For most, Halloween is a campy, playful occasion: an excuse to eat too much sugar and have fun dressing up. For a minority, however, Halloween is more about getting in touch with your Goth side. Characteristic of this approach is celebrating by watching horror movies and listening to gloomy music with the lights off. But you don’t have to choose between campy fun and a more serious embrace of all things dark; this playlist combines a bit of both approaches (although admittedly it leans towards the latter!). Here are 13 of my favourite Halloween tracks.
Siouxsie and the Banshees, ‘Halloween’ As you might have guessed from its title, this track is direct in its references to the scariest time of the year. “Spellbound”, another track from this album – Juju – is another wonderfully foreboding, albeit catchy, track: 80s Goth-pop at its best.
Nina Simone, ‘I Put a Spell on You’ The dark side of love, possessiveness, is the stuff of nightmares. Many pop songs make it into something cutesy and romantic, but this jazz classic doesn’t dress up the ugliness of jealousy, and the results are unforgettable.
Rockwell, ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ A slice of campy 80s synthpop featuring a catchy hook from Michael Jackson. One-hit-wonder Rockwell has long since faded into obscurity, but this song will never stop being the perfect Halloween party tune.
Ozzy Osbourne, ‘Bark at the Moon’ Black Sabbath leadman Osbourne’s song about a werewolf that has come back from the dead to continue its reign of terror is a great example of the overlap between dad music and Halloween classics. In spite of being released way back in 1983, it barely sounds dated today.
Gravediggaz, ‘Diary of a Madman’ Underrated Wu-Tang offshoot Gravediggaz were pioneers of horrorcore, a subgenre of hip-hop that takes the violence of gangsta rap and moves it into more ghoulish territory by playing with supernatural and occult themes. In “Diary of a Madman”, the narrator is in court pleading insanity, claiming that a demonic spirit made him commit murder (which he describes in graphic detail). Genuinely unsettling stuff.
Rob Zombie, ‘Living Dead Girl’ Zombie’s sexually charged shock rock is a little corny for everyday listening, but it’s perfect for Halloween. The song even begins with a sample from horror movie The Last House on the Left.
Candlemass, ‘Bewitched’ Performed by one of the pioneers of doom metal, a subgenre of metal seemingly invented with Halloween in mind, this is a brooding, atmospheric track. The accompanying video is also a hilarious display of over-the-top metal posturing (featuring a cardboard coffin) that is well worth watching.
Iron Maiden, ‘The Number of the Beast’ Iron Maiden are a band whose essence is so Halloween that they have their own range of Halloween masks. This heavy metal classic disconcerted religious groups in the US to the extent that they burnt copies of Maiden’s album to protest its supposed Satanism. You can’t get much more Halloween than that.
Marilyn Manson, ‘This is Halloween’ Manson is one of my go-to Halloween artists. This infectious track is a cover of a song featured in the classic film The Nightmare Before Christmas (originally performed by the inhabitants of the Halloween Town) that outspooks the original.
Alice Cooper, ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ Shock rocker Cooper was a massive influence on two other artists on this playlist, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. In this track, Frankenstein isn’t a real monster, but a metaphor for Cooper’s libido. He sounds pretty scary, anyway.
Switchblade Symphony, ‘Witches’ 90s darkwave duo Switchblade Symphony have largely been forgotten, a great shame — they were masters of creating ominous atmospheres. You can practically hear the cauldrons stirring in the background.
Bauhaus, ‘She’s in Parties’ Are you a recovering Goth who takes Halloween a bit too seriously? This one’s for you. The ultimate soundtrack to an evening of melancholy.
Diamanda Galás, ‘O Death’ If you’re looking for something genuinely unsettling, check out pretty much any song by Diamanda Galás, an avant-garde performer whose operatic wailing makes black metal sound like easy listening.