When I make a playlist, I always do my research to see who else has made similar playlists around the net. And while I knew that there would be plenty of Halloween playlists out there, what I didn’t realize was how horrible those playlists would be. First, many of them focus on “Halloween party” songs, which are seldom creepy (“Disturbia” is NOT a Halloween song) and rarely high-quality music (“Monster Mash,” while fun, is not exactly one of the best things ever recorded). Second, nearly all of them included songs that name-drop monsters or the like but are much too peppy or silly to be Halloween songs (“Werewolves of London,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Bad Moon Rising”… seriously?). Third, most of them ignored newer music in favor of classic rock — nothing wrong with that, but it’s about time some songs from the last decade were included.
So here’s my go at making a list of great Halloween songs. My main focus was to choose songs that are not only awesome to blast around Halloween, but are such great tunes that you should probably have them in your iTunes for the rest of the year too. I tried to pick from a variety of genres and balance between famous Halloween songs (“Thriller” is kind of a no-brainer) and tracks that I didn’t see on a single other list (“Forever May Not Be Long Enough,” “Bloodletting,” etc.). I ignored metal and hard rock for the most part, focusing on songs that set the mood rather than songs that simply attempt to singe your nerves. If this playlist were a movie, it would be a psychological drama, not a horror flick. They’re scarier anyway.
Of course, since there are literally thousands of songs out there that would be great to play at Halloween (there’s an entire genre called “witch house,” and one of its songs makes an appearance), these 13 are just my personal favorites. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below!
1. Marilyn Manson – “This Is Halloween” (Nightmare Revisited, 2008)
I couldn’t decide whether to list this version or the original, but Manson is undoubtedly creepier than Danny Elfman, even at Elfman’s lowest depths. Nightmare Before Christmas is a wonderful animated movie and an annual tradition between October 31 and December 25 for many of us. Perhaps you should join the custom.
2. Battles – “Atlas” (Mirrored, 2007) MP3
From the stomping, mechanistic bass drums to the creepy children chanting wordlessly (I always imagine them as cannibals coming to eat me — or those little aliens in Galaxy Quest), this seven-minute rumbler is a frequent play when I want to freak anyone out.
3. Blue Öyster Cult – “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” (Agents of Fortune, 1976)
The bewitching guitar riff that reoccurs throughout this ’70s masterpiece is perhaps even more Halloween-worthy than its grim (…sigh) lyrics. It’s a perennial favorite that nevertheless deserves a place blasting from any house with plenty of candy for the kids.
4. Live – “Forever May Not Be Long Enough” (V, 2001)
There is not a single other Halloween playlist on the entire internet that includes this deep track from Pennsylvania rock band Live‘s middle-eastern-influenced fifth album. It is a puzzling deficit, as I’ve played this song every October 31 for years. With Egyptian sounds and mystical lyrics about death, “Forever May Not Be Long Enough” is a chilling lovesong with a chorus straight out of The Mummy.
5. Bach – “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” (1703-1707) MP3
This famous organ piece invokes vampires and their ilk better than almost any piece of music in the world.
6. Hollywood Undead – “Undead” (Swan Song, 2008)
Definitely the least artistic of the songs on this list, I’ve nevertheless always enjoyed “Undead” because of the bastardization of Ozzy‘s “Crazy Train” riff and the don’t-give-a-fuck lyrics. If zombies had a rap-rock theme song, it’d be this.
7. Nightwish – “The Phantom of the Opera” (Century Child, 2002) MP3
The Swedish metal band lends the title track from Andrew Lloyd Weber‘s musical “The Phantom of the Opera” an even darker venom, and god… that organ. This simply begs to be played on Halloween.
8. Michael Jackson – “Thriller” (Thriller, 1982)
It may be a pop song, but it’s the #1 Halloween track ever. ‘Nough said.
9. Concrete Blonde – “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” (Bloodletting, 1990)
With ominous sounds, lyrics about vampires and “the walking dead,” and a macabre outlook that was exemplified on Concrete Blonde‘s Top 20 hit “Joey” from the same album, this is the perfect candidate for a Halloween playlist — even Paste managed to include it on their otherwise underwhelming Halloween playlist. The entire album, in fact, is wonderful for Hallow’s Eve — which is why it was my mom’s album of choice for the background of spooky stories the night before. This song will forever be associated with The Hook and other stories for me.
10. The Knife – “Silent Shout” (Silent Shout, 2006)
The tense, irregular synth patterns that shape this track only introduce the disturbing, androgynous duet of a vocal track that sounds as close to a silent shout as one can get.
While it may not be the creepiest song on the playlist, this DMB deep track from my favorite album of theirs is not only named “Halloween,” but the oriental tones of the song make it a fitting brother to “Forever May Not Be Long Enough.” Plus Dave growls “I will steal your soul” like the promise of a demon.
12. Salem – “King Night” (King Night, 2010) MP3
The beginning of this song, with its distorted “I love you” and skip-and-start explosion of darktronica, is one of my favorite moments in music — let alone 2010. ”King Night” utilizes a section of the Christmas carol “O Holy Night” to create a chilling, gorgeous concoction of the two holidays, similar to The Nightmare Before Christmas but with a much different aesthetic. The genre is officially “witch house,” which makes it even more fitting for a Halloween playlist. Find this song now.
13. The Dead Weather – “Old Mary” (Sea of Cowards, 2010)
Equal parts Catholic guilt and nearly grotesque parody, this closing track from the most recent album by Jack White and Alison Mosshart‘s The Dead Weather includes a brief organ and a bastardization of the “Hail Mary” prayer — in other words, it suits Halloween like few other songs. If you can call this a song.