Smeared black-and-white corpse face-paint (with a little red blood spatter thrown in for good measure) is synonymous with extreme metal.
Whether it's to enhance a demonic theme or carry on cultural tradition, musicians that utilize the medium are definitely projecting a bold message. (For me, it often points to the fact that the musician is a black metal prima donna.)
Corpse paint made its mainstream debut in the '60s, when musicians like Arthur Brown and Screamin' Jay Hawkins started rockin' it on stage. In the '70s, you had Alice Cooper and The Misfits, and the '80s brought around Sarcofago and Mercyful Fate -- although frontman King Diamond used corpse paint in his band Black Rose as early as 1978.
Most often, though, it's seen on the faces of bands of the early Norwegian black metal scene, like those crazy fucks from Mayhem. As the band's bass player, Necrobutcher, stated once: "It wasn't anything to do with the way KISS and Alice Cooper used makeup. Dead [Per Ohlin, Mayhem's vocalist] actually wanted to look like a corpse."
When corpse paint ended up gaining traction in the 1990s, there were some Norwegian bands that actually stopped wearing the paint because they felt it lost its meaning once it became trendy.
Either way, there's a method to the madness of corpse face paint that seems to work for a lot of fans and musicians. And it's only gonna keep on coming.
That must be why SuicideByStar has produced a brief animated video documenting the history and evolution of corpse paint, from Arthur Brown and King Diamond all the way to the current scene. And don't worry; there's no Insane Clown Posse.
The entertaining video is only two-minutes long and finishes with a pretty great punchline.