Death has always been one of the most predominant themes in heavy metal music, taking a backseat maybe only to Satanism. Death, disease, murder and chaos have accompanied heavy riffs since Sabbath first began playing them back in '68. This dark subject matter is part of what has always made metal controversial -- revolting to some, but appealing to those musicians interested in facing the things we all fear. But there's often a strange irony that comes into play when we have to realize that these musicians are also human beings, capable of falling victim to the very horrors they seem to embrace.
Disclaimer: In no way do I intend to make light of these deaths. Many of these musicians were heroes of mine and died far too early. Also, one that might seem like an obvious choice, Dimebag Darrell's death, will not be included here. Getting shot and killed for no reason is a hip-hop way to die, not a metal one.
10. Chuck Schuldiner / Death
Let's begin with the man who put the death in death metal before his own death, the highly influential Chuck Schuldiner. As the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter for the widely acclaimed band with a name already mentioned too many times in this paragraph to repeat, Chuck's lyrics focused on subjects like addiction, mental trauma and disease before a tumor formed in his brain in the summer of 1999. After months of radiation therapy and surgery, Chuck fell victim to his brain cancer in late 2001 and died at the age of 34.
9. Cliff Burton / Metallica
When Metallica went down the crapper in the 1990s it was hard to imagine that it would have happened if Cliff Burton was alive. The bassist was the dirtiest, highest, wildest member of the band throughout the 1980s, but was also the heart and soul of its first three albums. After Metallica's tour bus skidded off the road after hitting some black ice (if the driver was actually drunk or had fallen asleep is still a matter of debate), Cliff was thrown onto the pavement, then crushed by the bus he had just been flung from. As violent and graphic a death as anything from the opening scene of Maximum Overdrive, and a scene that could have easily been song lyrics from the band that brought you Ride the Lightning and Kill 'em All. I still think Black Ice would still be a great name for an all Cliff-era tribute band.
8. Randy Rhoads / Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne has always been well known for writing songs about getting wild and crazy, so I'm sure it seemed like an appropriate idea to have a little fun with him... by repeatedly diving an airplane straight toward his tour bus. Little did guitarist Randy Rhoads realize, not everyone is the invincible freak of nature that Ozzy is. As the plane got too close, the left wing clipped the bus, sending the jet out of control and crashing into a nearby mansion. Rhoads, the pilot, and makeup artist Rachel Youngblood were killed instantly, and the guitar legend's body was burned beyond recognition. During an autopsy, cocaine was found in the snowblind pilot's blood.
7. Layne Staley / Alice in Chains
While arguably not exactly a metal band, there's no doubt that Alice in Chains had some pretty dark and heavy jams. And what's more metal than the desire to go fast, super fast, as fast as you can? After all, the genre is founded on a band named after a speed freak, so "motor-head" Layne Staley's 2002 speedball overdose seems relevant here.
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