Halloween might be our most underrated U.S. holiday. Never being a full national holiday where places of work are closed, millions nationwide either gleefully take their children out for trick-or-treat candy or dress up as something wholly different from their own personality. Yes, a whole nation of people stuck in a conformity rut finally let their hair down and get strange just this one night a year. Whether it holds a personal affinity because of youthful vandalism or an unadulterated love of sweet confections, Halloween is the living embodiment of how eclectic, strange behavior is truly okay after all.
It is with much sadness that we report that a simple search around your favorite search engine for the “Best Halloween Songs” literally leads to a pile of unbelievable craps. Since when does Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping or Cosmopolitan have any idea what makes for a truly quality Halloween playlist? If you’re like us at mxdwn, Skrillex does not equal Halloween and the “Monster Mash” gets old after several decades of being overplayed. So, just for fun–and in the spirit of trying to find sonic creations more befitting the true spirit of Halloween–here are the best alternative Halloween songs for your holiday playlist. Revel in the darkness, get spooky and enjoy!
Type O Negative – “Summer Breeze/Sets Me On Fire”
Type O Negative’s genius take on the Seals & Croft hit. Truthfully, you could take any song from their landmark album Bloody Kisses for this list, but this one is our favorite.
Ministry – “Everyday is Halloween”
The classic dance cut from the very beginning of Ministry’s career. Get ready for a fake British accent. This was the industrial giant before they were industrial metal.
Hank Williams III – “Ghost to a Ghost”
Hank III leans into his darker proclivities on this atmospheric gem nobody talks about. All the more impressive, this one features guest turns from Primus’ Les Claypool and the legendary Tom Waits.
Pig – “Symphony For the Devil”
Raymond Watts takes this knowing nod to the Rolling Stones and turns into a three-part epic. It’s a bombastic quasi tribute (or at least acknowledgement) to the dark lord. At the mid way point there’s even a sample of some form of seance attempting to gate the Prince of Darkness himself in from Hell.
The Rolling Stones – “Sympathy for the Devil”
The namesake inspiration for the previous song, here the Glimmer Twins paint “He Who Will Not Be Named” sympathetically as present for many of mankind’s greatest atrocities.
Fantomas – “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”
Mike Patton’s supergroup turns the mostly forgotten theme song to David Lynch’s one-time Twin Peaks movie and evolves into a menacing piece of sonic genius.
Queens of the Stone Age – “Someone’s In the Wolf”
Queens of the Stone Age have occasionally dabbled in darker subject matter, but it’s this murderous dirge that really jumps of the page. Is it about lycantheropy or Little Red Riding Hood? You be the judge.
The Melvins – “Dies Iraea”
Films buffs will recognize this classic symphonic piece as the opening sequence to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Here, The Melvins do it their way, a pummeling and haunting piece of technical majesty.
Bauhaus – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
It’s on the long side, but this song is more evocative of the mystery and self referencing culture of Halloween than anything you’ve heard at a friend’s party over the years.
Danny Elfman – “This is Halloween”
The animated musical that only grows in prestige as the years go on. “This is Halloween” sets the tone for the entire tone for the wonderment that is The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Secret Chiefs 3 – “Personae: Halloween”
The wizards of multi-genre madness Secret Chiefs 3 take John Carpenter’s classic theme from the Halloween movies render it into a cacophony of craziness in line with their own brilliant music.
Black Sabbath – “The Wizard”
Going all the way back to Black Sabbath’s very first self-titled album, “The Wizard” is one of those songs that works as it is evocative of feelings far past what likely was originally intended. The harmonica at the opening sets the stage for an ominous number and then the band beats you into submission through the duration.
Pantera – “Cemetery Gates”
One of the few slow-ish songs Pantera ever did, “Cemetery Gates” is a gripping tale of love, sorrow and death.
GWAR – “Zombies, March!”
At the height of their final resurgence prior to frontman Oderus Urungus’ (Dave Brockie) death, “Zombies, March!” was there timely ode to fanatical zombie worship. Giving in to the apocalypse has never been more fun.
Patton/Kaada – “L’absent”
A low key project from Norwegian composer John Erik Kaada and Mike Patton, Romances was a set of slow-tempo, creepy compositions. “L’absent” was one of the standout tracks making a playful performance of a positively eerie number.
Isis – “In Fiction”
This one’s all about the bassline. Stay with it until it hits. You’ll know it when it does.
The Marshmallow Ghosts – “Shall I Be ‘Anna’ or ‘Anna’ Be I?”
The Marshmallow Ghosts emerge only occasionally. They are a band intentionally done as an atmsopheric effort to make pure Halloween music. There’s a lot of great spooky songs to choose from, but this is one of our favorites.
Misfits – “Last Caress”
It’s short, sweet and to the point. The Misfits essential cut “Last Caress” is a murderous run through horror-movie inspired imagery. It’s also unforgettable even after the very first time you hear it.
Tomahawk – “Cradle Song”
The creepiest of the creepy from Tomahawk’s all American Indian music inspired album Anonymous, “Cradle Song” is a lullaby to inspire nightmares, not remove them.
File photo by Raymond Flotat