Horrific Sounds of the Horrible, and Other Tales of Horror set to Music

This just scratches the surface of Horror in music. I know there are far too many artists to actually cover in this one post. In all honesty, I was not attempting to do a Horror in Rock 101 course. This could be viewed as a quick reference or cheat sheet.

When you think of music that contains themes of horror, which artist(s) pops in your head immediately? Is it Rob Zombie, Black Sabbath, Danzig, Samhain, The Misfits, Michale Graves, Alice Cooper, Blitzkid, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, I.C.P., or Michael Jackson’s Thriller? Personally, when I think of music that induces horror, images of: Beiber, Dixie Chicks, Pitbull, and John Mayer come to my mind. In all seriousness though, overtones of horror are present in many artists’ songs.

There are many bands that, while not using Horror as their image, have used elements of horror (both real life and fictional) in some of their songs. Serial Killers, Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, Black Magic, and other staples of the horror genre have been focal points in some of the biggest musical talents’ songs. The works of Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft have all had their stories set to music at one time or another.

Anyone remember what albums are? Black Sabbath not only made music about dark subject matter, they also used it on their album covers. Check out the cover of their self titled debut. That picture is just haunting. The artwork for their fifth album Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath is another one that has very strong imagery.

Originally named Earth, the band began as a heavy blues rock group. Eventually they changed the name to Black Sabbath (taking the name of the 1963 Boris Karloff movie which was showing at the movie theater across the street from their rehearsal room) and incorporated horror and occult inspired lyrics with down tuned guitars.

Black Sabbath made their career by singing of: The occult, protesting war, mental illness, and addiction. Black Sabbath was the archetype of Heavy Metal. Without Sabbath, music would have become stagnant with Tree Hugging Hippy Music, Disco, and ‘80s Hair Bands. Ozzy continued with dark subject matter in his songs after leaving Sabbath. The occult and addiction continued to be ongoing themes in Ozzy’s songs.

Before Danzig made the hit song Mother, he started a band and created a new genre of music. It was called Horror Punk and the name of the band was The Misfits. There were no taboo subjects when it came to their lyrical content. They took on almost every B-movie topic that there was. Zombies, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and the like were some of the things Danzig sang about.

The Misfits were not the only group bitten by The Living Dead, or rather inspired to write songs about zombies. Anthrax has had zombies represented in a few of there songs. A band named “The Devil Wears Prada” released an E.P. last year titled Zombie. It is a five track concept album based on a zombie apocalypse.  At some point, you may have seen a little video for a song called Thriller by Michael Jackson. That video is probably the most popular, and recognizable use of Zombies in a music video.

One band that was influenced by Danzig’s Misfits was Metallica. Metallica were also inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s stories in their songs The Call of Ktulu and The Thing That Should Not Be. They have also tackled subjects such as: lycanthropy (werewolves), The Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Plague of Death of the Firstborn, and being born to a witch.

Stephen King’s story, The Stand, is the basis for the Anthrax song Among the Living. The song is from the antagonist’s (The Walking Dude, aka Randall Flagg) point of view. Where as Iron Maiden sang about Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue (They have also covered topics such as Phantom of the Opera and Transylvania as well. Maiden’s iconic mascot Eddie is another cog in the wheel of Horror in Heavy Metal imagery.) Jonathan Davis of Korn wrote a good portion of what was the soundtrack to the film Queen of the Damned, which was initially an Anne Rice story.

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Rob Zombie and his brother, Spider from Powerman 5000. While Rob’s band White Zombie leaned more toward horror themed songs, Spider’s band PM5K were geared to Science Fiction. These brothers have dedicated their careers to singing about the genres  that they love.

Here are a few bands that I didn’t get to cover, but deserve honorable mention: Samhain, Blitzkid (Heirs to the throne once owned by The Misfits), Mister Monster, The Cryptkeeper Five, Nim Vind(Mr. Underhill), Gotham Road, AFI, Eerie Lane, Doomtree, The Death Riders, Son of Sam, The Killer Barbies, Koffin Kats, Suicidal Tendencies, The Creepshow, The Everdead, The Bronx Casket Co., The Vincent Black Shadow, and Under a Nightmare.

Until next time, keep the Horror alive.

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One Response to “Horrific Sounds of the Horrible, and Other Tales of Horror set to Music”

  1. Im so picky about my horror. It was a great experience to pick apart Metallica songs and discover they wrote 2 songs inspired by Lovecraft. One which has lyrics..These days I like my music to be more uplifting. I also hate most horror movies and contemporary literature on the subject. There will never be another H.P.Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce. There can be no fear of the unknown if every idea has been re-hashed a hundred different ways.

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