Happy Halloween: Top 20 Scariest Rock Songs: the creepiest tracks of all time-from metal, goth, and more.
Whether you’re trying to plan a Halloween Party, or just enjoy being creeped out all on your lonesome, music can be just as terrifying as a horror film.
Even in its early days, rock music has always enjoyed a good scare, be it Monster Mash or I Put A Spell On You. And as it evolved, artists of various sub-genres have crafted gloriously dark tunes with the power to induce chills or unnerve completely.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled the ultimate collection of creepy songs from metal, goth, industrial, and more. I’ve tried to focused on songs that truly unsettle, so if you’re looking for “fun” scary songs, be sure to check out my Halloween Party Playlist.
So turn off the lights (candlelight and strobe lights excluded of course) and crank it up. At the conclusion of the countdown I’ll have a iTunes playlist of available tracks listed for your purchasing pleasure.
Without further ado, the scariest songs of all time…
20. ‘The Killing Game’-Skinny Puppy (1992)
This unsettling dark wave track from 1992’s Last Rights, recounts frontman Nivek Ogre’s state of hallucinatory drug induced paranoia during an isolated weekend in his apartment. It’s the musical equivalent of Roman Polanski’s The Tenant.
19. ‘Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)’ -Ween (1994)
Ween’s stock in trade involved eclectic bizarre songs filled with hilariously tasteless lyrics. But even by their tacky standards, Spinal Meningitis (off 94 masterpiece Chocolate and Cheese) was pushing it.
The pitch-shifted vocals recounting a child’s grave illness (am I gonna see God, Mommy? Am I gonna die) would be unbearable if taken too seriously, but even as a joke it’s still deeply disquieting. The result is uncomfortable laughter (while hating yourself in the process), surely damning you to a hellish afterlife or eternal bad karma (depending on your views on spiritual matters). Sick bastards!
18. ‘Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)’-Swans (2014)
Noise rock icons Swans have always had a knack for fashioning harrowing tunes, and Just A Little Boy from 2014’s To Be Kind is no exception.
Titled after the birth name of blues legend Howling Wolf, the 12 minute song starts off soothing, with vocalist Michael Gira recounting being an infant-Now I sleep in the belly of a woman-but things take a weird turn at the 4:50 mark where he shrieks I’M JUST A LITTLE BOY!! followed by condescending adult laughter…later Gira grows even more frantic, uttering I’m NOT HUMAN! I Need love!
It’ll keep you up at night.
17. ‘Daddy’-Korn (1994)
Sure Korn have long since lapsed into self-parody, but their original self-titled album still packs a punch. They saved their most disturbing song for last, where vocalist Jonathan Davis gives an unsparing first hand account of sexual abuse. The song ends with his actual sobbing from reliving his experience. Uneasy listening to be sure.
16.’It Took The Night To Believe’-Sunn O)))(2005)
Fusing eerie drone metal with ambient soundscapes makes Sunn O)))’s work an intimidating listen, and It Took The Night (from 2005 release Black One) is one of their most spine-tingling tracks.
Scything riffs cut the path for undead guttural vocals commanding you to Defile and vibrate, whatever the hell that means.
15. ‘Eraser’-Nine Inch Nails (1994)
Being the darkest track on The Downward Spiral is a crowning achievement, and I nominate this bleak tune. Building slowly from skeletal percussion, it adds layers of sonic decay until it becomes a deafening roar, supporting Reznor’s nihilistic lyrics to perfection.
14. ‘Invocation’-Danzig (1994)
Ole Danzig got cheeky on his 4th album, saving this Satanic ditty for a hidden track (#66 of course). Employing backwards keyboards and vocals with a funereal tone, he sets the scene with lyrics like The Demon comes but must be called/Comes to all the sleeping homes…
It’s a perfect capper to this underrated dark gem of an album, adding an unexpected jolt for the unsuspecting listener.
13. ‘Prelude (The Family Trip)’-Marilyn Manson (1994)
Given his more controversial material, it might seem odd I chose his take on Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka monologue as their spookiest tune, but it’s the context that sells it.
For Gen-X kids, it made us realize just how creepy that movie was in the first place, and set us on edge as the opening track into the fun house haunts of their major label début Portrait of An American Family (Our fifth and final entry from 1994-the grandaddy of dark musical years, apparently).
12. TIE: ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ (1979)/’Stigmata Martyr’ (1980)-Bauhaus
Simply by its lyrical content (and the band’s song performance in cult vampire flick The Hunger), Bauhaus’ Goth masterpiece Bela Lugosi’s Dead is the preeminent Halloween anthem.
But Martyr is also worth a nod, featuring Peter Murphy’s witch-finder vocals, screaming the Lord’s Prayer backwards. This act of blasphemy reportedly freaked him out so much that he avoided performing it live for years (even after ditching Christianity for Islam).
11. ‘Country Death Song’-The Violent Femmes (1984)
The Femmes are known for being delightfully wacky. But Country Death Song is one bleak country folk tune, describing a crazed rube killing his own daughter in chilling detail: I gave her a push, I gave her a shove/I pushed with all my might, I pushed with all my love/I threw my child into a bottomless pit/She was screaming as she fell, but I never heard her hit.
At least the narrator gets his comeuppance, when guilt proves too much to bear: I’m going out to the barn, will I never stop in pain? I’m going out to the barn, to hang myself in shame.
Cue up Blister In The Sun please…time to lighten the mood!
10. ‘Tonight We Murder’-Ministry (1988)
Before I realized Al Jourgensen was a sarcastic huckster, I thought he was downright frightening upon purchasing the ‘Stigmata‘ 12-inch single in high school But this B-side was even more unnerving, with its tale of psychotic inmates literally taking over the asylum, and breaking out to engage in a killing spree.
9. ‘Welcome Home’-King Diamond (1987)
It’s not a proper scary song list without King Diamond right? And Welcome Home takes the bloody cake. Taken from his concept album Them, it concerns the helium voiced hellion caring for his mentally ill grandmother.
But with lyrics like: Let me help you out of the chair Grandma Let me touch you, let me feel and Now that you are stuck with me/You better be my friend, it’s clear being batshit crazy runs in the family.
8. ‘Disgustipated’-Tool (1993)
Disgustipated (from Tool’s breakthrough album Undertow) is another notably chilling hidden track. Lasting nearly 16 minutes, it features Maynard James Keenan’s bizarre evangelical dietary rant about The cries of the carrots! and life feeds on life! But it’s the phone message at the end that goes full horror show.
In a Zodiac Killer style hallucinatory ramble, a man describes the activities of a deranged person who climbs out of a ditch, grabs a knife, and sees: two tiny people walking by your woods. You began to walk towards them. Now red was your color and, of course, those little people out there were yours too.
Although never stated, it’s clear the nutjob is detailing his own murderous deeds, while distancing himself from his crimes. Creepy as hell.
7. ‘Curtain’-Portal (2013)
I had the pleasure (?) of seeing this Australian band at last year’s Housecore Horror Festival, and goodnight nurse were they a frightshow. Conjuring hell-scapes with spasmodic riffs, occult vocals and hooded outfits, they’re pretty much the most gloriously evil thing I’ve seen live.
I have no idea what this song is about, but combined with the horrific video it makes for absolute nightmare fuel. In an interview, the lead guitarist says that the group tries to capture a cinematic horror scope. Mission Accomplished.
6. ‘Dead Skin Mask’-Slayer (1990)
One of the most iconic songs from the thrash metal titans, features a grisly first-person account of dead flesh-wearing serial killer Ed Gein. Vocalist Tom Araya’s lyrics hones in on what’s so disturbing about the futility of a victim reasoning with a sociopath: In the depths of a mind insane/Fantasy and reality are the same.
Hearing the terrified vocals of the killer’s victims at the end of the track just ramps up the disquieting nature of the song.
5. ‘Come To Daddy’-Aphex Twin (1997)
The creepiest song in electronica, Come To Daddy features Aphex Twin mastermind Richard D. James shrieking I WANT YOUR SOUL atop skittering drum beats and haunted house sonic textures. The Chris Cunningham video, which shows an army of murderous children (all bearing a caricatured version of James’ visage) is a horror film in its own right.
4. ‘Jizzlobber’-Faith No More (1992)
Easily Faith No More’s heaviest and haunting song to date, Jizzlobber features ex-guitarist Jim Martin at his finest, forging a sludgy riff that congeals perfectly with keyboardist Roddy Bottom’s Psycho jabs, and vocalist Mile Patton at his most unhinged.
Given the song title, we know we’re in for something gross. And Patton doesn’t disappoint.
I hide the dirty minutes under my dirty mattress and they are making me itch
My time Is split milk/My skin is a layer of soot/I’m spending my days scrubbing!
Ewwww. Anybody ready for a shower?
Honorable Mention: ‘Quote/Unquote’-Mr. Bungle (1991)
Had to give a shout out to yet another unsettling Mike Patton project. Mr. Bungle’s début album is a carnival and clown filled nightmare, perfectly captured by its opening track. It’s the only album I’ve ever listened to that made me feel high even while stone cold sober.
3. ‘Black Sabbath’-Black Sabbath (1970)
The original metal chiller, Black Sabbath’s self-titled classic starts off appropriately with drizzling rain and church bells before lurching into Tony Iommi’s evil riff (featuring a dissonant tritone, known as “the Devil’s interval” in the middle ages)
Adding in Ozzy’s lyrics What is this that stands before me?/Figure in black which points at me, this iconic track is ground zero for the perfect synergy of horror movies and heavy metal.
2. ‘Frankie Teardrop’-Suicide (1977)
Electronic music progenitors Suicide always had a knack for creating jittery soundscapes. But Frankie Teardrop is their white-knuckle pièce de résistance. Vocalist Alan Vega’s trembling delivery ratchets up the tension with his tale of a stressed-out factory worker pulling a murder/suicide on his family.
After grimly detailing: Frankie is so desperate/He’s gonna kill his wife and kids…Frankie picked up a gun, Vega lets loose one of many chill-inducing shrieks, before revealing that: We’re all Frankie’s
/We’re all lying in hell! (shudder).
1.’Hamburger Lady’-Throbbing Gristle (1978)
Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle makes sounds as disquieting and upsetting as their name. But Hamburger Lady will give you the creeps like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
A nauseating and disorienting listen, it uses dread inducing oscillating textures and Genesis P-Orridge’s gurgling vocals to describe a nurse caring for an extreme burn victim:
She is burned from the waist up,
On her arm,
Her ear is burned,
Her eyelashes are burned,
She can’t hold things up,
And even with medical advances,
There’s no end in sight.
Most unsettling is that the song’s tempo and mood never changes, stuck in the same hellish limbo as its suffering victim. If ever there’s a song that could drive you to vomit and leave you in a cold sweat, Hamburger Lady is it!
So that wraps up my list of the scariest horror songs in rock. Of course some tracks had to get the axe (pun intended), so honorable mentions go to the following:
Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare, Fields of The Nephilim’s Vet For The Insane, Metallica’s One, Nick Cave’s The Mercy Seat, Eagles of Death Metal’s Midnight Creeper, and Siouxsie and The Banshees Rawhead and Bloodybones.
Now it’s your turn. What other scary rock songs would you add to the list? Tell me in the comments.