punk rock

Playlist: Vampires, and Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh My!

It’s my favorite time of year, Halloween! Keep the lights on and don’t look behind you, things are about to get spooky. This is the time that belongs to the creatures of the night that stalk their prey. Or maybe they just want some free candy, you never know. To get you in the mood for All Hallows Eve, here are some songs about our favorite hideous monsters.

“I Was a Teenage Werewolf” – The Cramps

Not all monsters are inherently bad. Some are just misunderstood. This Cramps song, based on the 1957 horror movie of the same name, talks about a young werewolf with his own problems. Like all good monsters, he doesn’t want to kill people, but he can’t help it. Throughout the song, he begs for someone to stop him and even pleads to “stop this pain” by the end of the song. It’s a slow-burning, rockabilly romp that reminds us no matter if you’re human or not, being a teenager sucks.

“Return of the Phantom Stranger” – Rob Zombie

A Halloween playlist isn’t complete without a Rob Zombie song. On this track from Hellbilly Deluxe, Zombie describes the goings-on of a mysterious creature only known as the Phantom Stranger. With Zombie’s low growl delivering the vocals and the lyrics mentioning a “shape-shifting” creature with a “wretched heart” that stalks throughout the night, it perfectly sets up a creepy tone. By the song’s end, you still don’t know what the Phantom Stranger is, but you know you don’t want to run into it. For more spooky times with Rob Zombie, check out “How To Make a Monster.”

“Would You Love a Monster Man?” – Lordi

This track by Finnish rock band Lordi doesn’t deny the horribleness of the monster in question. Instead, they ask is it possible for him to find love? Showing us another side of monsters, this creature just wants someone by his side as he terrorizes those around him. The track rages ahead assuring us that loving said monster isn’t a crime even though he readily admits he’ll kill just for the thrill of it.

“We Bite” – The Misfits

Seminal punk band The Misfits are unapologetic on this violent track. In under two minutes, the band screams about rampaging through the streets looking to rip out throats of the innocent. It’s unknown whether these are starving vampires or horrific creatures out for blood. Even though the song constantly repeats “I rip your throat/I drink your blood” it manages to be gruesome with the ferocity and brutal nature of the track. Then again it’s The Misfits; we wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

“Here Comes the Bride (The Bride of Frankenstein)” – Elvira

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, has been a staple in all things horror since the creation of the character back in 1981. She’s done movies, comics, and even music. And her songs are wonderfully weird and cheesy. On this track from the 1994 collection, Elvira Presents Monster Hits, the Mistress of the Dark “sings” about the Bride of Frankenstein in all her horrible glory. The lyrics are corny with mention of her green pallor, stitched together body parts, and ghoulish nature while a gang cheerfully sings “Here comes the bride!” To make things cringy the song ends with a lame Shaft reference: “The Bride of Frankenstein! DUUUH!!/He’s one bad muther f-/(Shut your mouth)/Well I’m just talkin’ about Frankenstein.” It’s by no means a good song, but it’s hilariously entertaining.

“Bark At the Moon” – Ozzy Osbourne

This classic Ozzy track follows a creature, most likely a werewolf, as it terrorizes through town. The song tells the story of a creature the townspeople thought they got rid of when they buried him. He returns for vengeance and sets about causing chaos. It’s the perfect Halloween track that has a hilariously cheesy video to go with it. The clip depicts Ozzy as Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde drinking a mysterious potion and transforming into a werewolf. Looking at it now it seems silly that anyone would think it’s scary or that Ozzy is actually evil. It looks like a cheap b-horror movie you watch for laughs.

“We Suck Young Blood” – Radiohead

A truly haunting song, it’s not actually about vampires. Apparently, it’s about the exploitation of Hollywood and how they suck the life out of young talent. Still, with the macabre lyrics, chilling music, and shivering vocals it could easily be applied to the creatures of the night. Yorke sounds vulnerable yet creepy as he sings “Are you sweet?/Are you fresh?/Are you strung up by the wrists?/We want the young blood.” And the moody piano melody is ripped from a Gothic film. The song never has to get violent or gruesome to depict the horror of what’s going on.

“Release the Bats” – The Birthday Party

Serving as an influence on the then-emerging Goth scene, this track makes vampires seem cool and sexy. With a rockabilly swing, Nick Cave sings about a lady who doesn’t mind being bitten. She even hopes “those bats would bite.” Cave sounds delirious, yet thrilled as he screams “Release the bats! Release the bats” hoping vampires will come party with him. Cave and co thought vampires were cool long before Stephanie Meyers clumsily cashed in on the trend.

“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon

This classic rock track is surprisingly upbeat for a song about a werewolf on the loose. The lyrics follow a werewolf through the streets of London where he mutilates an old woman. But he also seems pretty mundane drinking Pina Coladas and searching for some good Chinese food. The song acts more of a warning saying when you hear him howling, you better stay away. And, as you would expect, the chorus features a bunch of howling. It’s one of Warren Zevon”s most well-known hits that started out as a joke.

“Night of the Vampire” – Roky Erickson

With a gloomy demeanor and a slow-burning guitar riff, this song was made for Halloween. There’s nothing creepy or gruesome about the track, but it gives off this sinister vibe. As Erickson sings about slipping in blood and painful vampire bites, you picture dead spooky forests covered in fog and a hooded figure in the distance. In 1997, Swedish death metal band Entombed covered the track for their self-titled EP. They put their gritty, hard edge spin on it, but the original reigns supreme.

“The Thing that Should Not Be” – Metallica

Leave it to Metallica to tackle one of horror’s most terrifying creatures: Cthulhu. In a mass of crunching guitars and intense percussion, James Hetfield describes the beast as lurking beneath the ocean waiting to cause destruction. Just staring at the creature will drive you insane as they point out in the song. The band references H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” specifically. This wouldn’t be the only time Metallica has written about the great beast. They also spoke of the beast in Ride the Lightning‘s “Call of Ktulu.” Clearly, they’re big fans of the monster.

“Black Sabbath” – Black Sabbath

This song has already been featured on other Halloween playlists, but it fits right in. Its tolling church bells, Ozzy’s wailing, and the overall sense of doom make it an eerie song. While it may not be about one ghost, in particular, it’s based on an experience Geezer Butler had during the early days of the band. He woke up in the middle of the night and saw a spirit at the end of his bed. Whether it was real or just drugs, the image makes you shudder just thinking about it.

Which of these songs is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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Condolences – Wednesday 13

 

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 7.5/10

When Wednesday 13 revealed his next album, I didn’t have high hopes. I knew I was going to give it a listen, but I didn’t expect to like it aside from maybe one song. His last record, Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague, was forgettable and found him talking about the same things he has been years, but in a boring way. The album didn’t grip me like some of his others. After listening to Condolences, I was surprised at just how much I liked it. Yes, he’s still singing about dead girls and spooky things, but he takes on a dark theme that makes the music fresh and exciting.

Rather than singing about horror movies and spooky themes in general, this album is drenched in death. The brief intro, “Eulogy XIII” brings in the dark tones and more serious matter of the album. Things properly kick off with “What the Night Brings.” It’s typical 13 affair with music suited for a black and white horror film that’s hard hitting and exciting. “Blood Sick” is another rager with 13 playing the bad guy once again, something he’s good at. Not only do these songs stand out, they show off the heavier tone of the album.

Wednesday 13 takes things up a notch by gearing towards a heavy metal sound. Not that he hasn’t played with this in the past, but his songs usually fall somewhere between punk rock and hard rock. Here, everything is cranked up leaving you with memorable songs. The heavy music really draws you in and keeps your attention, whereas previous efforts lose you after a few songs.

“Cadaverous,” the strongest song the album, finds 13 returning to his favorite topic: necrophilia. It’s heavy and is brutal as hell. He sounds sinister as he sings “Full moon tonight alright/I’ve got some sick thoughts on my mind/On to your grave site/I’m digging in to see what I can find.” The trudging riffs and intense nature give the whole thing this vicious vibe as if 13 is in a rage with nothing safe in his path.

“You Breathe, I Kill” and “Prey for Me” are violent rampages written from the point of view of a serial killer. They have a similar aggressive, brutal vibe as the rest of the album, but still kicks major ass. “Good Riddance” is more personal being about the death of a relationship, while “Omen Amen” is a throwback to when the religious right feared heavy metal was the devil’s music. Death looms in all these songs making for a slightly more serious endeavor. They also scratch that heavy metal itch when you just want music that’s unapologetic and loud as hell.

Because of the coherent theme, it seems 13 held back on the campy aspect for this album. Normally, his records are filled with over-the-top songs that are fun but can cross the line into downright cheesy. There’s little of that here. While I wouldn’t call his lyrics deep, they are a bit more serious and focused here. It’s a nice change of pace from overt campiness that makes your eyes rolls. Normally, I can’t stand to listen to his albums in full. This time I gladly listened to the whole thing on repeat.

There are a few low points here with one being “Cruel to You.” This sounds like classic Wednesday 13 all the way right down to the music, but it’s so boring. Once again, he spouts about being the boogeyman and stalking a young woman, a topic he’s very familiar with. This song so tiring because it sounds exactly like what he’s done in the past. Everything from the music to the melody sounds like a better 13 song you’ve heard before. Plus, it really doesn’t fit the dark tone of the album.

As always, 13 shows off his sentimental side with a few ballads. “Condolences” has awesome music that sounds like a funeral march, which is very fitting for the gloomy vibe. But weaknesses start to show in the verses, which are half-whispered, half-sung. They’re just not that interesting. The hook is strong and makes the track bearable. Otherwise, it’s okay at best. The closing track “Death Infinity” suffers the same problems as his other ballads. He lays it on real thick and before we get to the second verse, you’re ready to move on. It’s over the top and dull like his other slow songs. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of these types of songs.

Condolences is a solid record. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I didn’t even plan on reviewing it. Wednesday 13 finds a good balance between moving towards a darker, heavier sound while keeping his classic vibe. Not every song is great, but the album is a lot of fun, even though it’s about death. Many of the songs are memorable, unlike his last effort. For once I found I could sit through the entire album, multiple times without getting sick of it. 13 steps up his game for this release proving the old ghoul still has some spooky tricks up his sleeve.

Eternity In Your Arms – Creeper

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 8.5/10

Rock music has gone through numerous changes since its inception, but somewhere along the way, it lost its theatrics. Rockstars no longer seem larger than life, mysterious, or alien. Creeper is here to change that. These theatrical punks from Southhampton, UK are taking you back to the days when rock music was a spectacle. Not only is their music over the top and filled with Gothic drama, they’re creating a mythos and extend an offer to join their Creeper Cult. With dark imagery, a healthy dose of punk rock, and a dash of theater, these punks are making rock music fun again.

Creeper is all about theatrics. You can hear every ounce of drama, camp, fear, and desire in their songs whether it’s from the music or frontman Will Gould’s vocals. Their songs are like mini-macabre plays circling around themes of love, death, loss, loneliness, and frustration. The album itself is a loose concept record based on the characters Madeline, The Stranger, and James Scythe, which were first mentioned on their second EP, The Callous Heart. While the story is easy enough to pick up after a few listens, it doesn’t make or break the record. You could easily listen to it without realizing the songs are connected. In the end, the story doesn’t really matter because everything else about the album is so damn good.

The opening track “Black Rain” perfectly captures what Creeper is about. It has a gloomy, Gothic intro featuring a brief mysterious monologue before exploding in a mass of shredding guitars and crashing keys. The best part is the big chorus which sounds like a choir from the depths of darkness singing “And in the rain/I screamed your name.” It has an awesome anthemic quality; you can easily picture a stadium singing this song. Though it’s one of the album’s highlights, there are moments where it reminds you of My Chemical Romance’s “Helena.” It’s forgivable, though.

Poison Pens” doesn’t let you relax for a second with its pummeling drums, doom-laden bass, and rapid guitars. It’s a hyper punk track that’ll get you moshing as soon you hear “Our love is dead!” screaming in your ears. The bridge gives you a chance to catch your breath when things slow down and Gould sings “I fell like an angel for you/now I do the deeds that devils do” sounding sinister and ready to strike. The off the rails pace and AFI-inspired gang vocals make it one of the most thrilling tracks on the album. “Suzanne” is another high energy track with a similar punk edge full of morbid imagery. The song instantly hooks you with its rallying cry of “now now now now!” along with the Meatloaf-esque hooks. These over the top vocals are part of their campy appeal and helps them stand out in the deluge of forgettable punk rock bands.

Hiding With Boys” is another insanely fun song that shows off a bit of the band’s glam-rock influences. This one is more upbeat and doesn’t have as much of an edge as the other tracks. The hook of “hiding with the boys in your bedroom” has an infectious melody and is just fun to sing at the top of your lungs. The music is kind of playful and the extensive keys give the song more of a classic feel, as if you heard it before, which isn’t necessarily bad.

But just when you have the band figured out, they switch gears showing another side to themselves. “Misery” keeps its gloomy nature with the subdued acoustic guitar accompanying Gould’s fragile vocals slowing things down considerably. With just Gould and a guitar, for the most part, it’s the most honest track on the album. The Gothic nature of the band shows up in coy lines like “I wrote down a list of coroners/their names, their office phone numbers/to pronounce dead the thing we had” and the hook “misery never goes out of style.”  Near the end, the music intensifies and Gould’s vocals are more pronounced and powerful as if he’s found the will to go on despite all the bad things happening. This shift nicely changes things, keeping the song from getting dull.

Creeper gives us another intimate moment with “Crickets,” sung by keyboardist Hannah Greenwood. Unlike most of the record, this song has a hint of a country vibe, especially with the accompanying violin in the background. Greenwood absolutely kills the song with her pretty, yet gritty vocals. You can feel her ache as she sings about the end of a relationship. The song is an unexpected treat from the band. Not only do these songs give us a break from the onslaught of raging guitars and dark matter, they show how the band can go beyond their comfort zone. They’re not just another band keen on loud guitars and screaming vocals.

While most of the songs are fun, catchy, and stand out, the two low points of the album are “Down Below” and “Winona Forever.” These songs aren’t bad; they’re both upbeat and fun like the other tracks with their sing-a-long hooks and bouncy rhythms. They’re just not that memorable compared to the rest of the album. The band quickly gets back on track with “Darling” and “Room 309,” which continue the trend of raging guitars, big hooks, and lots of drama. Here, it’s hard not hear their musical influences. You can easily pick up traces of AFI, MCR, Misfits, and Alkaline Trio. Is this bad? Not really. It’s clear they’re inspired by these bands, but at least they avoid sounding like cheap knockoffs.

Creeper excels at bringing camp and theatrics to their music, which is part of the reason it’s so much fun. Everything feels over the top from the music to the lyrics, which would sound cheesy anywhere else. The huge dramatics come out the most during closing track “I Choose to Live.” Here, they rip out a page from Queen’s book and feature larger than life music with a booming chorus. One of the most personal songs on the record, it deals with overcoming life’s struggles. Gould starts out singing softly as if defeated. But as we crescendo, his voice gains strength until he’s shouting “I choose to live” at the top of his lungs. It ends the album on an oddly positive note, letting you know no matter what you’re going through, you’re strong enough to survive.

Eternity in Your Arms is a hodgepodge of all the bands Creeper loves and has been influenced by. While they are mostly inspired by punk rock, you can hear traces of emo, glam, pop, and, dare I say, country. This is what helps them stand out. These elements are found all over their songs, keeping the album fresh and exciting. Featuring big hooks, lots of gang vocals, and a touch of Gothic and emo tendencies, their songs are grandiose, a spectacle even. It brings you back to the days when rockstars were meant to be bigger than life or aliens from another planet altogether. Sure, what they’re doing isn’t necessarily breaking genres, but man is it fun.