mounting paranoia, questionable taste, and best of all, motherfucking metal! Perhaps nothing exemplifies the potential of the 1980s generation better than the sheer classiness of “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter” by Iron Maiden, or “Black Metal” by Venom. C’mon, you know it, everybody now: “Lay down your soul to the gods’ rock n’ roll, BLACK METAL!” They did kick out the jams motherfuckers, becoming the spokesman of homoerotic Dungeons and Dragons head wizards who spent their evenings discussing which was better — Fates Warning or Mercyful Fate. Continue reading

ROCK N’ REEL: DAWN OF THE DEAD

By John Wenz & Courtney Snyder

Death truly does scare damn near everyone. People are always talking about “fates worse than death” but most folks would discard that as a bunch of horse shit. With age, we outgrow and shed certain concerns, always developing new fears. The elderly in particular aren’t exactly rushing toward the cradling arms of their demise. But for the broken down, the rest in death guaranteed by Christian dogma is a secret, sweet relief. In this, what many scholars have deemed the “post-Christian” era, and the deterioration of its ideals, ethics, and the very crucifixion of its mythos, the fear of no rest even in death suggested by George A. Romero’s Living Dead trilogy is especially poignant, more so than ever before. Continue reading