Halloween might revolve around spooky themes but it’s also a time of the year for people to have a lot of fun. It’s the season for everyone to have a good time and enjoy some of the stuff they might not enjoy for the rest of the year. If there’s a time to watch horror movies, binge on horror shows, read horror books and listen to horror music, this is it. Since we have already discussed about horror movies in great detail this month, let’s shift our focus to some horror music. After all, the best Halloween albums are bound to have some (if not a lot of) horror elements in them. Today, we are going to list some of the best Halloween albums to get you spooked during this incredible time of the year. As you might expect, this list is going to feature a lot of heavy metal albums since that genre is the sonic equivalent of horror movies. However, there will be quite a few entrants from other genres as well.
Here are the best Halloween albums to get you spooked:
Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)
Kicking off the best Halloween albums list is the seminal Seven Churches. Whether or not this is the first death metal album of all time, is a debate for another day. What matters is that this album is awesome and Halloween worthy. Released back in 1985, which has to be considered one of the greatest years in the history of metal, Seven Churches took the speed and aggression of thrash and fused it with the Satanic tropes of proto-black metal bands like Venom. On top of this, the band from the Bay Area was smart enough to spice up their release with direct references to some of the most terrifying movies in history, most notably The Exorcist. As if you don’t need another reason to love/fear this record, then the fact that it takes its name from the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse named in the Book of Revelation should tell you all you need to know about Possessed’s aesthetic.
Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)
The King of Pop’s career is filled with Halloween highlights and his work is bound to feature in the best Halloween albums list. His first solo song “Ben” was recorded as the theme song to the 1972 horror film Ben. Halloween decorations frequently use the Rockwell song “Somebody’s Watching Me” featuring MJ singing the irresistible chorus. But no song outside of the “Monster Mash” captures the October 31st spirit like his “Thriller.” Everyone in the whole wide world knows this song, there’s even an Indian rip off song, “Golimaar,” from the movie Donga (1985). The album produced three music videos “Thriller”, “Billie Jean”, and “Beat It” that are so iconic that you can find kids Halloween costumes for each one on Amazon. As a matter of fact, the 14-minute long John Landis directed “Thriller” music video features music by Elmer Bernstein, special effects by Rick Baker. And if that weren’t enough, let’s not forget the legendary narration by Vincent Price: “No mere mortal can resist, the evil of the Thriller.”
King Diamond – Abigail (1987)
Next on the best Halloween albums list is Abigail. King Diamond has the ome of the most iconic voices in all of heavy metal and Abigail is his first of many concept albums. A gothic tale of a cursed family that constantly throws each other down flights of stairs, the record begins with the last rites of the title character. Abigail was born dead on the 7th Day of July 1777 (sung as “Seventeen seventeee-seh-he-vuhn”) but has been reborn through accursed treachery and she must be buried impaled by seven silver spikes so that she won’t rise and cause more trouble. Delivered at top volume by the dual lead guitar attack of Andy LaRocque and Michael Denner, the album stays at a furious gallop and King Diamond’s haunting vocals deliver the harrowing tale.
Ghost- Infestissumam (2013)
Can’t have a best Halloween albums list without Ghost. The band may have released many albums, but Infestissumam still stands not only as one of their best but also as an excellent mood setter for Halloween. Every song is catchy and entries like “Body and Blood”, “Secular Haze” and “Monstrance Clock” aid in establishing a spooky tone coupled with religious imagery. Arguably the crown jewel of the album, “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” starts out as a dreamlike requiem but abruptly shifts into a dark and groovy anthem that evokes 1960’s surfer music. Combined with sinister cover art, Infestissumam altogether conjures images of undead ghouls jamming out in a Gothic cathedral against the setting Autumn sun. This is one unholy baptism worth taking.
Slayer – Hell Awaits (1985)
Hey, it’s a best Halloween albums list, how can we not have a Slayer album on it? While Reign in Blood is the band’s masterpiece, it sounds too clean and too well produced to be scary. Hell Awaits, on the other hand, combines some of the low-fi edginess of Show No Mercy with the sheer and unrelenting brutality of the band’s brand of thrash metal. And unlike the band’s previous studio release, the horror of Hell Awaits is less hammy, Dungeons & Dragons fare and more grizzly gore and guts. From the denim and leather vampires of “At Dawn They Sleep” to the sexual deviant at the heart of “Necrophiliac,” Hell Awaits is morbidity channeled through Marshall stacks. The scariest of the bunch, “Hell Awaits,” sounds like nothing less than a plunge into the heart of Dante’s Inferno.
Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
If there ever was a band made for Halloween, it’s got to be Kiss. And it’s no surprise that one of the band’s album has made the best Halloween albums list.
Alive! prepared Kiss for superstardom, but it was Destroyer that rocketed the band to legendary status and made it a household name around the world. Any question as to why the album might be included on a Halloween list can be answered merely by dropping the needle on “God of Thunder,” a Gene Simmons tour de force about being “the Lord of the Wasteland” and “slowly [robbing] you of your virgin soul,” with creepy kid vocal effects that make you think of devilish imps playing in Hell. (Compare this with the original demo version sung by Paul Stanley, which kicks butt in its own way but is a decidedly different take on this song.) The sado-masochism tune “Sweet Pain,” car-crash horror of “Detroit Rock City,” and anthemic “King of the Night Time World” are also great reasons to crank up this classic on Halloween — or any other day, for that matter!
Rob Zombie – Hellbilly Deluxe (1998)
Rob Zombie could never be called a Halloween dilettante. He’s dedicated his adult life to rubber masks, black lights, spook shows and it’s rumoured that his beard dreads even smell like pumpkin spice. So of course we are going to include Mr. Zombie’s work in the best Halloween albums list. Zombie’s first solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe, was the top choice for the turn of the millennium goth strippers. It sounds like a follow up to White Zombie’s final album, Astro Creep: 2000 but it ups the spooky spirit with songs like “Living Dead Girl” (which has a sample from the Lady Frankenstein trailer!) and “Dragula” (taking its name from Grandpa Munster’s hot rod!). Zombie went so diamond hard for Halloween kicks in 1998 that he started his own garage rock label, Zombie-a-Go-Go, releasing the haunted house-friendly compilation Halloween Hootenanny as well as excellent albums by surf rock bands The Bomboras and The Ghastly Ones.
While Black Celebration doesn’t elicit the traditional spooky imagery that other albums do on this list, this 1986 Depeche Mode album is nonetheless drenched in atmosphere and a deserving entrant on the best Halloween albums list. Dark, sombre, sexual, and otherworldly, it’s unmistakably adult and easy to see why the band is so influential in Goth culture. Listeners interested in defying the conventions characteristic of other go-to Halloween-themed music will have no problem getting lost in the Black Celebration.
Silencer – Death – Pierce Me (2001)
This entry on the best Halloween albums list quite possibly has the most eerie and hair rising vocals in history. However, Death – Pierce Me is far from being a one trick pony which just relies on the ghoulish howls of the vocalist Natramn. The guitarist Leere has also created melancholy and beautiful song structures throughout the album. From slow acoustic passages to intense tremolo in a heartbeat, all backed up by powerful drum work from Steve Wolz, from blast beats to rhythmic sections, its as varied as the guitar work, coming together to provide an intense wall of sound that draws the listener in, switching from instrumental passages that weave and flow harmoniously, to supporting the vocals in furious displays of rampant black metal, its all done with perfect precision. Other instruments take part in this gloomy sound scape, an example being the piano passage in the title track and synthesisers adding to the atmosphere being created.
The biggest factor in this album however is the vocals, the unique style performed by Nattramn here is one of tortured wails that make or break this album for the listener. The painful shrieks emanating from Nattramn are the very sound of someone in the fit of despair, the very sound of depression and the emotion that is poured into the noise created only makes it more powerful. Rumour says that he achieved this scream by harming himself in the studio, and listening to it you could very well believe it. The vocals are as varied as the instruments however, Nattramn switching from his wail, to simple black metal snarl and hoarse cries with ease, a great example of that is the terrific track, Sterile Nails and Thunderbowels.
Siouxie and the Banshees – Juju (1981)
Picking between albums by this band is like choosing which child to buy a Christmas present for. That said, this is arguably the Banshees’ darkest album and the most in tune with the season and the most deserving entrant on the best Halloween albums list. This incredible smorgasbord of gothic-tinged post-punk is drenched in gloom and doom in all the right ways. But the melodies bring some light to the darkness, and Siouxsie’s vocals are haunting and blissful. Opener “Spellbound” is probably the best song recorded by this band, and it perfectly sets the tone for the spooky and psychedelic opus that follows.
Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I (1987)
Come on, did you really think that the best Halloween albums list will not feature Helloween? This was the follow up to Helloween’s debut album released in 1986, Walls of Jericho. A solid outing in its own right, Walls of Jericho suffered primarily from one major flaw, and that was vocals. Guitarist and vocalist Kai Hansen relinquished vocal duties for the teenage phenom Michael Kiske and the heavy metal world was never the same.
If you own the album on vinyl, you will find out that Side 1 is excellent (who doesn’t love I’m Alive, Twilight of the Goods, A Tale that Wasn’t Right etc.), but Side 2 is where the album truly shines. Future World features one of the most memorable riffs in metal history but it’s the 13 minute epic track “Halloween”, that is the star of the show, though. This power metal masterpiece features galloping, rapid-fire verses and a number of movements in the middle of the song. It also features some spectacular leads and twin guitaring extravaganza between Hansen and Michael Weikath. As Kiske wails “Ahhhh! It’s Halloween!”
Over 30 years later, Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I is still the pinnacle of power metal.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
Yes, it’s Black Sabbath, yes it’s their debut album and yes, it was released on Friday the 13th. So it naturally makes the best Halloween albums list. The song “Black Sabbath” is still one of the most chilling things ever recorded, especially since it’s widely believed that Tony Iommi’s riff utilizes the dreaded “Devil’s tritone.” Just imagine the terror in the heart and minds of everyone who heard it for the first time in 1970. Rock and roll was certainly famous at that time, but even the hardest acts, from Led Zeppelin to The Jimi Hendrix Experience, couldn’t touch the pathos of four working class lads from Birmingham. Black Sabbath was more than just a Hammer horror film come to life; Black Sabbath’s first album became the blueprint for all future metal releases.
Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast (1982)
The Number of the Beast scared the hell out of people when it was released in 1982. In particular, the repeated refrain of “666” in the title track convinced many that Iron Maiden were nothing but a bunch of long-haired Satanists. The band may have denied this accusation, but the rumor didn’t hurt their careers. The Number of the Beast became the band’s first record to reach number one on the UK charts, while in America the record went platinum. It’s safe to say that Iron Maiden ruled the early 1980s, but their popularity didn’t calm any parental fears.
Gravediggaz – 6 Feet Deep (1994)
I’ve been examined ever since I was semen, they took a sonogram and saw the image of a demon.” – Shabazz the Disciple from the song “Diary of a Madman.”
You can get an idea as to why this is on the best Halloween albums list.
The hip-hop world was waiting for Gravediggaz, the horrorcore hip-hop group featuring producer/rappers Prince Paul and the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA among others. Groups like Cypress Hill and the Geto Boys had flirted with serious horror iconography, but for the most part horror rap songs were novelties like “Are You Ready For Freddy?” by The Fat Boys or “Nightmares” by Dana Dane. 1994’s 6 Feet Deep is built around Johnny Mathis, Booker T & the MGs, and Dead Can Dance samples, but sounds like a graveyard covered in graffiti tags and littered with Zig Zag wrappers and beer bottles.
Sarcofago – INRI
This is the moment when vicious, openly blasphemous black metal got its start. There is no sleazy camp a la Venom here. Brazil’s Sarcofago were serious about their diabolism, and INRI is all the proof you need. And it stands tall on our best Halloween albums list.
Once a cherished item among tape traders in places as diverse as the U.S., Norway, and Japan, INRI combines the best of crust punk with the murderous savagery of bands like Bathory and Celtic Frost. INRI also sounds like it was recorded in a dungeon, which makes it all the more terrifying. No wonder Euronymous dug this record so much that he lifted much of its production value and repackaged it as the “necrosound” of his own Deathlike Silence Productions.
Dead Can Dance – Within the Realm of the Dying Sun (1987)
The title of Dead Can Dance’s 1987 album alone gives Within the Realm of the Dying Sun the right to take its place in the top 31 Halloween albums, as the days draw in and the Winter King prepares to usurp the throne of the Summer King at Samhuinn. This glorious slice of darkwave merges influences ranging from horror film soundtracks, romantic classical composers, Middle Eastern dance to the Walker Brothers with its blend of hypnotic percussion, searing multi-tracked choral vocals and chillingly atmospheric strings, brass, and bells. It belongs on every best Halloween albums list.
Mekong Delta – The Music of Erich Zann (1988)
This entrant on the best Halloween albums list is based on a horror story written by H.P. Lovecraft which features a violin player who plays his instrument to keep the eldritch horrors away. This weird and unusual Teutonic technical thrash metal masterpiece succeeds on just about every level. The song ‘Interludium (Begging for Mercy)’ fuses symphonic music with metal with great success, a great achievement for that time. And just think of it, what’s better Halloween listening than a metal album based on a horror story?
Mötley Crüe – Shout at the Devil (1983)
While you’re sitting around carving pumpkins and thinking about who in your life needs to read the penis in the burrito story, or learn about the time that Ozzy snorted ants off the pavement, blast Shout at the Devil as loudly as possible. The band doesn’t actually worship Satan, and their sleazy blend of hair metal with dashes of punk and glam might not be for everyone, but it definitely belongs on the best Halloween albums list. “God Bless the Children of the Beast” is definitely the ideal interlude for that grim moment at a Halloween party when you’re getting drunk and trying to figure out if you want to go home with the person in the Sexy Freddy Krueger costume, or the Sexy Leatherface outfit.
Spawn of Possession – Incurso (2012)
The title of the next entrant on the best Halloween albums list, Incurso is a latin word which means ‘I raid/I attack”, and attack your senses are what Spawn of Possession do in this masterpiece of technical death metal. The sonic scope and complexity of the songs in this album beggars belief. First and foremost, the musicianship is just about as good as it gets. Some bands and artists play sloppy and loose, Spawn of Possession don’t do that. Everything is very precise and perfect. However, it isn’t sterile by any means. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable album which takes some time getting into. But once you are in, it just gets better and better with every listen. There is no weak moment in the album but the highlight is definitely the closer ‘Apparition’. After listening to this song, all fans of Lovecraftian horror are bound to go ‘the music of Erich Zann is real’.
Blue Oyster Cult – Fire of Unknown Origin (1981)
Blue Oyster Cult has a lot of albums which can make the best Halloween albums list. It’s not like their other albums aren’t packed with delicious, insane songs about vampires, aliens, Kaiju monsters and even Death himself. However, the main reason why this album was chosen is magnificent slice of Gothic metal , “Joan Crawford.” Hot on the heels of the 1978 publication of Christina Crawford’s Mommie Dearest, the actor’s adoptive daughter’s expose of her abusive upbringing by the screen icon who died in 1977, the Cult immerse us in a nightmare vision of New York streets populated by crazed junkies and deranged catholic schoolgirls while cops cower behind the skirts of little girls.
Diamanda Galas – Litanies of Satan (1982)
When Diamanda Galas made her debut in 1982 with The Litanies of Satan, the world had no idea what it was in for. Since then, the Avant-Garde performer’s voice has graced several albums and major studio films such as The Serpent and The Rainbow and Conan The Barbarian. She’s continued to be a major force in activism for HIV awareness and Armenian Genocide recognition, both of which were explored in albums such as You Must Be Certain of the Devil and Defixiones: Will and Testament. In just two tracks, the other being a composition entitled “Wild Women with Steak Knives”, Galas established herself as a unique voice in a wilderness of excess and decadence that the 1980’s would ultimately become.
The title track, comprised of the poem of the same name by Charles Baudelaire is a literal journey into Hell, complete with an atmosphere that seems to exist on the very edge of madness. With little musical accompaniment, Diamanda utilizes her five-octave range voice to recite the poet’s prose in such a way that inspires terror, isolation, and utter hopelessness. If the sounds that emanate from the album are enough to incite such strong emotions, then its translation to visual expression is enough to strike a raw nerve. A live performance was distributed on VHS from Target Video, which not only features Galas performing the song in its entirety but struggling and straining to deliver each line with unrelenting ferocity. In an age where the music industry had become a hollow shell of its former self, Diamanda Galas’ body of work is a reminder that true artists still exist. And her horror themed performances have won her a spot on the best Halloween albums list.
Misfits – Walk Among Us (1982)
Released in 1982, Walk Among Us is a landmark album of horror punk majesty. And a staple of every best Halloween albums list. An unimpeachable classic collection of thirteen tracks that blaze by in a mere 25 minutes. From the opening mutant anthem “20 Eyes,” Walk Among Us has zero filler, every song is a classic, addictive, and gets stuck in your head. “
The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute (2005)
For 2005’s Frances the Mute, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala worked principally with their touring band, but “joining the band for selected moments” are strings, horns, electronic programming, pals Flea and John Frusciante, and the coqui frogs of Puerto Rico. The album doesn’t feature breaks between songs so the album is essentially one long song with track names just being outlines. The roar of Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala’s post-hardcore past is fully locked away, replaced by an equally powerful flair for expressive percussion, intricate vocal harmonies, and extended solos for electric guitar. There are moments on this album where the band reaches the grandiose heights of heavy music — “L’Via l’Viaquez”‘s ear-splitting changes will blow back your hair. However, the same song is sung in Spanish and English and its flashes of heaviness are laid between stretches of gorgeous Afro-Cuban rhythm. The album’s constant shifts mean the record is claustrophobic and even dizzying; it demands perseverance. The album packs a lot of punch and is a great addition to the best Halloween albums list.
Type O Negative – October Rust (1996)
Is there a more aptly named album for the season? While there are hints of dark humour here and there, the vast majority of the album’s lyrical content is hauntingly genuine. Where the previous album’s dark atmosphere was very spooky in nature and drew from Halloween fantasy more than anything else, this album’s approach is dark in a different and arguably truer vein. As per usual, the lyrics dwell on themes of lust, love, and sexual perversion, but without the over-the-top mockery of Slow Deep and Hard, or the often cliched goth stereotypes of Bloody Kisses. They read like the delusional writings of a lovesick psychopath, pining for morbidly erotic pipe dreams, rather than the work of a satirist or a gothic romance author, and while I’m sure none of this sentiment actually belonged to Peter Steel or anyone else in the band, the way it’s written and performed feels incredibly down-to-earth.
The instrumentation is much more atmospheric than on previous releases, and the golden tone of the guitars gives the album a dreamlike quality throughout, further accentuating the album’s grim lyrical themes. As most would agree though, what particularly shines on this album (or any given Type O Negative album) is Peter Steele’s emotive and fruity vocal delivery. Everything meshes perfectly on this album, but if there’s one thing that serves as the linchpin between it all, it’s Peter’s voice. It’s almost as if it creates an atmosphere of its own to go along with everything else that’s going on. Every soaring chorus, silvery passage, and sombre requiem is purely magnificent. His vaguely Transylvanian “R” sounds give the music just the right touch of gothic camp to keep things a little spooky, and his occasional spoken-word parts (most prominent on My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend) are used surprisingly effectively. Peter Steele was a truly one-of-a-kind vocalist, and his work on this album is probably the best.
Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness (1989)
A masterpiece in death metal music and horror themes. To many fans of death metal, this entry on the best Halloween albums list might be the ultimate statement in the genre. Not only does it feature some arcane riffing and soloing, it also features something slightly unusual for the genre, an incredible atmospheric element. Guitarist Trey Azagthoth spoke about his style in the album: “Back then, I really wanted to destroy everybody. I wanted people to have to work a lot harder after the fans witnessed what we had going on. I wanted to smoke people. I really believed that bands were challenging each other, trying to outdo each other and make each other quit – almost like the rivalries with East Coast and West Coast rappers. I really kind of thought people wanted to write parts that would engulf the whole world. I wanted to get onstage and have people go, “Holy shit – what the fuck is going on?” I wanted to write stuff that would make other bands run and hide. It’s not really very nice, but that’s what drove me.” The brutal vocals of David Vincent add a hell lot to this album and are a standard by which most death metal vocalists are measured. The harrowing artwork by Dan Seagrave and the album’s deep exploration of Satanic and occult themes (including Lovecraftian horror) make this a perfect album to listen to during Halloween. It’s dark, brutal, aggressive and a treat for horror and metal fans. Put it on the record player and let it spin you on to a Maze of Torment.
Cannibal Corpse – Tomb of the Mutilated (1992)
Cannibal Corpse is horror in audio form – Geroge ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher, vocalist of Cannibal Corpse.
Well it’s only fitting that we conclude our best Halloween albums list with an entry from this band. The band’s entire discography is very solid and any of the band’s album can make this list. However, the macabre album cover by Vince Locke, despicable song titles and out-of-leftfield cameo in a Jim Carrey film all added to Cannibal Corpse’s notoriety, but it’s the sheer quality of Tomb Of The Mutilated that cement its status. Backed by the monumental weight of Hammer Smashed Face’s riffs, Post Mortal Ejaculation’s sickening undercurrent and I Cum Blood’s grinding atmosphere the band firmly nailed their grisly banner atop extreme metal’s flagpole, and in the process, became public enemy number 1 for parents who were worried about what their kids are listening to. Fun fact, Cannibal Corpse are the highest selling death metal band in history. evil laughter ensues