Holidaze

Rock's 10 Creepiest Bands Ever

Close-up of the burial monument from a cemetery in Genoa, Italy, as seen on the cover of Joy Division's 1980 album Closer.
Close-up of the burial monument from a cemetery in Genoa, Italy, as seen on the cover of Joy Division's 1980 album Closer. Photo by Unliammedd via Wikimedia Commons
One of Apple Music’s more interesting holiday-themed playlists, “Halloween After Dark” will more or less give you a moderately hip Halloween shindig. Songs like “Don’t Fear the Reaper, “Psycho Killer” and “Dead Man’s Party” may flirt with the macabre, but only in the callow manner of teenagers giggling over a Ouija board at a slumber party, toying with unseen forces they’d better hope don’t get unleashed. The following artists are much more attuned to a less benign musical vibe, sinister songsmiths less concerned with the pop charts than those things that go bump in the night. These bands make you sleep with the lights on.

HASIL ADKINS
Real horror can’t be too unlike waking up every day in Kid Rock’s America, but a long time ago people used to tear up the world looking for kicks. And whatever kicks could be found were certainly found by Hasil Adkins, the weird West Virginian rocker and hell-raiser. Long before Jesco White the dancing outlaw clog-danced his way into the hearts of hundreds, well before Gummo, before the exploitation of white-trash Americana went mainstream, before Tobacco Road was a term interchangeable with a White House cabinet member, Hasil Adkins was making his own strange way in the world. People say DIY now, if they say it anymore, and it probably means doing things on a laptop and uploading them on a bandit wi-fi signal. Adkins performed as a one-man band, banging on a guitar and drums at the same time, because that’s how he interpreted the music he heard on the radio. He’s rumored to have pulled guns on bands with whom he shared stages, he wrote extensively about food, and has had songs covered by the Cramps, so we’ll forgive him if he’s also said to be the father of psychobilly. TEX KERSCHEN

BEHEMOTH
Literally named after the beast found in the book of Job, Behemoth lifts many allusions from the Bible for the sake of distorting them for Satanic purposes. Call it a gimmick, a schtick or a ruse, just don’t call it counterfeit. These Polish dark lords have kept the unholy fires burning since the early '90s. Live shows promise not only satanic hymns, but an audience covered in sacrificial blood, making typical American haunted houses look juvenile and clownish by comparison. If you’re the type who appreciates a night of horror films and gore-themed shock, Behemoth’s haunting music videos detail everything from birthing demons to angel cannibalism. Thrill-seekers who scare best when disturbed psychologically should check out lead singer’s Adam “Nergal” Darski’s side project, Me and That Man, a country-blues act that haunts to the bone with tales of Voodoo Queens, blackened churches and night rides you won’t soon forget. KRISTY LOYE

HELLOWEEN
Yes, that’s spelled correctly, from the recovered memories of an '80s hair-metal hangover. Long thought to be buried in the crypt of either Bands with Terrible Names or Bands Desperate for Scary Imagery, Helloween still exists. Believe it or not, this self-described “German power metal” act has not only been delivering Halloween-inspired tunes since 1985, but is still touring and making music. Whether that’s good or bad, we’re unsure, but at least it’s timely for the season. With a new album, entitled Pumpkins United no less, they've also got a Helloween book and DVD along with live albums, studio LPs and singles for sale on their website if you should find yourself so inclined for fearful and unnerving frights. Fans refer to themselves as “pumpkins,” and there’s plenty of creepy jack-o-lantern images on most merch. For all the spooky symbolism, we can’t figure which is more frightening: a trope borrowed from a popular holiday, or still capitalizing on it 30 years later. KRISTY LOYE


JANDEK
Like most healthy Americans, I consider Halloween the only important holiday. And for us in the South, there are few better ways to prepare for Halloween than by cruising I-10, eastbound or westbound, in the early morning, at least a few hours before dawn, with something by Jandek playing at a low volume. The horror here may not be family fun like the Misfits, White Zombie, or anything requiring the application of corpsepaint; no way, it’s completely existential. Why, you’ll be forced to ask yourself, am I alone? What drove them all away from me, me, whom mother and father may have loved once? TEX KERSCHEN

JOY DIVISION
Less than a month after Nine Inch Nails released The Downward Spiral, their cover of “Dead Souls” appeared on the soundtrack of rising action star Brandon Lee’s ill-fated final film, The Crow — and, much much later, on that very same "Halloween After Dark" Apple playlist mentioned at the top of this article. That alone indicates how loudly Joy Division’s bleak prophesies of mental instability and social alienation have echoed, now for nearly four decades. During their brief active period, though, the Mancunians were virtually alone, unclaimed by no genre and thus forced to (involuntarily) create not one, but several. The three survivors of Ian Curtis' 1980 suicide improbably went on to found New Order, a band as buoyant as Joy Division was dour, yet one with an easily scratched melancholy streak buried just beneath the surface. Small wonder why. CHRIS GRAY

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