With Halloween spirit in the air, it's important to remember that spooky, demonic tunes that can perfectly soundtrack the holiday can be found throughout rock & roll. Whether fear and evil is an artist's schtick, like Alice Cooper or Black Sabbath, or its usage or interpretation in pop culture causes the music to take on a new meaning, numerous sounds throughout rock, pop and rap history have elicited fear from listeners. In preparation for the spooky fall season, we asked our readers to vote for the scariest songs of all time. Here are the results.
Jim Morrison turned Greek tragedy into a bad psychedelic trip with his lengthy, wild and spontaneous "The End." The song has the band falling down an Oedipal rabbit hole with some spoken word from the mysterious singer in its second half where a narrator threatens to kill his father and "fuck" his mother. The song was workshopped over the short period when the Doors were the house band at legendary venue Whisky a Go Go and it eventually got them fired.
Pink Floyd's famous 1968 B-side is a perfect example of how delivery can incite more fear than the actual subject matter. In the song, David Gilmour whispers the song's title and only a few other lines between Roger Waters' maniacal, blood-curdling screams above the droning, hypnotic music.
"War Pigs" is easily one of Black Sabbath's most recognizable songs and guitar riffs. On the track, the band contemplates evil and war with imagery of witchcraft and sorcery. The song was originally titled "Walpurgis," which is the name of the witches' sabbath.
Disturbing and depressing, "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" is a masterpiece of Alice Cooper's abilities to combine glam theatrics with hard rock to make something truly terrifying. "Dwight Fry" is told from the perspective of a man trapped in a mental asylum, and the listener only hears from him after a young girl asks her mother when her father will be coming home. Cooper's desperate screams of, "I gotta get out of here!" halfway through the song make the track all the more haunting.
Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop" follows the 20-year-old title character from his job in the factory to his home where he kills his wife, kid and self in the middle of a mental breakdown from his impoverished life. The sparse, claustrophobic song is a nightmarish narrative made horrifying by Alan Vega's screams during the murderous climax. The song served as a significant inspiration for Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska.
The character Steven is at the center of Cooper's 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare. He's either a child or a man with a child's mentality whose nightmares are explored over the songs. He appears over the course of several Cooper releases but the song "Steven" is the eeriest exploration of the voices in his head.
The 1973 prog rock classic is a simple, moving piece of piano-driven music made terrifying by its usage. The opening piano notes of "Tubular Bells" was used in the iconic horror film The Exorcist, giving the song a spooky new life within the same year of its release.
The avant-garde sound collage "Revolution 9" was the Beatles' most experimental track and also, at over eight minutes, their longest song to ever be officially released. It's had a dark place in history, having been deemed a source of inspiration for murderous cult leader Charles Manson who interpreted many of the Beatles' songs on The White Album as a prediction of an upcoming race war between black and white Americans.
Washed in gloom, Bloodrock's "D.O.A." is told from the perspective of someone who has just endured a plane crash. Sirens play in the background as the narrator takes in the bloody scene around him.
Once described as metal's "most evil track" by Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Black Sabbath's eponymous song launched heavy metal as a sinister new subgenre of hard rock. The spooky, terrifying song about Satan ending humanity was inspired by an ominous event experienced by Geezer Butler, who saw a shadowy figure lurking in his room after Ozzy Osbourne gave him a book on witchcraft. The book was gone the next day.
Watch the greatest horror soundtracks.