I wondered for a while how I was going to tackle this week’s vague subject, and how strict I had to be. After all, when it comes to songs about horror, do I only go for specific songs referring to horror themes? Or songs that are scary and terrifying? Or songs that poke fun at horror? Or songs that appeared in horror films?
So there was only one way to do this – try and cover them all. Let’s make this clear now – Michael Jackson’s Thriller isn’t being included (well, not quite), and rather than posting this as spring finally appears, I should perhaps have waited until Hallowe’en…
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Werewolf Women Of The SS
/Hellbilly Deluxe II
Where else to start with but with Rob Zombie. The B-movie and horror-obsessed rockstar who became a noted horror movie director, even if some of his films haven’t been all that much to write home about. Like his debut film, which was clearly a starting point that got a whole lot better with follow-up The Devil’s Rejects. So appropriately enough, I was going to go for House of 1,000 Corpses – you know, the lead song for a horror film by a rockstar – except that it’s not actually that great. So instead, let’s go for the gleeful silliness of Werewolf Women Of The SS, a highlight of the recent gigs and indeed a highlight of Rob Zombie’s first good album in at least a decade. Obviously, this song should be enjoyed while watching the utterly ridiculous “trailer” for the titular “film”…
/A Minute To Midnight
/The Magic In My Heart Is Dead
Talking of films, God Module love their horror films. References to them crop up on almost all of their albums, and on their later releases, just about every song! So there was Spooky, the distinctly un-spooky opener to Let’s Go Dark, where Jasyn Bangert details all the horror movie clichÃ©s he loves, or Brains, where he apparently becomes a zombie (and it’s a much, much better song). But my choice here? From their vastly improved EP from last year, where yet again it’s a mass of horror cliches, but this time its sex, death and scariness.
It’s perhaps no surprise that death metal and grindcore have taken god knows how many ideas from horror films – to the point that in some respects, the genres appear to lyrically have become a logical extension of the films. I’m struggling to think of any single band that have taken this to such extremes as the brutal grind of Mortician – there are so many horror samples used that at points it becomes little more than a highlights reel. Over half of the title track to this album is a sample of a voiceover from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, for example. The other half is sludgy, brutal grind.
/Dead Skin Mask
/Seasons In The Abyss
Slayer was, and are, another band who have had a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your view) obsession with horror themes over the years, but unlike Mortician were always rather more careful to ensure that the vicious death metal that they created was at the forefront, and in the process, they influenced more bands than can be counted. And it wasn’t films they were looking at for horror – it was real life. Like the Second World War horrors of Angel of Death, or here, where the gruesome murders and general weirdness of Ed Gein became the subject, who was of course one of the influences for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (The really freaky moment here? When the voices appear buried in the background later in the song…)
/What Can Be Safely Written
Well, any song referencing, or about, Cthulhu has to be included, right? Keeping with the death metal theme, here’s the monstrous opener to probably Nile’s finest album (although it has some stiff competition, as they’ve not released a bad album yet, in my opinion). Unlike most of their output, which concentrates more on Egyptian themes and more often than not the darker side of that, this track concentrated squarely on Lovecraftian themes, and more particularly on Lovecraft’s most famous creation – so famous the high priest to The Great Old Ones has become that He ended up on South Park last year! See also Metallica, of course, for The Call of Ktulu, but that was instrumental (and I far prefer Nile).
/The Axis of Perdition
/A Ruined Nation Awakens
/The Ichneumon Method (And Less Welcome Techniques)
It’s not just that area of Lovecraft that’s been covered in extreme metal, either. The only band of note I can think of from Middlesbrough, Axis of Perdition, have been heavily influenced by Lovecraft’s writings at least in the lyrical sense, although it could be said that the grimy, claustrophobic sensory overload of their music at least owes a debt to Lovecraft too, even if the black metal stylings don’t. Still, I’m pretty certain no other band has a song referencing Nyarlathotep as this blistering opener to their debut album does – a torrent of savage, dense black metal riffage with a vocal seemingly delivered direct from the burning pits of hell, and without doubt the scariest song on this list. (Of note: the band return at last in May with a new album proper, and you can hear the first track from it here. It’s rather rawer.)
Time to move away from extreme metal, perhaps, and onto less serious areas. A band who got scared witless by Stephen King’s early work, or maybe they just got paid well to soundtrack the film? Hell, by 1989 the Ramones were long past their peak, and frankly, this song is too slow, too dull, and in all honesty, sounds phoned in. A shame, as I couldn’t not include this for its subject – I’d just forgotten how bad this was. Someone remind me – was the film this bad too?
/Transgression By Numbers
Talking of less than serious, this is hardly scary, instead having great fun being a goth band and having some fun. Yes, some did do so, and few did it with their tongues any deeper in their cheeks than this. Oh, the perils of trying to be a goth (sorry, vampire) as a teenager, eh? Still, he’s pretty fly for a dead guy.
/Night Of The Living Dead
/Walk Among Us
I can never say that I was the world’s biggest Misfits fan, but they were another band that had to really be included here. Yet another song based around a film (that of the title, of course), the lyrics suggest that the band might just be stuck in the action of the film, and they are fucked. The question is, would Glenn Danzig be any use in fighting off the zombies? (Points for using somnambulance in the lyrics, though!
/The Birthday Party
/Release The Bats
/Release The Bats 7″
Finally, let’s delve back way into the early eighties, to the gothic-rockabilly-utter-fucking-chaos of The Birthday Party, and a song that perhaps hung around their neck like a very black and very angry albatross. Like Nick Cave’s later, er, more mature work, there’s a marvellous sense of humour on display, amidst the horror imagery of the bats being unleashed under…skirts. I always thought any video of this should have had Nick Cave sweeping across the stage in a cape. It’s probably for the best that this never happened…or did it?