In some of my previous output for No Echo, I’ve discussed at length the personal connections between aggressive music and horror movies, for myself and for others.
This Halloween season, to celebrate my favorite time of year, I wanted to craft a mini-mixtape of songs from the punk and metal worlds containing lyrics crafted around horror films.
For this column, I had a couple of self-imposed rules for which songs to include:
- No songs by bands that write lyrics about horror movies all the time. This would obviously expel bands like the Misfits and Mortician.
- No songs written explicitly for horror movies. I could have easily cherry-picked songs written for a soundtrack like “Pet Sematary” by the Ramones or “Dream Warriors” by Dokken, but I wanted to dig a little deeper and find some one-offs to make it more interesting.
Without further ado, bust out the candy apples and razor blades as we discuss some horror-influenced tracks.
Chat Pile, "Pamela"
Oklahoma sludge band Chat Pile somehow eluded me until the release of God’s Country earlier this year, released by The Flenser. I was thoroughly impressed with their mixture of the swaying industrial sound of Swans with the slow dissonance of some later-era Converge. Something else caught my ear while listening through the album as well: the lyrics to “Pamela," the third track on God’s Country. I
’m not sure if it’s my horror fandom but I was able to immediately look through the poetic nature of the song and realize it was written from the perspective of Pamela Voorhees, the antagonist of the original Friday the 13th.
To be quite honest, this was the impetus for this entire article. While I can think of a handful of songs written about the Friday the 13th franchise, none that come to mind are from the perspective of Pamela Voorhees herself, which I thought was an interesting approach.
Necrophagia, "And You Will Live In Terror"
I’ve made it quite clear on Neon Brainiacs that Lucio Fulci’s keystone in his Gates of Hell Trilogy, 1981’s The Beyond, is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Any time I hear someone mention it I am immediately drawn into whatever the context is, so I was thrilled to find that Necrophagia wrote an entire song about the cataclysmic zombie flick.
The song comes from the 2000 EP, Black Blood Vomitorium, which featured Pantera and Down vocalist Phil Anselmo on guitars, using the pseudonym Anton Crowley. The band kicks off the song with a sample from the film’s opening scene, where occult painter Schweick is attacked by a mob in the basement of the Seven Doors hotel, whipped with a chain and covered in lye. From there, it’s a blistering assault of Necrophagia’s trademark brand of lurching death metal.
Ramones, "Chain Saw"
Tobe Hooper’s 1974 grindhouse classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has developed a lore all its own, with a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the movie and nearly two digits worth of sequels behind the original. Long before any sequels, remakes or "requels" were filmed, New York punks the Ramones were apparently infatuated with the original film, somehow taking one of the most profitable horror movies of all time and turning the plot into a song about love lost.
Track 5 of the band’s self-titled debut, “Chain Saw” opens up with the sound of, you guessed it, a saw. The song then bops along with Joey Ramone rotating the narration of the song from lyrics like “sitting here thinking only of you” to “they chopped her up and I don’t care”, hitting the title of the film in the song’s chorus, albeit in a weird pronunciation to rhyme with the next line.
Possessed, "The Exorcist"
The Exorcist is often lauded as one of the best-made and successful horror films of all time, even winning multiple Academy Awards and Golden Globes in 1974, becoming the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.
Progenitors of death metal, Possessed, were apparently fans of the film as well, penning a tribute to it on their 1985 album Seven Churches. Kicking off the song is an interpretation of “Tubular Bells," the highly popular prog rock track by Mike Oldfield that was featured heavily in William Friedkin’s film.
This portion of the song was arranged by producer Randy Burns. From there, the godfathers of death metal shred through everything in their path while vocalist/bassist Jeff Becerra brings the fury.
The track was also covered by Cannibal Corpse (a B-side of “Hammer Smashed Face”), Cavalera Conspiracy (featured as a bonus track on the Japanese version of 2008’s Inflikted), and Death (a bonus track on the 2011 reissue of the 1993 album Individual Thought Patterns).
Bones Brigade, "Evil Dead"
This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed Bones Brigade here, as I still hold the opinion that I Hate Myself When I’m Not Skateboarding is one of the best skate punk records of all time and highly underrated. Sandwiched between songs about hating work and shredding on your board is “Evil Dead," which contains exactly what you think it would.
Featuring samples from Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn, Bones Brigade combine skate punk and thrash metal into a perfect specimen while wailing about the fate of Ash Williams and company in the film. The song itself isn’t the only tribute to Sam Raimi’s horror-comedy classic, as “I’m Not Alright” features a sample from the movie as well.
While the Evil Dead franchise has been tribute in song by bands like Death, the Black Dahlia Murder, Zeke and many more, this track by Bones Brigade stands head and shoulders above the rest in my eyes.
Deicide, "Dead By Dawn"
Speaking of tributes to Evil Dead II, let’s travel down the east coast from Boston to Florida to get another homage to the original cabin in the woods. With a figure as polarizing and controversial as Deicide’s vocalist/bassist Glen Benton, you’d think the entirety of the band’s lyrical output would be exclusively trashing the church and spreading a dark gospel about death and destruction.
However, Deicide did get at least a few miles out of the 1987 horror-comedy classic Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. Utilizing pitch-shifted backing growls, Benton and company thrash their way through an uncompromising display of blasting death metal accompanied by lyrics about the Sam Raimi cult classic. Benton even pulls some lines directly from the film (“we are what wars, and shall rule again”).
It seems strange that a band as serious as Deicide would pay tribute to a movie with a whole lot of slapstick humor in it, but it weirdly works.
S.O.D., "Freddy Krueger"
Speaking of polarizing figures, not many can match the confrontational attitude of thrash supergroup Stormtroopers Of Death. Originally forming as a joke noisecore band, Crab Society North, S.O.D. was channeling Bay Area thrash through a New York hardcore lens via the quartet of Billy Milano, Scott Ian, Danny Lilker, and Charlie Benante.
Some of the shorter songs are basically nonsense, and the others lean heavily into the point of view of character Sergeant D, but the band manages to slip a horror tribute into the album’s track listing. Coming in at 2:32, “Freddy Krueger” is the second-longest song on their debut LP, Speak English or Die.
Vocalist Milano basically pulls specific scenes from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s 1984 slasher classic, with lines like “he haunts your sleep, in the tub he hides down deep” and “his skin’s not what it seems, he rips at it and tears off his own flesh."
Taking it even a step further, there’s an old promo picture of the band with Robert Englund in full Freddy garb, which is pretty sick.
Orange Goblin, "The Fog"
While many immediately look to Halloween or Escape From New York when prolific director John Carpenter is brought to mind, and while those are great films and some of my favorites, I’ve always had a soft spot for his 1980 ghost story, The Fog.
Apparently England’s own Orange Goblin are also fans of this underdog flick, penning a song about it for their 2012 release A Eulogy for the Damned, released by Candlelight Records. While other British stoner bands like Electric Wizard have written songs about weed and murder, Orange Goblin have turned to the silver screen for this track.
Starting with a collage of rain and thunder strikes, the song quickly hits every stoner metal requirement: plodding guitars, accented drums and a hell of a lot of attitude. While this song may have not appeared on Stevie Wayne’s radio show, it’s a raucous tribute to one of Carpenter’s lesser recognized films.
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