Leonard Cohen, "Avalanche" (1971)
Songs of Love and Hate might be Leonard Cohen's most depraved album, which is saying a lot. Accounts of suicide ("Dress Rehearsal Rag") and infidelity ("Famous Blue Raincoat") leave an undeniable sting, but the 1971 LP's creepiest moments come on opener "Avalanche," which finds Cohen playing his classic role of stygian bard to perfection. Over rolling flamenco guitar and swelling strings, he portrays a hunchback living at the bottom of a gold mine: "Your laws do not compel me/To kneel grotesque and bare," he sneers. Even as the song edges into dark obsession and, eventually, pure horror ("It is your turn, beloved/It is your flesh that I wear"), Cohen's voice maintains a trancelike composure. No wonder gloom-rock poet laureate Nick Cave has been covering the song for more than 30 years.