Happy Halloween Eve! With our sacred month coming to a fever pitch, we might be looking for some haunting music to carry us into the night. The Monster Mash is great, and we sure as hell ain’t afraid of no ghosts, but I’ve got a batch of twelve tunes that’ll keep you howling long after the jack-o-lanterns are out. Enjoy!
1.) “Damn These Vampires” by The Mountain Goats
I could make a horror playlist with only indie rock band The Mountain Goats’ songs (and maybe I will in the future), but this is the first one that comes to my mind because, well, vampires (metaphor or not). It also happens to be the first track on my favorite TMG album, All Eternals Deck. It’s a slow song with a twang of cowboy sadness, marooning us in an urban desert twilight full of hunger.
“Feast like pagans, never get enough/ Sleep like dead mean, wake up like dead men/ And when the sun comes, try not to hate the light/ some day we’ll try to walk upright.”
2.) “Bloody Creature Poster Girl” by In This Moment
Heavy metal band, In This Moment is known for the strange and obscene. Their entire album, Black Widow, is arguably a tribute to horror, but “Bloody Creature Poster Girl” is maybe the most obvious. We’re talking about those alluring victims of creature features and slasher flicks. The bare breasts and vulnerable necks. Except with Maria Brink at the helm, this girl is “no damsel in distress/ The only thing I’m needing is for you to be bleeding/
From my homicidal kiss.” Trade your diamonds for blood, ladies.
3.) “Control” by Halsey
Pop singer, songwriter Halsey might be known on the radio for her more upbeat collaborations, but there are a few on her album Badlands that are downright haunting. “Control” not only sounds creepy as hell, but its story reminds me of a place like Hill House, where “the shadows and monsters/ The hallways, they echoed and groaned.” The lyrics may be ghostly but the chorus is the real warning: “And all the kids cried out, ‘Please stop, you’re scaring me’/ I can’t help this awful energy/ God damn right, you should be scared of me/ Who is in control?”
4.) “The Shankill Butchers” by The Decemberists
I am still relatively new to this artist, so I thought most of their music was along the lines of “Don’t Carry It All” or “Calamity Song,” two of the only songs I knew before going to their concert (thanks Dan Paul). When I heard “The Shankill Butchers” I was covered in goosebumps. It was a cautionary tale awash with red lights and slow eerie guitars and the way lead singer Colin Meloy croons the line “everybody moan, everybody shake/ The Shankill butchers wanna catch you awake,” indeed makes me want to moan and shake (and not in a good way). Mind your mothers.
5.) “East Hastings” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
I originally came to find this song from the 28 Days Later score. When I tracked down this full 17:58 piece, I was in love. It’s been on my personal apocalypse-themed playlist for years and so of course warrants a spot here. Mostly instrumental, save for some background noise and audio recordings, this song moves through in cryptic waves of desolation and reckless abandon. Definitely a downer, but one that I return to time and again for writing inspiration.
6.) “Werewolf Gimmick” by The Mountain Goats
Yes, another MTG song in the mix. But this time, they’re werewolves! Or wrestlers. Or both. The point is, this song kicks your ass and leaves you begging for more. Merciless drums guided by a sinister guitar transform a wrestling match into a massacre. In 2015, head Mountain Goat, John Darnielle said, “This is a song about a wrestler whose whole deal is like, people aren’t sure whether he’s actually gonna legit eat your face or not.” And with a shifting chorus like “Nameless bodies in unremembered rooms/ Run howling through the carnage when the wolfbane blooms,” I can definitely see that metaphor take shape.
7.) “Cry Little Sister vs. Hello Zepp (SAW-Theme)” by Celldweller
I first discovered this mashup remix while searching for horror movie music videos. There’s not much to say about this song except that it’s truly a badass hybrid of The Lost Boys and Saw, two films I wouldn’t think to have side by side. And to speak my truth, I have watched this particular music video more than twenty times, easy.
8.) “What’s He Building” by Tom Waits
Yet another artist I don’t know that much about, but thanks to poet and friend Avery, I know this song. Makes sense, since it’s more poem than tune, snapshots of a mysterious man toiling away at something inside his house. A track that makes you wonder what your neighbor next door is up to.
“I swear to god I heard someone moaning low/ and I keep seeing the blue light of a T.V. show/ He has a router and a table saw/ and you won’t believe what Mr. Sticha saw/ There’s poison underneath the sink of course/ But there’s also enough formaldehyde to choke a horse/ What’s he building in there./ What the hell is he building in there?”
9.) “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” by Sufjan Stevens
I still remember the exact day Maggie played this song for me. I was instantly haunted. I really feel like the less said about this piece the better. Just sit back, close your eyes, and listen with a soft heart.
10.) “Going to Hell” by The Pretty Reckless
We’re back to some hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll with a little good old fashioned blasphemy. “Don’t bless me father for I have sinned,” starts this leather and lace confession that’ll either leave you clutching your rosary or hiking up your skirt. Either way the guitar riff is pure black magic. Thanks for bringing this band to my attention, Christine.
And that 00:15 second marker is my current sexuality.
11.) “Calling All The Monsters” by China Anne McClain
I am not ashamed to include this pop treat on my list. It’s catchy and cute and satisfies my Halloween kitsch cravings better than candy. It’s like a tween mashup of “Thriller” and “The Monster Mash,” no pun intended. Plus, the music video has a little bookend story about a few girls on their way to a costume party (but instead one of them finds real monsters **spooky sounds**). Seriously, this song comes on, you’re gonna wanna dance.
12.) “Disturbia” by Rihanna
Last but NOT least, is my girl Rihanna and her creeptastic song, “Disturbia.” When this single hit the radio, I liked it, but when I saw the music video, I loved it. I am especially impressed when horror can be sexy without losing any, well, disturbia. There are characters here that are absolutely alluring and terrifying, like if you get too close, you know that’ll be the end of you. But maybe it’s worth it.
“Am I scaring you tonight?”