Help me find more horror music.
July 16, 2014 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Horror novels and horror movies are easy to find. Can you recommend me some good horror music?

I love songs that tell scary stories, just like movies and books can. Since horror is a literary genre rather than a musical one, it's hard to define this phenomenon, but for lack of a better term we can call it "horror music."

My favorite album of what I'd call horror music is Nick Cave's Murder Ballads, especially the tracks "Song of Joy" and The Curse of Millhaven." Other good examples I've discovered are "Under Your Thumb" by Godley and Creme, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" by Vicki Lawrence (which may be more Southern Gothic than horror, but I still think it counts), and even Insane Clown Posse tracks like "Boogie Woogie Wu," "12" and "Play With Me."

As you can see, I'm pretty open to genre and style. My only caveat is that I have to be able to understand the lyrics, which unfortunately rules out a lot of metal vocals. As for content, I welcome both mundane and supernatural horror, and twist or surprise endings are always a plus.
posted by Faint of Butt to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
The Residents are creepy as hell.
posted by ian1977 at 8:35 AM on July 16, 2014

Ghost Town by Bob Wayne
posted by Seamus at 8:41 AM on July 16, 2014

The faces in the window -
oh, they're just my friends.
I promise I won't let them in.
Oh, they live in the corn,
where they die and they're born -
where the blades go around,
churn up the ground
to open the over-toild soil.
(alternate version as covered by Sarah Slean+ArtOfTime with video by Scott Cudmore for whom blood features prominently)

This mary margaret o'hara song has non-horrific lyrics, until you realize the singer's perspective is of a person who just murdered a baby.
posted by Poldo at 8:48 AM on July 16, 2014

The Day Sweet Valerie Turned Evil by Hank Ray
posted by Seamus at 8:48 AM on July 16, 2014

I've never listened to the whole thing, but some people say that Suicide's Frankie Teardrop is the scariest song ever recorded. (Notably WFMU's Tom Scharpling, who challenged his listeners to put on headphones and listen to it in a dark public place without freaking out.)
posted by Crane Shot at 8:50 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The coldest chill I ever got from a recording was my first time hearing another Nick Cave track, The Birthday Party's "Mutiny in Heaven".

More literally, Goblin's music for film Suspiria is often considered the cream of the horror soundtracks.
posted by bendybendy at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2014

Goose Walking Over My Grave by Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots
posted by Seamus at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2014

The soundtrack for the game, "The 7th Guest":

I remember finding it as the second track on the second cd of the game (the first track was the game data track) and listening to it one summer non-stop.
posted by I-baLL at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2014

Why not Voltaire?

"When You're Evil"
"Ex-Lover's Lover"
"Dead Girls"
posted by adipocere at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2014

The genre you want is called Psychobilly. Look for that and you'll find plenty of stuff. The Cramps come to mind. There's a band called Lazy Lane that might fit. And for kinda tongue in cheek stuff, Zombina and the Skeletones are great.
posted by mermaidcafe at 8:53 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why not take your lovely daughter and push her in the well?
posted by adipocere at 8:56 AM on July 16, 2014

Tom Waits' soundtrack to The Black Rider, an opera written with William S. Burroughs based on a German folktale about a clerk who wants to marry a huntsman's daughter, but her dad won't agree to the marriage because he's all citified and can't hunt.

So along comes the devil, who offers the lovestruck clerk a bag of magic bullets that will hit whatever they're shot at, guaranteed. The guy takes the deal - even though the devil flat out tells him, all of these bullets are for you except for one. That one's for me. So he becomes a great shooter, impresses the girl's dad and everything is headed for a lovely happy ending. Except of course it isn't.

The soundtrack is creepy, creepy, creepy stuff...
posted by Naberius at 9:04 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Legend of Morrow Road by Rachel Brooke
(Sorry, not a great recording but its on her album "Down in the Barnyard")
There are a ton in the Gothic Americana genre.
posted by Seamus at 9:04 AM on July 16, 2014

I always found PJ Harvey's Claudine, The Inflatable One to be a horror song, in a shiny-vampy way. Something about the scratchy vocals, the aggressive groove, that bizarro line about getting into someone's sack of skin.

I get a clear picture of a forceful, focused, almost liberating murder scene when I listen to it.
posted by mochapickle at 9:06 AM on July 16, 2014

Maybe more spooky/melancholy than scary but Brian Dewan's The Cowboy Outlaw is a great one. If you like it, his album Tells the Story has several others that fit the bill in a similar way, notably "The Creatures," "The Letter," and "My Eye."
posted by contraption at 9:23 AM on July 16, 2014

Fantômas did an album called The Directors Cut where they cover various horror and thriller movie scores. There's some interesting stuff there.
posted by FreezBoy at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2014

Oh, oh dear. To follow up on the Black Rider comment, here's one of the, if possible, creepiest songs of the lot. Just the Right Bullets.

You must be careful in the forest
Broken glass and rusty nails
If you're to bring back something for us
I have bullets for sale

posted by Naberius at 9:26 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about The Misfits and other horror punk bands? Too metal-y?
posted by elizardbits at 9:30 AM on July 16, 2014

I Wanna Be Yer Zombie by Slackeye Slim

This Is How We Do Things In the Country by Slim Cessna's Auto Club

The Sad Song of Sequin Island by Christian WIlliams

I am finding it hard to parse the line between murder ballad and horror song.

The Legend of Saw Jones by The Sons of Perdition

High Noon in Killville by Angry Johnny and the Killbillies
(More murder ballad but a great song about accidentally getting caught up in death.)

I posted one Bob Wayne, but there are more if you can get into it. Some people find it entertaining and some people find his persona to be a bit too contrived, but if you can handle ICP and country music, you should be able to handle him.
La Diabla
Work of the Devil
The Bride

And hydrophonics recommendation of Roky Erickson is dead on, too.
posted by Seamus at 9:38 AM on July 16, 2014

The Handsome Family have made a career of Southern Gothic-y murder ballads, enough so that a song of theirs was the title theme for True Detective.

Slint has "Good Morning Captain" and "Nosferatu Man"

Nick Cave also has "Red Right Hand".

The opening section of "The Dead Flag Blues" by Godspeed You! Black Emperor might fit, but it's more of a spoken word thing over creepy music.

"The Rifle" by Alela Diane.

"Monsoon" and maybe "Flood of Red" or "Richter Scale Madness" by ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.

"Werewolf" by Cat Power, although it's a Michael Hurley cover.

Most of They Were Wrong, so We Drowned by Liars, although it's fairly...difficult to listen to. It's a witch concept album.
posted by LionIndex at 9:38 AM on July 16, 2014

Oh yeah, Creeping Brain by Jeffrey Lewis!
posted by contraption at 9:44 AM on July 16, 2014

Lee Ross: The Mummy's Bracelet
posted by ryanshepard at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2014

not a story, but when I hear horror music, I think of the Donnie Darko soundtrack. (more of an existential horror, especially toward the end.)
posted by changeling at 10:02 AM on July 16, 2014

Got to say The Misfits - probably their whole discography. Here's Dig Up Her Bones, which was sung by Michale Graves, who was a pretty good singer for the genre.

The original singer of The Misfits, Glenn Danzig, who while definitely more on the metal side, has a fantastic voice and not at all the "metal vocals" I think you're talking about. Here's an early single, Mother.
posted by General Malaise at 10:05 AM on July 16, 2014

twist or surprise endings are always a plus

The Gothic Archies are great at this: A lot of their songs (esp. the Lemony Snicket ones) start out sort of lovey- dovey, and then turn really dark. Shipwrecked is a great example of this.

I'm pretty open to genre and style. My only caveat is that I have to be able to understand the lyrics

Bohren and der Club of Gore is instrumental, but was my first thought when I read "horror music". Very slow, spooky, dark jazz that will fill you with dread.
posted by 2ghouls at 10:09 AM on July 16, 2014

There's also a whole subgenre of hip-hop called horrorcore, an example of which is Flatlinerz.
posted by General Malaise at 10:11 AM on July 16, 2014

The Fuzztones, Ghost Clinic
posted by scody at 10:53 AM on July 16, 2014

Phish's Esther is very much a goofy, yet sinister and creepy horror story.
posted by Roommate at 11:20 AM on July 16, 2014

Neko Case's version of Poor Ellen Smith
posted by Chenko at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2014

Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages: Jack the Ripper from 1964. Proto-goth.
posted by goo at 11:57 AM on July 16, 2014

Blitzkid are a horror punk band who draw much inspiration from urban legends. More melodic than Misfits and such, with generally easy to understand lyrics.

Shadow Reichenstein is also worth checking out, or the nearly impossible to google The Other (YT search "the other" horror punk should help).
posted by MinusCelsius at 12:01 PM on July 16, 2014

Coil was commissioned to create the soundtrack for Hellraiser before the studio went with a less scary version. I think both their early and later work shares a quality of eerie spiritual menace.
posted by Theiform at 2:23 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about some good old-fashioned death rock?

Deiche - Sex Gang Children
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:11 PM on July 16, 2014

The Alice Cooper classic Welcome to My Nightmare is pretty creepy. Many songs stand on their own, but the effect of the whole album is chilling. (Spoiler: He wakes from his nightmare only to realize he's killed his wife while sleepwalking!)

The 2011 follow-up Welcome 2 My Nightmare is worth a listen as well. How can you ignore a song called Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever?

I find most of the lyrics pretty discernible, by the way.
posted by The Deej at 4:19 PM on July 16, 2014

Trent Reznor did the soundtrack to the first Quake game. Quite atmospheric and creepy.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:24 PM on July 16, 2014

Folk songs are your go-to here. Especially the old ones. For example:

Lady Maisry (just horrible. I won't sing it.)
Four Marys (terribly sad. I sing it all the time.)
Knoxville Girl (late variant to a much older song)
Ballad of Little Sir Hugh (blood libel. won't sing it.)
Delia's Gone (Johnny Cash should have passed on this one.)

I have lots and lots more. I avoid the Decemberists, because they're faux-folk and the misogyny doesn't translate well, but some folks like 'em.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 6:05 PM on July 16, 2014

You might also be interested in the Dark Ambient genre, full of creepy howls and spooky sounds and is way more actually scary than the hokey way i've described it.

Coil, mentioned above, sometimes falls into this genre. Also Lustmord is highly recommended, as are the artists on Cold Meat Industry.
posted by softlord at 6:30 PM on July 16, 2014

You would like the obscure prog-horror band Devil Doll.
posted by jbickers at 8:42 PM on July 16, 2014

Carla Bley, At Midnight. (shudders)
posted by ovvl at 9:12 PM on July 16, 2014

Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, about the killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate is a bleak and horrifying song. The song State Trooper off the same album hints at horrors already committed and some yet to come.

Marissa Nadler's Daisy, Where Did You Go is a song about a sister who has gone missing, or maybe was never there at all.

Mirel Wagner's No Death gives a longing look at necrophilia.

Neko Case's Deep Red Bells evokes her childhood memories of the Pacific Northwest being haunted by the murders of the Green River Killer.

I second the recommendation of Tom Waits' the Black Rider and would also add his Murder in the Red Barn.

And for a jaunty yet horrible song, there's Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy.
posted by otolith at 12:45 AM on July 17, 2014

Thanks, everyone! You've given me lots of great new music to check out, and plenty of artists to explore. This is totally what AskMe is all about.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:30 AM on July 18, 2014

States of Decay, a low-tuned folk song by Sean Tyrell

In Germany Before the War by Randy Newman is inspired by Peter Kurten, the "Vampire of Dusseldorf"
posted by rollick at 10:57 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Marissa Nadler's Daisy, Where Did You Go is a song about a sister who has gone missing, or maybe was never there at all.

After listening, I believe it's sung from the perspective of Violet Hilton, circa the beginning of January, 1969. Very cool.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:31 PM on July 22, 2014

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