A Quintessential Guide to Halloween Music
From footstomping sing-a-longs to down right harrowing.
Let’s admit it, nearly all of us have interest in the day of spooks, ghouls and ghosts. Whether it’s heading to a scare-fest to try and not wet our pants or heading to a club night or house party, to dress up and get a little more than tipsy. But, what’s one unsung hero that pieces these events together? Music!
Whether you love to sing The Monster Mash at the top of your lungs or sit in the dark listening to dystopian synthwave with a good book, I’m about to cover some serious ground. Prepare your ear holes for some sounds that hit right across the spectrum.
First off, we’ll ease in with some party pleasing Halloween tunes... everyone’s favourite arm raiser, "The Time Warp." Now maybe if you were born past 2000, you might not know the classic... but any true Halloween fanatic should be ashamed to not know this one. Not only is it from an iconic movie, (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), it’s one song that’s set to light the dance floor on fire. Whether that dance floor is in your kitchen or your favourite club in the city centre, you’re guaranteed to have an eruption of dance moves that, albeit loosely, represent the routine in the film and some, questionable, vocals alongside them but, all in all you’ll have some happy campers. This is definitely a tune where even the most gloomy of parties will liven up.
To go alongside "The Time Warp," though that song is definitely a more of a finisher than this next track, you’ve got to have the Ghostbusters theme tune. Although it doesn’t have much room for well scripted dance routines and huge sing-alongs, this is a definitely something to put a smile on the people’s faces. I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t recognise this one within the first few bars, the keyboard lead sounds familiar to everyone and I’d be gobsmacked to find a person who didn’t jive as soon as it kicked in, especially with the fairly recent remake of the film bringing its Halloween importance back to the forefront. Lyrics written around spooky happenings with a fairly 80s feel to it and a call and response structure? What’s not to love/ This all-rounder should be one everyone’s Halloween playlist, you could be hosting for the family or DJing somewhere. Ghostbusters, you got my vote!
Swinging it into the good ol' 80s, away from the movie seen, "Hungry Like The Wolf" by Duran Duran. After looking into Duran Duran, I feel like they’re so overlooked as a group. This tracks is 80s through and through; it’s got the 80s drum sound which is to any 80s pop banger, it’s got synth, it’s got a lyrical hook, and what’s beautiful about this one is you can boogie to it, or you can bask in its airy pop aroma. Most people that didn’t live through the 80s might not know about this song, or more not realise they know. I feel like this is a track that knows you, it feels familiar whether you know it or not, you enjoy it either way.
Lastly, to close on the more family friendly, all round, floor fillers... you can't leave out "Thriller" by Michael Jackson. Questionable to some the man may be, but this song is an undeniable work of art right from it’s very core. From it’s lyrical hook and story telling, the bass line that walks you onto the dance floor whether you like it or not and its almost cinematic design, Thriller is exactly what the song title says it is. Not only is it incredible to the consumers ears, this track was one of many 'firsts' in the music industry from its recording and production, to it’s music video. With a routine you can learn, to a beat you can dance to yourself if you want, Thriller has got it all. You can sing with your best pals, you can dance in a large group. This song has been, and will be, recognised for generations. Whatever your opinion on the man, it would be a lie for anyone to say this isn’t a Halloween masterpiece.
Now, moving on to the more foot-stomping, head-banging, sing-alongs. A lot of people don’t like rock music, especially for parties, but I would almost guarantee you’ll like these. Prolific classics.
An easy first step would be "Highway To Hell" by ACDC. Straight in with it’s iconic riff, the slow build of instruments into the song definitely exciting the senses to the simple chorus hook that you have to shout at the top of your lungs. I’ve seen old and young shuffle across the floor to this tune. ACDC are truly part of rock royalty and to deny this tune the hommage it’s owed would be a crime. So, get out your air guitar for this one and let us see your best Angus Young impression.
Next up, as a more subdued track but a track that absolutely holds it’s own; "Black Magic Woman" by Santana. A smart person knows this man—be a smart person. His intoxicating abilities on the guitar will easily woo you into the firm grasp of his music and although he has a plethora of music for the listener to get into, this is arguably his best known track—and the most suited for Halloween. What’s more Halloween than a man fighting the power of a witch? Alongside his almost romantic, tantric guitar playing... this tune is suited to an evening in, whiskey on the rocks and, I don’t know, do something crazy like a Ouija board if you’re brave... I’m sure the spirits will thank you!
We’re now at the point where we have to mention him.. the Lord of Doom, the voice of despair... Ozzy Osbourne. the track, amongst many, would seem appropriate for something like this but, I’ve chosen "Bark At The Moon." Appropriate in content, it’s also easy for anyone to get into. As much as it’s got those chuggy, metal, riffs they’re in quite a happy key in comparison to some of Ozzy's other work and with a kick ass guitar solo, this is yet another air guitar moment. Better grow your hair out for some real hair-swinging, head-banging, good times.
Following on from that, it’s only appropriate to reel in a Black Sabbath song. Choosing just one song was a bit of a trial as a handful came to mind but, I’ve stuck with 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath." The title fits, the doom-filled vocals strike with a vengeance and the riff is definitely a foot tapper that’s broken up effortlessly by an acoustic chorus that chimes a strange sense of pleasantry. The energy really kicks in in the middle, rhythm changes and darkened lyrics, (if it were possible!), make this for an old school, metal, classic and anyone who knows Sabbath, knows this record.
Okay so, staying in the vein of staying in for Halloween, let’s touch on dystopian synthwave. Synthwave was very much an 80s creation, the music stuffs you’ll here in Stranger Things is an easy example. A lot of synthwave is somewhat pop-like, calm but extremely well composed.
Dystopian synthwave is exactly what you think it’ll be, my first example being "Darkness" by Daniel Deluxe. With haunting vocal clippings in the introduction, the tone of the whole song is dark. Kind of best thought as going into an enemy lair in a video game... though there’s no strict song structure as there’s no actual lyrical content, just the voice clippings, you could argue its hard to get into. However, I’d argue against that.. the music travels and it builds very subtly in places to keep it interesting whilst also keeping the common theme. I would definitely be content in sitting at home reading a good horror novel whilst this plays away as a backing track.
One to chuck onto a playlist alongside the last track would be "Pulse" by Two One Six. It starts off with what I can only describe as an 8-bit car engine sound, if you listen you’ll probably get what I mean, matched with a simple drum beat. Then as we listen, long note synth joins in and it almost emulates string instruments, or an organ. Y’know, anything that would sound creepy in an empty church hall.
A third suggestion would be "The Beginning of the End" by Marsheaux. Musically, this song paints a story, there’s definitely a beginning middle and end. All laced up together with some seriously eerie, female, vocals. Maybe this is more one for you if you need some vocals in music to enjoy it, however, if that’s the case, I think you’re missing the point of synthwave. But, whatever the case, these three beauties are definitely ones to send you down some synthwave-filled rabbit holes if you so wish to dig.
Alright, enough with the music for most.. let’s get into some stuff that’s just a bit scary. Some like it, I myself am partial to some of the following but it’s about to get a bit heavy.
First out the hatch we'll go a little easy; "The Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden. If you’re into metal this is definitely a song you’ll know; Iron Maiden having been a beacon for all that is metal for a long time. Classic. With a gloomy, spoken voice intro were met with a very catchy guitar riff and punchy vocals telling us a story of meeting Satan. Okay, so for what’s to follow this will be regarded fairly tame, but it’s probably best prepared this way. At least we’ve actually jumped in to some chitchat about the main man Lucifer with some absolutely fire guitar playing.
Okay, this is it, we’re jumping in. "Shyann Weeps" by The Plot In You. This is a heavy, dirty, demonic use of instruments, vocals, and the lyrical content? Keep an ear on that if you can but, honestly, this one comes straight in with some shocking content. It’s definitely something I’ve listened to in the past when I’ve been angry and it’s pumped me up however this is also something that you could imagine summoning demons just by listening to it. If there was a bunch of spooky boy demons with a bunch of instruments, I feel this is the song they’d create. If you like a bit of heavy, or you wanna summon some dark shit you didn’t know you had, this is the song for the moment.
This next song isn’t metal, this song has a dark rumor attached to it. You ever heard of the Hungarian suicide song? "Gloomy Sunday" by Rezsõ Seress has been blamed for more suicides than any other song in history... spooky no? It was made in 1932 so, it’s got that very old style to it and that eerie old-radio white noise over the top like you get in horror movies when the record player starts on its own. Lyrically, it’s very sad, a man saying goodbye essentially... Over all, yes it’s very gloomy, will you risk a listen?
Lastly, I’ve been saving this one. This is simply just scary music... If you can call it music, rather, a collection of sound. I’m going to spoil you with a whole, terrifying, 'album'... "Project Misanthropia" by Stagglagh. Not only does this band's name show an allegiance to Nazi POW camps, they claim the recordings on this record are from an Asylum for the mentally ill. Apparently the goal was to create the most unlistenable noise possible and, honestly, great success! I made the mistake of listening to this before bed in the dark and I'll admit, I had nightmares that night. If you ever wanted to open up a horror house and just create a completely uncomfortable and unsettling experience, you could just play this throughout the house in surround sound and people will be cacking their pants! I dare you to listen long enough and tell me this isn’t far too creepy to listen to alone.
On that note, I think we best call it quits before I really do start summoning Satan..