The Carl Online


The Sounds of Violence: 10 Scary (and Possibly Spooky) Songs by carlmagazine
October 23, 2010, 8:24 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , ,

by Andreas Stoehr

Want to put together the ultimate Halloween playlist? Well, we at The Carl have got you covered! And you have just enough time before the big night to, uh, purchase these songs through perfectly legitimate means. Or something. So give your dorm that macabre atmosphere with these classics of scaaaaary music…

10. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus

Back when “goth” meant something more than a high school fashion statement, Bauhaus released this tribute to vampiric icon Lugosi, who shuffled off this mortal coil in 1956. Long and atmospheric, the song was featured in the opening scene of The Hunger (1983), where it helped establish mood better most of the noisy, confusingly edited scenes to follow. Its eerie simplicity set an example that director Tony Scott would’ve been wise to follow. Sample lyrics: “The virginal brides file past his tomb / Strewn with time’s dead flowers…”

9. “Pet Sematary” by The Ramones

Written for Mary Lambert’s 1987 film of the same name, it was the song that finally brought together punk rock and Stephen King. In their typically repetitive fashion, The Ramones beg not to be interred in the titular burying ground. The band had a history with the horror genre – see the Freaks references in “Pinhead” – so they were a pretty natural fit for this material. But once you’ve heard the Ramones’ rendition, you should listen to the even creepier cover by the Swedish band The Tiny. Sample lyrics: “And the night, when the moon is bright, / Someone cries, something ain’t right…”

8. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson could be a pretty creepy guy, and I’m not talking about his appearance or personal life. I’m referring to his frequent use of monsters and the supernatural in his music. (See also: the multimedia extravaganza Ghosts.) And with the assistance of John Landis and a rapping Vincent Price, “Thriller” is not only one of the best scary songs; it’s also a truly great horror movie. Werewolves and zombies and meta-commentary, oh my! Sample lyrics: “It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark…”

7. “Transylvanian Concubine” by Rasputina

Much of Rasputina’s music reveals a morbid sensibility at work (see also “Christian Soldiers“), and frontwoman Melora Creager sure has a knack for blending idiosyncratic humor, wordplay, and gruesome imagery. In this song from their album Thanks for the Ether, she invites the listener to a vampiric community of sexual abandon. The song also introduced Rasputina to the wider world through its appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sample lyrics: “You can never be too rich or too / Thin. The blood has run out…”

6. “In Heaven” by Peter Ivers

In Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr., David Lynch gave disturbing implications to Roy Orbison (“In Dreams,” “Llorando”) and Bobby Vinton (“Blue Velvet,” duh), but Eraserhead‘s “In Heaven” is probably the most aggressively surreal use of music in the whole Lynch canon. From the gurgling ambient noise in the background to Ivers’ twangy delivery and the shaky organ accompaniment, every aspect of the song contributes to the deranged vision of “heaven” that Eraserhead’s hero Henry pines for. Sample lyrics: “In heaven, everything is fine / In heaven, everything is fine…

5. “Gloomy Sunday” by anyone

Rezső Seress’s infamously depressing song carries decades’ worth of depressing rumors, including ones about its composer’s own suicide. But that hasn’t stopped generations of musicians from covering it! Some of the best include Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Lydia Lunch, Portishead, and Sinéad O’Connor, each of whom gives it a unique (and always depressing) spin. It’s not called the Hungarian suicide song for nothing. Sample lyrics: “My heart and I / Have decided to end it all.”

4. “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield

Maybe this wouldn’t be considered “scary” if it hadn’t been used in The Exorcist. But hey, it was, and now it’s impossible to hear those bells a-ringing without conjuring up thoughts of danger, darkness, and Pazuzu. They just sound so redolent of both the 1970s and the unexplained. This also makes great mood music for frightening trick-or-treaters.

3. “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” by Krzysztof Penderecki

I don’t know nearly enough about musical technique to say why “Threnody” is so chilling, but its feral, anarchic sound – and the use of Penderecki’s other music in movies like The Shining and Shutter Island – confirm its status as scary music. Blame pop culture for putting this commemoration of a national tragedy into such vulgar contexts, but it’s now impossible to hear it now without thinking of long, narrow hallways and something lurking around the corner.

2. “This Is Halloween” by Danny Elfman

One of the best songs from Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s a paean to everything good and scary about the season, from “the one hiding under your bed” to “the clown with the tear-away face.” It’s also informed by the subtle undertones of poignancy, regret, and tradition that fill Nightmare. The whole segment is a triumph of beautifully grotesque animation meeting catchy songwriting – and it’s only the first of the film’s many musical treats. Others include “Sally’s Song” and “Oogie Boogie’s Song,” or you can try Marilyn Manson’s not-for-all-tastes rendition of “This Is Halloween.” Sample lyrics: “Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright /It’s our town, everybody scream…”

1. “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett

Pickett’s one-hit wonder is really the beginning and the end of popular Halloween-themed music. It’s harmlessly tongue-in-cheek, but contains a deep and infectious reverence for the Universal horror films of the 1930s. Incorporating Karloff, Lugosi, and the rest into the musical fads of early ’60s, the “Monster Mash” is a reflection of just how ingrained in American pop culture these monsters were. It’s also the quintessential song for radio airplay on October 31 – and the same should go for your iTunes! Sample lyrics: “The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds / Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds…”