Halloween music sucks. We can all agree on that, right? Every year at every party, it's the same crap: "Thriller," "Monster Mash" and the "Ghostbusters" theme. Actually, that last one is pretty great, but you get the point: people blast tunes in October that they'd rather deafen themselves with cannon fire than listen to in September.
Worst of all, the wack Halloween songs that get played every year aren't even scary! Consider that proof positive that folks simply ain't even trying when they're putting that party playlist together. It's really as if they don't even care so deeply about popular music and the personal identity that it confers so much that it's impossible to stop obsessing over it long enough to microwave a corndog.
Well screw 'em. We here at Rocks Off do care that much. Because the Misfits' "Halloween" does not a playlist make, here are ten actually spooky, creepy, eerie and downright disconcerting songs that are practically too petrifying for Halloween, let alone the rest of the dumb year.
Some creep and crawl, some scream bloody gore and others simply lurk in the night, ready to cut your fingers off while you sleep. If you absolutely must listen to them alone, make sure to leave plenty of lights on.
10. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "Red Right Hand"
A song doesn't necessarily need a lot of screaming and wailing to make the hair on your arms stand up. Good ol' Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds proved that all too conclusively with "Red Right Hand," their spooky 1994 single that just so happened to make its way on to the Scream soundtrack. The lugubrious track's lyrics describe a malevolent phantom stranger with whom we hope never to cross paths. Despite the song's indisputable eeriness, it's also just plain great — one of Cave's most beloved.
9. UNKLE, "Rabbit in Your Headlights"
There's a terribly haunting quality to Thom Yorke's voice that's been played up considerably in much of Radiohead's 21st-century output. The singer never sounded more ghastly in the '90s, though, than on the lead single from UNKLE's 1998 album Psyence Fiction. The sample-heavy track, written by Yorke and Josh Davis, was inspired by a quote sampled from the film Jacob's Ladder, but managed to produce a bit of film even more spine-tingling: The music video directed by Jonathan Glazer.
8. Tool, "Die Eir Von Satan"
Tool's 1996 hard-rock masterpiece Aenima contains a terribly potent batch of dark grooves and heavy-metal wailing, but it takes a truly demented sort to rock out to "Die Eir Von Satan," one of the album's strangest and most memorable tracks. As martial, industrial drums and crunchy, downtuned guitars pound away at the listener, a spoken-word piece in German grows increasingly agitated, much to approval of a massive, roaring crowd. If you can get through it without seeing terrifying visions of Nuremburg, you really ought to watch more History Channel.
In Tool's typically winking fashion, the unsettling track becomes a tad less frightful once you Google the lyrics. Nevertheless, it remains one of the strangest and most teeth-rattling diversions in the band's mercurial career.
7. Snoop Doggy Dogg, "Murder Was the Case"
This anguished, wailing slab of G-funk from Snoop's immortal Doggystyle was harrowing enough already with its tale of the rapper being killed, going to hell and making a deal with the devil to return. But it took on a much heavier sense of menace a year after its release when Snoop and Dr. Dre produced an 18-minute cinematic version of the track while Snoop was actually facing murder charges. The film was explicitly inspired by the trial and trafficked heavily in the attendant street cred. In addition to making a lyrical pact with the father of evil, Snoop Dogg was apparently laughing in the face of justice! It was frightening, controversial stuff way back when the Doggfather was one of white America's most feared gangsters, rather than one of its most beloved pimps.
6. Violent Femmes, "Country Death Song"
"Country Death Song" doesn't start off very frightening; it's just some simple guitar pickin' and brushwork on the drums with countrified crooning. But the lyrics get dark in a hurry, detailing a dirt farmer's murder of his daughter and then a good, old-fashioned suicide. Cheery stuff! Once the killing begins, the music gets frenetic and unhinged in a way not a lot of "country" songs I've ever heard have. It's about as spooky as a banjo gets, I reckon.
5. Pig Destroyer, "Jennifer/Cheerleader Corpses"
Grindcore can be many things. It can be snotty, disgusting, brutal or even funny — often at the same time. On Pig Destroyer's 2001 opus Prowler in the Yard, however, the typically irreverent genre gets downright frightening, with the tone set by the ultra-creepy leadoff track "Jennifer." A featureless robot voice recounts the tale of a sexualized, cannabilistic teenage lesbian, or... something, before the band's razorblade guitars and ear-piercing shrieks make the horror real.
4. Aphex Twin, "Come to Daddy"
Evil techno genius Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin, was never sharper or scarier than on 1997's "Come to Daddy," a deliciously demented little tune that's damn difficult for anyone who's heard it to forget. As if the harsh, distressed sounds blasting out of his audio outputs weren't freaky enough, James coupled the tune with one of the creepiest music videos ever made, featuring his own face transposed onto violent, nearly feral children in some sort of post-apocalyptic version of right now. "I will eat your soul," snarled the composer, and we believed him.
3. Black Sabbath, "Black Sabbath"
In truth, very few heavy-metal songs are intended to be scary. Despite the demonic trappings, metal's stock and trade is power fantasies, not fear. There are notable exceptions, however — including the chilling song that kicked off the entire movement. Inspired by the long lines of people waiting to see scary movies, British blues-rockers Earth decided to try out the aural equivalent of a Hammer horror picture. The result was "Black Sabbath," a doomy, atmospheric track built upon a tritone, the spooky interval once derided by 18th-century composers as diabolus in musica — the devil in music. Before long, Earth changed their name to match the song, and it remains a staple of Black Sabbath's live show today.
2. Suicide, "Frankie Teardrop"
Electronic proto-punks Suicide delivered an evocative, pulsing slice of existential terror in 1977 with "Frankie Teardrop," one of those great songs you only want to listen to once. The spoken-word lyrics detail a desperate man's murder-suicide, with the titular Frankie blowing away his wife and infant child before catching the last bullet train himself. While the subject matter is certainly unnerving, it's the increasingly anxious music that really sets listeners on edge, punctuated by echoing, bloodcurdling screams by vocalist Alan Vega that still startle and terrify in the age of Paranormal Activity 7. Before the maddening track reaches its final stop, you'll come to truly believe that "We're all Frankies."
1. Throbbing Gristle, "Hamburger Lady"
Industrial progenitors Throbbing Gristle always delighting in shining a xenon flashlight into the dark corners of human existence's least palatable possibilities. Their explorations were never more unpleasant than on the song "Hamburger Lady," released in 1978. Over alarming loops of what sound like machinery sputtering out its final breaths, Genesis P-Orridge reads loping briefs from a burn ward doctor's crushing description of the kind of horror only the miracle of modern medicine would dare keep alive. The list of songs that can force the listener confront such a sickening blend of alienation and revulsion is a short one. Around one deep, we'd say.
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