Animals

Houston black metal band faces backlash after severed pig’s head was passed around concert crowd

Martyrdom, one of multiple bands to perform last Friday at The White Swan Live in Houston’s Second Ward, reportedly issued an apology after the show.

White Swan Metal Flyer
via Instagram
The White Swan Live, 4419 Navigation Blvd. in Houston, hosted a series of metal bands on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Kim LaFon has spent the last two decades running a Houston-area farm dedicated to pigs. She also once spent 17 years married to a guitar player who performed in local rock and heavy metal bands.

When she heard about a recent metal show in Houston – where a pig's severed head was reportedly tossed around among the crowd – LaFon was flabbergasted.

"I've been a fan and involved with hard rock bands and metal bands for my whole life, my whole adult life, and I just can't even imagine going on stage and thinking this can be a shock value part of your show, that you can use a maimed animal of any kind, particularly a pig, or use anything like that and think that's going to give you the response or the selling power or whatever that you're looking for," said LaFon, the executive director of Flying Pigs Animal Sanctuary in Waller. "I can't imagine that most of the people in that crowd did not think that was the most disgusting and horrific thing they've ever seen. If they didn't think that, there's something inherently wrong with them."

The pig's head was thrown around the crowd last Friday night during a concert by Martyrdom at The White Swan Live, a music venue located on Navigation Boulevard in the Second Ward, according to video footage posted on Instagram by the Houston-based black metal band and other social media posts. Martyrdom subsequently issued an apology to disturbed audience members and the venue, which hosted a few other metal bands that night, according to Lambgoat, an online news outlet that covers metal music.

Martyrdom could not be reached directly for comment Tuesday. The White Swan Live did not immediately respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.

The stunt has drawn backlash from some commenters on Martyrdom's Instagram page, which suggests pigs had previously been used as part of its shows, while some others criticized the band for apologizing.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT (video footage from Friday’s concert)

"We are a black metal band, and as part of it, we try to add a little bit of imagery and shock value to our set," Martyrdom said in its apology, according to Lambgoat. "Unfortunately our acts has gotten carried away and way out of hand, offending many and even harming some. We want to apologize to any vegans, Muslims, or other minority groups we may have offended, and to anyone who was harmed by our act."

Another local animal advocate, Houston Humane Society wildlife director Mary Warwick, also criticized the use of a pig's head as part of the concert and said she hopes the involved musicians learn from the experience. She said it shows disrespect for the life of an animal, adding that meat-eaters tend to appreciate "the gift that the animals are giving people."

"Just to pass around a dead animal for entertainment is I think brutal and inexcusable," she said. "Animals aren't here for our entertainment at all."

LaFon of Flying Pigs Animal Sanctuary, where she currently has 24 rescued pigs and also helps community members learn how to take care of pigs and find homes for them, said they are intelligent animals who have "human hearts" and "human souls."

She also said many of the musicians she knows are kind and caring people, adding that her friends from Houston's music scene helped console her after the recent death of her pet pig named Arnold, named after the pig on the former "Green Acres" television show. So she was willing to cut Martyrdom a little slack while also inviting its band members to "come out and meet some pigs and see what kind of little lives they're contributing to the destruction of."

Perhaps the musicians were following the lead of Ozzy Osbourne, the Black Sabbath frontman who famously bit the head off a bat during a live performance in 1982, LaFon suggested.

"It's not because this is a black metal band or bad people. I don't think that these musicians in this band are bad people," she said. "I believe they made a bad choice. They want to be the next Ozzy with a bat.

"But that's horrible," LaFon added. "There's ways to create a good show without harming another living thing. Get some pyro or do something else with your show to get people to want to see it."