The nights are getting longer, the breeze is getting chillier and October is getting into full swing. I know what you’re thinking - won’t be long until Christmas! WELL LISTEN HERE, WISE GUY. Here in the UK, we’ve still got one more big holiday before the season of Yule arrives, and it’s one of our favourites here at UDS.
I am, of course, talking about Halloween, the night when all that’s dark and scary is welcomed into the world en masse - or, you know, at least a little bit here in the UK. I long for a time when it’s more widely celebrated over here. Whatever your plans are for Halloween, whether you’re trick-or-treating, dressing up for a party or even just staying in hoping no-one rings your doorbell so you can keep the sweets, nothing quite gets you into the mood for anything like music does if you ask me.
As such, I rounded up the UDS gang with a simple premise - what songs are your must-haves on a Halloween playlist? Read on to find out...
XIX - Slipknot
My first pick is a song that I think a good number of people overlook because it’s effectively an intro track. Taken from Slipknot’s 5th album, ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’, XIX is a lurching and ominous track that slowly builds over its 3-minute runtime. And make no mistake, this isn’t Slipknot blasting their instruments to make noise - this is a restrained Slipknot in full creepy mode. The lyrics deal with getting back up following a tragic event, and the rallying cry to ‘walk with me’ at the end, whilst sounding reasonably upbeat, ends up feeling more like a call to ‘follow me into the madness’. A Halloween favourite for me, no doubt about it. (Also listen to Spiders on the new Slipknot album ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ for a similarly creepy vibe and a John Carpenter style piano line guaranteed to send shivers down your spine)
Black No. 1 - Type O Negative
If you’ve never listened to Type O Negative, the easiest way to describe their sound is ‘Goth Metal with a sense of humour’. Frontman Peter Steele (RIP) basically looks like Lurch from the Addams Family if he was allowed to grow his hair out, pick up a bass and start a band! There are any number of songs in the Type O catalogue I could have picked for this list (my favourite is a song called Love You To Death, which is more creepy in sound than in lyrics or themes), but the obvious choice here is Black No.1, a song fully enraptured in Halloween and its culture, which features the Addams family motif and shoutouts to the Munsters, Nosferatu and trick-or-treating! Not bad for a song that’s basically about falling in love with a girl who dyes her hair black.
Year Zero - Ghost
It was obvious there would be a Ghost song on this list, the question was just which one? There’s so many good choices that selecting just one was almost impossible. Perhaps Secular Haze, a song that sounds like walking into the Horror circus of your nightmares. Or maybe something a little more upbeat like Square Hammer, a song on the subject of being prepared to pledge your allegiance to the Devil. I could go on like this for many of Ghost’s songs, but I won’t. My pick here is the song Year Zero, simply because in a catalogue of songs that are so fit for purpose in regards to this article, it would still feel disingenuous to pick anything else. I mean, the first 6 words of this song are 6 different names for Satan chanted by what sounds like a Satanic choir - in fact, words 7 through 12 are the same 6 names repeated! The track is a roaring one with a thunderous stomp to it, and a chorus big enough to tear the roof of Hell wide open.
Brains - Voltaire
This one is a bit more of a left-field choice for me, but its spook credentials are just as applicable as any of the other songs I’ve picked. This song is sort of like a Gothic cabaret song in a way, and is sung from the point of view of an evil meteor from space who comes to Earth to feast on brains. I became aware of this song thanks to an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy in which the whole story followed that of the song - I later found out it’s because the song was written specifically for the show rather than a coincidence that they capitalised on. I love this one simply because of its child-friendly nature - and hey, I think scaring a child on Halloween is something we should all aspire to. It’s what they want!
A Little Piece Of Heaven - Avenged Sevenfold
Avenged Sevenfold are a band who meld Metal and the sensibilities of a Danny Elfman score seamlessly, and the very best showcase of their abilities comes in the 8 minute opus A Little Piece Of Heaven, taken from their 2007 Self-Titled album (which incidentally is my favourite A7X album, FIGHT ME). This song would be right at home on the soundtrack for The Nightmare Before Christmas if it weren’t for the swearing and the lyrics, which tell the story of a man who kills his wife and develops necrophilia, before the wife comes back from the dead and kills him leading to renewed marriage vows in the afterlife. The lyrical content may be quite dark, but it’s a surprisingly jaunty listen!
Someone’s In The Wolf - Queens Of The Stone Age
My final choice was an easy one, a song that just immediately jumps to mind when I think of Halloween. Someone’s In The Wolf is a song featured on Queens Of The Stone Age’s 2005 album Lullabies To Paralyze, and much like the majority of that album, darkness prevails (incidentally, the entirety of that album is an absolute must-listen for me every Halloween. It’s spectacular). Just over seven minutes of genuine unease and discomfort, with vocals that are in something of a whispered falsetto with an echo effect added for extra measure. An understated but pounding bass in the background is the star of this song, creating a genuine tension that pervades throughout the song, especially in an interlude that starts around the 4:40 mark. There are noises throughout that sound like knives being sharpened and sticks breaking in the forest that really help create a visual of being lost and hunted in the woods at night, which truly adds to the creep factor on display in the song. And don’t even get me started on the music video! (Also listen to - and watch the video for - Burn The Witch from this same album)
Grim Grinning Ghosts - Disney’s Haunted Mansion
I love the Disney theme parks, and it’s not hard for me to pick my favourite ride - it’s got to be the Haunted Mansion. I was especially terrified of it when I was young; the eerie building, the tombstones littered in the garden, the stretching room. It was all a bit much for me at the time, and the soundtrack wasn’t doing me any favours. But by the time you reach the climax of the ride, everything gets a bit more silly, and you might start seeing the lighter side of the after-life. Grim Grinning Ghosts isn’t necessarily a song I associate with Halloween, but it’s more like a symbol of everything the spirit of Halloween represents.
When He Died - Lemon Demon
Neil Cicierega has a great track record for writing songs about the bizarre (check out Two Trucks and The Only House That’s Not On Fire Yet), but one of my favourite tracks on the 2016 album Spirit Phone is definitely When He Died. Told through the lens of investigators, the song recounts the death of a man under unusual circumstances, ultimately leading to the discovery that he probably knew it was coming and it’d lead to the end of the world. It’s a bit more straightforward than other songs on the album, which deal with cryptids and other unexplained mysteries from the past, but I think that’s what makes it stand out for me.
Dead Man’s Party - Oingo Boingo
Jumping back to the 1980’s, Oingo Boingo are easily one of the biggest cult bands of the decade. Danny Elfman might not be a big fan of talking about his gracious entry into the history books, but both Dead Man’s Party and Weird Science are undeniably up there as two of their most famous tunes. I’ve opted for Dead Man’s Party simply because it lines up more naturally with Halloween from the title, but both are really fun songs about the weird and unusual.
She’s Gone Away - Nine Inch Nails
Honestly, I’m a bit stumped with this one - on the one hand I feel like I have a lot to say about it, and at the same time I think it just speaks for itself.
If you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend Twin Peaks: The Return enough, which this song features in. It’s not pivotal to the plot, but it definitely accents the horror and bleakness of the episode it’s attached to.
Theme of Laura - Akira Yamaoka
It’s probably down to the unnerving nature of Silent Hill 2 that I find this song to be genuinely unsettling. It sounds more like the opening to a soap opera, and I guess in some respects that’s not entirely wrong given how the game weaves its story. Akira Yamaoka nailed the haunting vibe and tension with the soundtrack, and despite how much I dislike the movie, his composing was probably the saving grace for that too. This probably reads more like a recommendation for Silent Hill and Akira Yamaoka himself than anything, but this song genuinely gives me the creeps!
I love Halloween. It is my favourite holiday of the year and I usually have a playlist ready to go for the spooky occasion. Here are a few samples of what I like to listen to get into the ghouly mood.
Been To Hell - Hollywood Undead
Any song by Hollywood Undead could be a halloween song but Been To Hell is probably the best. The lyrics of the song “welcome to a world where dreams become nightmares” and the overall feel of the song talks about having your reality distorted which is what Halloween is all about. Going down a street that you usually know but everything is different - that's basically Halloween! The masks help too I guess!
Dracula - Gorillaz
Gorillaz are so diverse and varied in all the songs they do. Dracula is one of their slower joints and perfectly encapsulates that vibe of Halloween. Sampling the Looney Tunes (which sounds stranger than it actually is), Dracula shows that any sample, song or even beat can be created to be creepy.
Playing In The Shadows - Example
Example, usually known for his over the top dance/pop/rap songs, has a different take on a dark song. Produced by Chase & Status, this song is not a rock song and does not have an unnerving tone, but feels more like a commentary on one's own subconscious - and let’s face it folks, there is nothing scarier than one’s own mind. Also it was in that Batman advert, quality.
Monster F**k - Comedy Bang Bang
It’s like the monster mash except R-Rated. Man I love Comedy Bang Bang.
Rosemary’s Baby - Fantomas
Arguably the most unsettling main theme to a horror movie ever, Rosemary’s Baby is truly haunting. Originally composed by Krzysztof Komeda, this dark lullaby is in many ways more iconic than the movie itself. That’s why it’s so impressive that Fantomas - Mike Patton’s avant garde rock band - have made it even more evil. Patton is gifted with one of the most talented voices in rock, ranging from legitimate opera to metal growls, and has even leant his voice to zombies, vampires and other monsters on the silver screen. It’s this that he leans on with his threatening hums in Rosemary’s Baby, which alongside the fuzz guitars and erratic xylophone make for the perfect soundtrack for a descent into madness. Not one to play while alone in the dark.
Freezing Moon - Mayhem
‘When it’s cold,
and when it’s dark,
the freezing moon can obsess you.’
Mayhem deserved to be on this list out of reputation alone. The Satanic godfathers of 2nd Wave Black Metal, whose formative years were notorious for church burnings, suicide and bandmate-on-bandmate murder, there aren’t many bands who exhude true, malovelent evil like Norway’s finest. Truthfully any track from their legendary opus De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas could’ve filled this space, but Freezing Moon takes the skull-shaped biscuit.
Conjuring dark images of vampires, graveyards and Lovecraftian horror, it’s the ultimate Satanic anthem; intentionally inaccessible and confrontational from the subject matter to the vocals and even the rough recording mix.
For anyone looking to experience this track as it was intended, I’d strongly recommend finding one of the live recordings from one of the four gigs with Mayhem’s most iconic frontman - Dead, all of which have been remastered and rereleased in recent years. Screamed, growled and gurgled by a man who would take his own life not long after, these are the dark thoughts of a gangrenous mind exactly as they were meant to be heard.
There Will Be Blood - Kim Petras
After that I think we all need a little bit of levity. Thankfully, pop sensation Kim Petras is on hand to deliver it with her Halloween themed album Turn Off The Light, and my pick for track of the album - There Will Be Blood. As catchy and well produced as Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX and the like, but with lyrics pulled right out of an 80s teen slasher.
What’s not to love?
I’ll admit it, most of my picks might get a few funny looks at your more mainstream Halloween party, but this would fit right in with even the most vanilla soirée imaginable. A macabre, toe-tappingly good time for all!
Astral Projection - Creeper
Creeper’s entire back catalogue is tinged in horror imagery and iconography, ranging from overt references to The Lost Boys to a twisted take on Peter Pan and his, well, Lost Boys. It’s hard to pick just one song for a Halloween playlist, but put a spooky gun up to my head and I’d have to say Astral Projection. Effectively more black metal than punk in its structure, it starts at a blistering pace and will invariably start a circle pit (you have been warned), only relenting in it’s closing refrain of
‘We all wilt and fade. Tragic and trite, we dissipate.’
Simultaneously tuneful, exhilarating, sombre and nihilistic - everything a good Halloween banger should be.
N.B. I’m also in the music video